How to Improve Racial Diversity in the Workplace

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably come to realize that your business could stand to become a little more diverse. Perhaps you’ve become aware of the many benefits that come along with having a diverse company, or else maybe you simply looked around one day and noticed there aren’t a whole lot of minorities in your office. Either way, there’s no denying the importance of having a multitude of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds within a company.  

We live in a society where it has become more and more important to address the issue of diversity in the workplace. Many large companies, such as Google and Facebook have their diversity reports available for the public, and the stats across the board are not pretty. However, the movement to increase diversity within these companies is consistent and growing, and many smaller businesses are catching on rapidly. But what can we do to combat this major issue in our workforce? Here we are going to cover the issues that bring about a lack of diversity, some strategies on how to combat them, and, in case it’s necessary, the benefits of addressing your unbalanced diversity rates.

The Pipeline Excuse

There are many reasons for this lack of diversity, and understanding these is the first step to correcting them. Many large corporations come out stating that their reason for the lack of diversity is because there are fewer people of color graduating with degrees and entering the workforce (or “pipeline”). However, a survey by USA Today debunked this theory, stating that more black and latino students are graduating with degrees, particularly in tech-heavy areas of study, but the number being hired has stayed consistently low. Additionally, a study done by Stanford University and the University of Toronto reveals that a large percentage of these minorities who are hired admit to having “whitened” their resumes. Some examples of how this is done would be shortening names to make them sound less foreign or eliminating extracurricular activities that identify them as being anything other than white (such as being a part of a Black Student Organization or other similar identifying group). 

Unconscious Biases

While it is rare to find Human Resource professionals who actively refuse to consider resumes that are submitted by people of color, the issue instead falls to what we as a society consider to be “normal.” We as humans have a strong, subconscious urge to do things as they’ve always been done, and historically the American workforce is made up of a largely white, male, middle-class group of individuals. That’s why when it comes to hiring, we tend to continue to hire in that demographic. However, not only does this not provide opportunities for a large portion of the American population, it prevents your company from gaining the invaluable experience that most minorities can bring to the table. When it comes time to hire next time, approach the process with an open mind and try to bring in some candidates for an interview that you maybe wouldn’t typically reach out to. You might be surprised at the talent you’ll find this way.

The Catch-22 of Diversity

If our workforce is lacking diversity, it becomes difficult to come across it naturally. You can’t easily appeal to diverse talent without being a diverse company, yet how can you be a diverse company if you’re unable to appeal to diverse talent? See the issue here? It’s difficult for minorities to trust a company when they don’t see any examples of others from their background being successful there. However, this should only push you harder to diversify your team. Keep in mind, I am not suggesting that you hire a person of color if they are under-qualified, I am simply urging you to expand your idea about what makes an “ideal” candidate. As we discussed above, the pipeline of potential candidates is chock-full of individuals of many backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. 

Employee Referrals 

One of the most common reasons for a lack of diversity in the workplace is because many companies hire based largely on employee referrals. Generally speaking, people tend to surround themselves with others of similar backgrounds and experiences, so if you’re hiring based off your employee’s referrals, you’re likely to continue to hire the same kind of people. Referrals are a great way to find new employees who are a good fit within your company but don’t limit yourself. Try to interview at least two outside employees for every one referral. This will help diversify within your company and give you peace of mind knowing you made the best decision. 

Strategies to Improve Diversity Rates

One step many larger tech companies have tried implementing is to strip all resumes and cover letters of names and pictures to prevent unintentional bias before an interview. Some companies have taken this a step further and set in place specific goals to reach over a period of time. For instance, Facebook and Microsoft recently began to offer bonuses to their recruiters and managers for their “diversity hires” in an attempt to increase their statistics. These affirmative action-type hiring practices certainly come with their share of issues (and it’s a good idea to avoid using that controversial phrase), but ultimately it does put these companies in a better light. Affirmative action hiring can cause something of an uproar, but it has proven to be an effective method in the past to get under-represented groups the attention they deserve, and if you’re willing to take the risk, the positives can far outweigh the negatives. 

If you want to increase diversity in your business, but are hesitant to start taking drastic measures, consider looking into an applicant tracking system to assist you in your hiring practices. With Dominion, you can flag certain qualifications you want your new hire to have, and filter out all the rest. This way you can hire solely on their skillset and avoid any unconscious biases you might have. Request a software demo here to learn what we can do for you.