Is Lack of Diversity at Work a “Pipeline Problem?”

Why aren’t we getting the diversity results we expected to see? A common answer, especially in the tech world, is that there’s a “pipeline problem.” This framing of the problem suggests that while we may be trying to find candidates with diverse racial, gender and other identities, the supply just isn’t there, so there’s only so much we can do.

Let’s take a closer look at the “pipeline problem” explanation, see what the data and studies say, and what takeaways there may be for how we approach our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals.

A Look Inside the Pipeline

To gauge the extent that there is or isn’t a pipeline problem, we need to look at trends in the numbers of candidates over time. Relevant metrics to review include the numbers of candidates of different racial identities enrolled in programs, and the numbers who graduate with different levels of college degrees.

According to a 2018 Kauffman Fellow Report by National Center for Education Statistics, there was a significant increase in the numbers of Black and Latinx people with Master’s Degrees between 1980 and 2016, with the numbers rising by 133% and 400%, respectively. Additionally, as the figure below shows, there have been sharp proportionate increases in the percentages of Latinx and Black students to obtain post-secondary degrees, rising by 350% (4% to 18%) and 55% (9% to 14%) respectively.

NCES Data on Post-Secondary Graduates, 1980–2016

However, the report concludes that “these significantly larger numbers of Latinx and Black Americans with degrees have not translated into similarly higher levels of representation within startups. Education can certainly help, but it does not provide the full picture.”

Let’s dig deeper into the numbers by looking at data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau. As the top chart below from a 2020 Census Bureau article shows, the percentage of college attainment for Black Americans has increased in a parallel, but lower trend, to the corresponding national average.

But we get important additional information from the bottom chart, which plots the gap in college attainment between the Black population and the national average. The gap has also been showing a general increasing trend over the last 40 years, because even though both the absolute number and graduation rate for Black Americans has increased, the average rate for everyone else has increased more. For example, we saw from NCES data earlier than Asian and Latinx graduation rates increased much more than Black rates increased over the same time period. Of course, that also means that rates for two significant non-white populations have helped drive up the national average, and that the graduation rate for non-white people has increased more than the graduation rate for white people in the same time period.

It should also be noted that the rate of Black college attainment does not uniformly diverge from the national average across all states in the US. The graph shown below, taken from the report “Degree Attainment for Black Adults: National and State Trends” published by the Education Trust, shows how degree attainment for Black Adults varies by state. Keeping in mind that the national average graduation rate has been in the mid 30th percentile range according to the U.S. Census Bureau, we see from this graph that there are states with rates of Black college attainment that exceed the national average, such as Maryland (36.9%), Colorado (37.1%), Hawaii (39.2%), and New Mexico (40.3%). This data is certainly relevant to recruitment search efforts for Black candidates.

Another relevant factor to consider is the graduation rate. In contrast with the attainment rate, which is the percentage within an overall population who achieve a college degree, the graduation rate is the percentage of those enrolled in college who complete their courses and earn a degree. Some of the remaining gap in degree earning between Black and white adults is due to persisting gaps in graduation rate. According to 2017 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the overall Black graduation rate is 40%, which is 20 points lower than the 60% total graduation rate, broken down as 34% for Black males and 44% for Black females, as shown in the charts below.

Graduation rates from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and time to completion: Cohort entry year 2010
Graduation rate within 6 years (150 percent of normal time) for degree completion from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and sex: Cohort entry year 2010

However, it’s also important to note that sources such as the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) report that the Black graduation rate has increased in recent years. Additionally, JBHE states that as of 2020, the Black graduation rate at the top 20 ranked US colleges ranges from 79% to 98%, with many of the universities coming in above 90%.

In summary, the numbers show persisting inequalities in the attainment and graduation rates for Black adults relative to both the national average and the white population. Still, the college attainment rate for Black adults has significantly increased since 1980, there are states in which the college degree attainment rate for Black adults exceeds the national average, and the Black adult graduation rate has improved in recent years. There has also been an increase in Asian and Latinx college attainment rate since 1980 that is significant enough to account for a large portion of the increase in overall American college attainment during that time. These metrics show that the pool of non-white candidates has been growing larger.

A Specific Problem for the Tech Industry?

So far, we’ve looked at general trends in college attainment and graduation rates. But certain industries more than others have relied upon the “pipeline problem” argument to explain their lack of progress on workplace diversity, especially at the leadership level. Is the tech industry a special case where the pipeline argument is actually valid?

