Bias Is the Business for These Startups

Your big idea won’t change anything without the talent to execute it. Companies are learning that biased hiring holds them back. We can be biased for anything, even when we’re trying not to.

Academic scientists have a bias against women, and, as we noted last fall, the families of active duty military can face job discrimination.

Idealism or progressive thinking isn’t enough. Training against unconscious bias can lead to … more bias. Even researchers of bias have bias. Perhaps we need seek solutions elsewhere. That’s why there are startups in the business of combating bias.

Unitive attempts to mitigate unconscious bias from interview questions. Cybersecurity firm RedSeal used Unitive to broaden its hiring pool, crucial since it competes with the likes of Facebook and Google for talent.

GapJumpers’ software removes name, alma mater, graduation year, address and other influencing factors from applications. Then GapJumpers and startups like Interviewed coordinate blind auditions. Programmers are asked to code, writers are asked to prepare a story, designers are asked to make a prototype; projects that closely mimic the work they’d do.

Blind auditions and hiring have been shown to diversify orchestras where the number of women musicians have increased fivefold since blind auditions were introduced in the 1970s. GapJumpers says 60 percent of the people it helps find jobs come from underrepresented groups. That’s good news for mothers, anyone with an African-American sounding name, and those on the autism spectrum.

Conversations about job candidates who are “a bad cultural fit” seems to mean more than a person with the wrong attitude. “Fit” can be code for bias. Justice is blind. For the rest of us, sight is riddled with human bias and imperfection. Solutions that go blind and rely more on demonstrated talent may not solve everything for companies building talented, diverse teams, but they’re a start.

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Photo Credit: Christian Bucad