Mind the Gap
Diversity & Unconscious Bias in 2015
Lately, I’ve been stunned, fascinated, and dumbfounded by the the same topic. Unconscious bias. Case in point: look around your own workplace. Is everyone in your team similar? Why is that? Why do different people get asked different kinds of questions in interviews? Why do all male teams, tend to hire men, and all female teams tend to hire women? If your team is fortunate enough to have a diverse team, how are you combatting unconscious bias? How are you encouraging those who don’t look or sound like you — to show up and participate?
I found myself searching for a consolidated list of links, resources, and people to educate myself on the topic. I couldn’t find one, so I made my own. Here are 30 fantastic links to read if you, like, I, are on the hunt for resources and inspiration for tackling unconscious bias & promoting diversity in tech.
Have I left anything out? Please let me know.
I hope that you find it helpful.
The current state of play, in ten links.
- The world is changing faster than ever, forcing legacy organisations and startups a like to shut their doors if they can’t keep pace
- Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers.
- Women & minorities are grossly underrepresented in technology
- Some leaders, like Slack’s Stuart Butterfield, are creating conditions for diversity to flourish early, while others, like Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, are not
- Twitter held a poorly timed frat party, while fighting a gender discrimination lawsuit earlier this year
- Academic research shows that diversity (inherent — gender, ethnicity, etc and acquired — from experience) unlocks innovation & drives market growth
- Until last year, Google, Apple and Facebook, among others, declined to disclose data on workforce diversity.
- A 2015 report by McKinsey showed that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially
- As humans, we tend to like people who are most similar to themselves, and as such base hiring decisions on stereotypes
- Typical, unstructured job interviews are pretty bad at predicting how someone performs once hired; the best predictor of how someone will perform in a job are work sample tests, general cognitive ability and structured interviews. Despite this, any hiring managers see interviewing as an ‘art, not a science,’ despite open-ended interviews setting up dangerous conditions for stereotypes to flourish
All this to say:
The world is changing at a blistering pace. Diverse, cross-functional teams with differing perspectives are needed to solve these problems. Left unchecked, our unconscious bias halts the flow of diverse perspectives.
A collection of resources for understanding unconscious bias and the need for diversity.
So you want to learn about unconscious bias? Start here:
“There is a growing body of research — led by scientists at Google — surrounding unconscious bias and how we can prevent it from negatively impacting our decision making. The goal is to teach ourselves how unconscious bias can affect our perceptions, decisions, and interactions. It is aimed at raising awareness, sparking conversation, and initiating action.” Ken Norton, Product Partner, Google Ventures
OK, Google. How do you make unconscious bias, conscious?
Like many in the tech sector, Google’s diversity stats aren’t ideal. Unlike its counterparts, however, Google has shared some very practical, active steps its taking to reduce the influence of bias. More here:
- Gather facts
- Create a structure for making decisions
- Be mindful of subtle cues
- Foster awareness: hold yourself — and your colleagues — accountable
Bias is everywhere, now how do we manage it?
“At Facebook, we believe that understanding and managing unconscious
bias can help us build stronger, more diverse and inclusive organizations.
These videos are designed to help us recognize our biases so we can
reduce their negative effects in the workplace. Surfacing and countering
unconscious bias is an essential step towards becoming the people and
companies we want to be.”
How can I explain the case for diversity to my boss — what’s the bottom line?
“Our latest research finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.” Vivian Hunt, Dennis Layton, and Sara Prince, McKinsey
Let’s say I recruit diverse, highly skilled talent — how do I not screw it up?
“Most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4 percent of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds. “Tell me about yourself.” “What is your greatest weakness?” “What is your greatest strength?” Worthless.”
Lazlo Bock, SVP, People Operations, Google
A collection of tools to combat bias and promote diversity.
Tired of job ads selling a beer-and-ping-pong fuelled ‘bro’ culture? Try:
Textio’s linguistic model helps users discover key phrases and spot gender bias in real time as you write. The brainchild of Keiran Snyder, Textio’s CEO & linguist has done extensive research on gender bias in job ads. Also worth checking out is her analyses on Twitter Bias: We Listen When Men Talk Tech and Women Talk Diversity, which reveals that men’s tech tweets are 5x more popular than women’s.
Wondering what your own biases are? Check out:
Harvard’s Implicit Attitude tool measures unconscious bias across a range of implicit social attitudes, including attitudes towards disabled people, race, gender and career.
“Not only will the Implicit Attitude Tool show you your own level of unconscious bias, you will be able to compare your level of unconscious bias with all others that have done the test.”
Still hungry for more? Read this:
Paradigm partners with innovative companies to build stronger, more diverse organizfations. Currently advising Pinterest in their efforts to promote diversity, they’ve published this helpful whitepaper on diversity that is worth the read.
A collection of data and commentary on organisations’ diversity reports.
Leading the nation, the White House.
“On Tuesday, August 4, the White House hosted a Demo Day where we showcased the wide-ranging talents of innovators from across the country. Unlike a private-sector Demo Day, where entrepreneurs “pitch” their ideas to funders, innovators from around the country joined President Obama to “demo” their individual success stories and show why we need to give every American the opportunity to pursue their bold, game-changing ideas.”
Major tech companies, including IBM, Pinterest, Facebook, & Twitter have already implemented diversity initiatives following White House Demo Day.
