(As usual, all viewpoints below are my own and don’t reflect those of my employer.)
I’ve heard people say we shouldn’t focus on race or gender during the hiring process because it’s discriminatory. After all, don’t you want to hire the best, regardless of these attributes?
Yes! But I’m here to tell you: if you’re not thinking about how to hire minorities in tech (in the U.S., these would be women, Black, Latinx, Native American, etc.), you’re probably currently discriminating. Here are three reasons why.
Your team is not qualified to build the right products
If your employees don’t adequately represent your target audience, they aren’t qualified to build products that meet the needs of that audience. That’s because your employees don’t understand those needs in the first place. There are countless examples of this, of which I’ll share two:
Technology that’s meant to serve both men and women doesn’t fit the needs of women. Apple’s Health app initially didn’t track menstruation, and it didn’t do so even after a major update. Major companies make phones that are too big for women’s hands.
AI is trained on and perpetuates biased data, especially related to race. Facial recognition software fails to understand Black people, or worse, labels them as gorillas.
That means, if your product is meant to be used by people of a certain demographic, you need to hire people who understand that demographic, especially in senior, decision-making positions. Everyone else is less qualified, but you’re still hiring them.
You’re pushing away good talent
The makeup of your current team perpetuates itself, preventing new qualified candidates from making it into your company.
While it’s true people generally have to work to live, they prefer to work at companies that support them. A Black candidate who sees a company with only White employees would rightly think most people won’t understand them, or won’t support them in the areas that matter most. For example, I think LinkedIn is a filled with great, well-meaning people, but after last week’s Town Hall, I don’t blame any minority who feels unwelcome within the company.
In this way, your company may be turning away qualified minority candidates in favor of less qualified candidates! Not working harder to make these minority candidates feel welcome is putting up additional barriers only they have to deal with.
And of course… unconscious bias
This is a topic that gets talked about frequently, so I won’t go into too much detail. A famous 2003 study showed a bias against “Black-sounding names”, and personal fit often plays into the hiring equation too much.
If your interview has any aspect of “culture fit”, you may be discriminating against minorities in tech today.
We should absolutely hire people who are qualified, instead of hiring based on gender or race. But minorities in tech face challenges unique to their demographics. That means, if you’re not thinking about how to address each of those challenges associated with gender or race, you’re currently discriminating against those candidates.