The systems we operate within are of our society's own design. The architects of these systems designed them in a way that is beneficial to themselves and people like them. As we move toward building new systems that are mindful and inclusive of the unlimited types of diversity that exist in the human experience we must:
Reflect on our role in perpetuating old systems
Define our new role in rebuilding these systems
Leverage data to create tools that hold institutions accountable
Cultivate allies who will use their power and influence to mobilize a movement
Too often we prioritize hiring based on a "culture fit" or finding employees who are reflective of our own groups, implicitly using an "us versus them" model rather than one that prioritizes belonging. When this happens we must create new processes and reflect on the biases that exist within the current system. Tiffany Jana and Ashley Diaz Meijas' book, Erasing Institutional Bias: How to Create Systemic Change for Organizational Inclusion has an excellent bias reflection tool that encourages readers to ask:
What specific bias is the issue?
How does the bias affect me? How do I benefit from the bias? How am I hurt or limited by the bias?
How does this bias affect my colleagues and our stakeholders?
Does the bias benefit specific groups? Are there groups that are hurt or limited by the bias?
If we erase the bias how will this help specific groups? Will anyone feel threatened if we erase the bias?
Imagine an alumni organization whose CEO recently stepped down in light of accusations of gender-based discrimination. The organization serves a community whose demographics are 65% female, 35% male, 65% White, and 35% BIPOC with an age range of 20 to 80 years old. The alumni organization's staff demographics are 80% White, 20% BIPOC, 40% male, and 60% female. Within the organization's leadership, the demographics are 100% White, 83% male, 17% female, and 100% over the age of 40.
What specific biases might exist within the organization? Just a quick glance at the organization's demographics shows age, gender, and racial biases within the leadership structure. Although the staff as a whole is more diverse, it does not accurately reflect the community it serves with men and White people represented at higher rates.
How does the bias affect its employees? Its stakeholders? Based on the accusations of gender-based discrimination, one may conclude that these biases adversely affect women employed by the organization who do not have an opportunity for upward mobility. The issues the alumni organization chooses to represent may also skew toward issues that benefit White people, men, and older people despite the fact that the majority of their alumni community is female (65%), 35% are from communities of color, and a significant number of alumni are between 20-40 years old.
Does the bias benefit or harm certain groups? In particular, the biases appear to benefit White, older men while disadvantaging BIPOC individuals, women, and young people. When the organization advocates on behalf of its stakeholders it may miss issues that are of importance to the full range of identities represented within its community and thereby create or uphold policies that continue to privilege White, older men.
If we erase the bias how will this help specific groups? If women, people from communities of color, and young people are represented at the same rate as the organization's stakeholders these groups will benefit from employment opportunities and having their voices heard on advocacy issues that benefit the full community.
Will anyone feel threatened if we erase the bias? Already, White, older men came forward with concerns about the CEO's departure and threatened to withhold major donations due to the interruption of the status quo.
As the organization in this scenario moves forward in hiring a new CEO, it must consider the biases that exist within its hiring practices and organizational culture. While culture change is an ongoing process, there are some key steps the organization can take in the hiring process to build an environment that centers inclusion and belonging:
Write an inclusive job description that leaves out gender-based language, removes industry jargon, emphasizes job responsibilities rather than requirements, and removes degree requirements that are inessential. To encourage accessibility for those with visual problems or dyslexia, the description should remove italics/underlining, use a larger font, embolden words that need to be highlighted, as well as use short sentences and brief paragraphs.
Provide a clear salary range, benefits, vacation/sick policies, and other employment perks within the job description. If there is a salary range based on experience, ensure there is a policy in place that describes the monetary increases associated with activities, years of experience, and other valued traits.
Post the position on a range of career websites that are accessible to all candidates. There are a variety of websites to share job positions that help ensure the greatest diversity in candidates. For instance, Joonko and Seek Out have automated diversity recruiting layers with access to a pool of qualified, diverse candidates. This recruitment technology also helps reduce bias and assists in making objective decisions. Job boards that prioritize diverse hiring include Diversity.com, iHispano, Blackjobs.com, Black Career Women's Network, Hispanic Latino Professional Association, HBCU Connect, Diversity Job Board, Pink Jobs, among others. Additionally, the language on the website posting should clearly state the workplace's efforts to provide diversity and inclusion, use authentic images of the team, provide captions for video and audio files, and meet color contrast standards. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines shares how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.
Authentically incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging into your organization's brand. While many organizations have generic DEI statements, the organization should develop diversity and inclusion hiring guidelines that comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as outline the organization's efforts to actively support DEI and build a culture of belonging. Sharing the organization's leadership/staff retention rates and mobility data (internal growth opportunities and an internal recruiting process) is one way an organization can share how it effectively supports employees.
Use a standardized job interview process for all candidates. The organization should prepare a script with questions specific to the job alongside an assessment scorecard that ranks candidates in job-relevant categories. The candidates should be interviewed by a diverse panel, preferably one that is representative of the community the organization serves.
Measure your inclusive hiring program to avoid algorithm bias and identify a set of metrics to aspire to. This may include measuring the number of people from diverse backgrounds, how they progress through the hiring process, the characteristics of candidates who were hired versus those who were not, and employee retention rates per identity group (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQIA+ status, disability, etc.). The organization should also measure first-year hires' progression through the onboarding and training process and check performance reviews for employee feedback on their experience with DEI in the organization.
It's important to note that hiring and retention processes should be regularly reviewed to understand where an organization may potentially exclude people or implicitly privilege some identity groups over others. Organizations that do not have the capacity to overhaul the whole hiring process at once can still start implementing small changes and work toward more inclusive hiring and retention practices.
If you are interested in learning more about the resources, policy recommendations, and training Talem provides to support equitable and safe workplace environments please contact us for more information.