Our article series TA: Talent Anonymous offers anonymity to experts in the worlds of TA, Diversity & Inclusion, Campus Recruiting, and HR in exchange for their frank assessment of the state of the industry.
This edition features the Vice President of Talent at a startup who has focused on D&I—especially during the high-growth phase of a company—throughout their career.
Right now, D&I initiatives in tech are just good publicity for companies. While there is the best of intentions behind these plans, organizations don’t understand—or are unwilling to commit to—the investment involved in creating a fully represented workforce.
A company will hire a Black or a Brown person for a Head-of-D&I role and think that will solve all their representation problems. These people—who become tokenized—look around and don’t see diversity anywhere else at the company. How are they supposed to be supported, especially by the senior level, if all they see are homogeneous teams? It’s a farce.
Organizations aren’t realizing there’s an important step involved in creating a heterogeneous workforce: investing in diverse communities. Some of these communities historically have been underserved for so long. Companies need to realize that to develop a diverse talent pool, you need to cultivate these communities—and that may take years. Businesses, unfortunately, aren’t willing to put in the time.
That’s why it’s so important for companies to build a diverse staff as a foundation for the company in the beginning. What often happens at startups is, the initial hires are made through the CEO’s personal network and an employee referral program. If you’re in hyper-growth mode and you need to move the needle while hiring 200+ people, it’s tough to be patient.
You can’t make compromises, however, if you want to do D&I the right way. You need to let your programs develop the talent, and fill the positions when the diverse talent is ready—not just on your company’s timeline. Businesses, sadly, look for any excuse to shy away from D&I initiatives.
Granted, there have been some improvements in the tech sector for D&I. I have seen organizations increase their diversity representation in the past several years. When your company is generating millions—sometimes billions—and you’re only devoting a fraction of that to diversity and giving back to underserved communities, however, that’s not a true commitment to the cause.
Instead of publishing annual reports on what your workforce demographics are, why not release actionable insights on how organizations can improve and hire more diverse talent—at all levels? Tech companies that failed because of the ‘bro culture’ they created have become great learning lessons for what not to do. Now it’s time that we start sharing positive examples and ways that organizations are becoming more diverse and inclusive.