Moving the focus over to Silicon Valley, Pinterest’s stats aren’t impressive — but they’re a start:
“By sharing these goals publicly, we’re holding ourselves accountable to make meaningful changes to how we approach diversity at Pinterest. We’ll also be sharing what’s working and what isn’t as we go, so hopefully other companies can learn along with us. Over time, we hope to help build an industry that is truly diverse, and by extension more inclusive, creative and effective.”
Evan Sharp, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Pinterest
Microsoft’s stats are akin to CEO Satya Nadella’s gaffe earlier this year: they won’t be winning any awards for diversity.
“Only 12.5% of Microsoft’s American senior leaders are women. Worldwide, women comprise 17% of the company’s leadership team. This lags behind other tech titans — Facebook and Yahoo each have 23% women leaders. Google, Intel and Twitter have a 21% female executive team.” Ruchika Tulshyan, Forbes
Twitter‘s committed to a ‘more diverse Twitter’, but their efforts are undermined by a gender discrimination suit & a frat party in poor taste.
The following blog entry followed Twitter’s rather lacklustre diversity report in June.
“We want the makeup of our company to reflect the vast range of people who use Twitter. Doing so will help us build a product to better serve people around the world. While we’ve already been working towards internal diversity goals at different levels of the company, I’m very pleased to report that we are now setting company-wide diversity goals — and we’re sharing them publicly.”
Janet Van Huysse, VP, Diversity and Inclusion, Twitter
Slack has issued one of the more eloquent arguments for promoting diversity, as well as making the case for startups to prioritise diversity early.
“We want to ensure that we hire the very best people we can. That means taking steps to minimize and remove bias in our processes. It also means looking for candidates who have non-traditional backgrounds. We find some of our best people did not take the shortest or most predictable path between points A and B. Their collective experience and perspective make Slack a better and more diverse place. If you are one of those people, we want you to work at Slack.”
Anne Toth, VP of People & Policy, Slack
Google, while slow to the party on publishing diversity numbers, has made a significant effort towards the practice of transparency (other tech co’s would do well to follow suit).
“We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues. Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts. So, here are the numbers.”
Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President, People Operations, Google
Apple’s corporate line on inclusion is unsurprisingly polished and on-brand: it’s inspiring.
“Some people will read this page and see our progress. Others will recognize how much farther we have to go. We see both. And more important than these statistics, we see tens of thousands of Apple employees all over the world, speaking dozens of languages, working together. We celebrate their differences and the many benefits we and our customers enjoy as a result.”
Tim Cook, CEO, Apple Inc
Tech giant Yahoo uses it’s product focus as a strong case for needing a diverse workforce, but, like its competitors, Yahoo still has work to do in the diversity department.
“Here at Yahoo we are committed to attracting, developing and retaining a diverse workforce. We’re in the business of building products for hundreds of millions of users worldwide and that starts with having the best possible talent — a Yahoo team that understands and reflects our diverse user base.”
Jacqueline Reses, Chief Development Officer, Yahoo
LinkedIn takes the cake for ‘most improved’ and ‘best in class.’ One to watch.
“We want to ensure that we consider all the best talent available when we bring people in — and that we help them thrive once they’re here. We are taking a more holistic approach to our recruiting efforts, from enhancing our outreach efforts towards new talent pools to ensuring an inclusive talent acquisition process. Efforts include deepening strategic relationships that connect us to talent, leveraging our own platform, and integrating best practices for diversity recruiting. We already see results — for example, 43% of all hires have been women over the last 12 months.
This journey to embed inclusion in all that we do has gotten off to a great start thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment of hundreds of our leaders and employees. I’m excited to be challenging ourselves and others to foster more inclusive environments that enable everyone to realize their full potential.”
Sandy Hoffman, Director, Global Inclusion at LinkedIn
Pandora‘s diversity microsite smartly touts employee benefits beyond ping pong & beer in hopes to expand their talent pool.
“Our mission is to connect listeners to music they love based on their unique taste, so we know first-hand the crucial role of diversity. Therefore, we seek to build and foster a diverse workforce that is a true reflection of music — empowering, inspiring, and unique — where all of our employees feel at home to perform their best and be themselves. Pandora is committed to playing a role in creating a more equitable society in which our business, employees, and communities will thrive.”
Tim Westergren, Co-founder, Pandora
Why this is exciting
As a product lead, I benefit from teams of diverse skill and perspective: but we could use even more diverse perspectives. In the future, minority groups will be the majority. In the future, different problems will be solved. In the future, more diverse groups will be solving more diverse problems. Diversity improves the output of complex problem solving. Whether you’re leading the charge towards a more diverse workplace at a major tech company, or you’re tackling unconscious bias as the #4 employee at a startup, the decisions you make today will impact tomorrow. Let’s impact it for the better.
As a product lead, I benefit from teams of diverse skill and perspective: but we could use even more diverse perspectives. In the future, minority groups will be the majority. In the future, more diverse groups will be solving more diverse problems. Diversity improves the output of complex problem solving. Whether you’re leading the charge towards a more diverse workplace at a major tech company, or you’re tackling unconscious bias as the #4 employee at a startup, the decisions you make today will impact tomorrow. Let’s impact it for the better.
Thanks to Roger Gehrmann for reading drafts of this.