The push for workplace diversity is no new tale. It's not a race or a numbers game, either.
But defining your hiring strategy as finding the best person for the job? Ashley Doyal says you're missing the point.
After spending seven years building teams for companies like Pandora and Electronic Arts, Ashley branched out to start recruitHER, an agency dedicated to connecting tech orgs to candidates from underrepresented communities.
We spoke with Ashley just before her feature on Hiring On All Cylinders to learn the story and mission behind one of the only agencies currently on the market focused on diversity hiring in tech. Here's what she told us about the common mistakes recruiters still make when mapping out their hiring plan.
What's frustrating about diversity hiring?
Every time I’m told, “Just hire the best person for the job.” This sentiment typically comes from a good place, but it’s totally misguided. Hiring “the best person for the job” assumes you already have the best person in your applicant pool. Most companies rely on employee referrals for leads, so if your existing team is mostly white and male, your employee referrals typically will be too. This isn’t because we’re terrible people, it’s just the way humans are wired — our networks will almost always look like us. The best person for the job may very well be outside of your network, but you won’t know unless you put in the work to extend that reach.
Tell us about recruitHER – where did the idea come from?
The diversity conversation in tech has evolved very quickly over the past year. Companies generally recognize they need to prioritize creating a diverse team, but actually moving the needle can be difficult even with the best of intentions. We noticed tech companies were often making their best efforts to hire from more underrepresented groups, but not finding much success — either their methods were ineffective or they just had no idea where to start. Diversity sourcing and recruiting is a huge pain point for most companies, yet nobody was really addressing that in an agency format.
All three of our co-founders had already been doing this work in some capacity independently, so we decided to leverage our expertise and networks to create a workable solution. It took one coffee shop meetup to decide we were doing this, and we started building recruitHER the next week.
You've been part of the talent space for almost a decade now. How have you seen the talent industry and its priorities change over time?
The diversity hiring problems we’re trying to solve today have existed since long before I started recruiting—they’re just finally part of a national conversation. As a result, we’re seeing more recruiters who have been focused on diversity in a silo being asked to share resources, create trainings, and build community around these universal pain points. Even three years ago, it was rare for me to see a Diversity and Inclusion Director job posting or meet another diversity-focused sourcer at recruiting events. Today, you’re already behind if you’re not paying attention to this type of work.
You can also see great leadership by women of color in tech who have pushed the industry towards increased transparency. These are the trends that are really exciting to me! Thanks to Tracy Chou at Pinterest, there’s this immense pressure for companies to share data on the diversity of their existing teams (and to outline specific strategies to do better if that data shows a need for improvement).
Candidates have been empowered to share information about the interview process, work/life balance, and other internal details through sites like Glassdoor, DoxaScore, and InHerSight. I think you will see an increasing demand for companies to be more transparent around salaries, specifically to address concerns about pay inequity. Check out the #equalpay hashtag on Twitter or Erica Baker’s Google spreadsheet experiment for examples of how this conversation plays out.
The conversation about diversity in tech is long, ongoing, and often focused around the lack of women and minorities. Are there main points to the argument people are missing or glazing over?
If your customers have backgrounds and experiences that aren’t reflected in your existing team, you’ll have a really hard time anticipating and accommodating those customers’ needs. But that’s not the only reason businesses should care about building diverse teams.
Operating in a monoculture means you’re leaving money on the table — diverse teams have been proven to deliver higher revenue, more productivity, increased innovation, and lower employee turnover.
I think it’s also important to bear in mind there’s no such thing as a “diverse candidate”. Diversity describes a group or team, not an individual person. When we talk about diversity, we’re not just talking about gender identity and ethnicity. Factors such as age, disability, veteran status, socio-economic status, and sexual identity, among others, all contribute to the makeup of your team.
How do you hope recruitHER can transform the way people approach diversity hiring across all industries?
We strategically partner with companies who who we believe will be able to provide inclusive and supportive work environments for our candidates.
Candidates want to know there are women and people of color in positions of leadership on your team, that you have trans-inclusive healthcare options, that your parental leave policies are generous and fair, and so on. This is the new normal!
It’s no longer acceptable to slap some diversity buzzwords on your company careers page and call it a day. Companies who don’t prioritize inclusion in this hyper-competitive market for talent will be left behind.
What’s to come for the future of hiring?
Entrepreneurs are already leveraging the power of tech to develop software-based solutions to many of our diversity problems. I’m particularly inspired by the potential for big data in HR and recruiting to help us make informed decisions in the hiring process and better understand the needs of our employees. There are some really interesting products coming out of the HR tech space that are already changing the way we work— Atipica, GapJumpers, Textio, and Unitive, just to name a few.
As for our future, success at recruitHER really means putting ourselves out of business! We're excited about the potential for our work to evolve in new directions over time as the industry shifts, though, and we definitely want to continue supporting candidates in advancing their careers as long as we can.
Want to hear more tips on getting started with your diversity hiring plan? Tune into Hiring On All Cylinders for our full episode with Ashley!