A 2014 report by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) examined diversity statistics from the tech industry, and found that:

· Compared with all industries reported in the 2014 EEO-1 private sector survey, overall participation rates of whites, Asian Americans, and males in U.S high tech industries were disproportionally higher, especially in the Silicon Valley geographic area.

· African Americans and Hispanics were under-represented nationwide in the high-tech sector when compared with the overall private industries, (see Figure 5); African Americans and Hispanics were especially under-represented in the high-tech sector in the Silicon Valley geographic area.

· Whites and men dominated high tech leadership positions as Executive/Senior Level Officials and Managers (Executives) and First/Mid-Level Officials and Managers (Managers) nationwide, and dominated even more strongly in the Silicon Valley geographic area.

· Women lagged men in leadership positions and in technology jobs, as Technicians and Professionals, in the high-tech sector. These gender differences were particularly pronounced in high tech sector of Santa Clara County.

· African Americans and Hispanics were disproportionately fewer in leadership positions and in technology jobs in the high-tech sector nationwide. These groups had negligible employment representation in high tech industries in the San Francisco Bay Area.

· Asian Americans were represented in management and executive positions at a markedly lower rate than their representation in Professional occupations in the high-tech industry both nationally and in Silicon Valley.

But might these disparities simply result from the “pipeline problem” — in other words, from a deficit in diversity among available candidates rather than to problems with recruitment and retention?

If we define eligibility for inclusion in the talent pool by attainment of a relevant science or tech college degree, we can see that there are indeed some factors limiting the number of available candidates. For instance, according to National Science Foundation data, Black people make up 14% of the population of the US, but only 8.9% of computer science bachelor’s degrees, and only 9.0% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering.

However, the disproportionately smaller share of Black graduates with science, technology or computer science degrees does not in itself explain why tech companies have the poor diversity performance they have, because the percentage of Black professionals in the industry is significantly lower than the percentage of Black graduates in the talent pool. The table below compares the percentages of Black people in the US population with the percentages of Black graduates in computer science and the percentages employed in tech jobs.

Similarly, a 2014 USA Today analysis found that “top universities turn out black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate the leading technology companies hire them.” Many tech companies continue to have low representation percentages for Black professionals of 6% of lower.

Additionally, it should be noted that not all jobs within a tech company actually require technical skills such as coding, because a tech company also consists of sales, customer service, and support positions, among others, and these positions often represent the majority of the workforce at tech companies.

“This is a multifaceted problem. … But when you hear these inane kind of platitudes and then pushing the responsibility off to the pipeline, it’s insulting,” says Catherine Bracy, co-founder of the Oakland TechEquity Collaborative and former community organizer at Code for America. “The fact that you can’t hire people into nontechnical roles, how do your account for that?”

We see similar issues at play when we look at numbers for other underrepresented groups in tech, such as women. According to NSF data, the number of women graduates of both bachelors and masters programs has been increasing in recent years but is still small — for instance, only 32.4% of graduates with master’s degrees in computer science were women in 2018. Still, women are represented in the industry at levels below their rate of graduation from relevant college programs, and the underrepresentation increases as we look at successively higher and prestigious positions within the industry. According to a McKinsey report, women in tech hold only 25% of the senior manager or director roles, 20% of the vice president titles, and just 15% of roles in the C-suite.

So, to sum it up, there may be somewhat lower availability of candidates from underrepresented groups like people of color and women, but that does not account for the lack of diversity in business, especially in tech. In fact, as we’ll see, the “pipeline problem” explanation is looking at the problem through the wrong end of the telescope — or of the pipe, if you will. Lack of representation itself turns out to be a major reason why workplaces are not more diverse.

What Are the Most Significant Barriers to Better Workplace Diversity?

Lack of Representation

This shouldn’t be hard to understand. People want to work in industries and at companies where they believe they’ll have opportunities and feel included. Poor diversity performance, especially in industries like tech, convince women and people of color that these industries do not welcome them, and so many of those already in the industry leave, while young adults in college pursuing their career options look at the poor representation and turn their attentions and career aspirations elsewhere. And many who have earned relevant degrees, such as computer science degrees, leave tech for industries with better diversity performance.

University of Connecticut sociologist Maya A. Beasley studied this phenomenon as it applies to Black tech professionals in her book “Opting Out: Losing the Potential of America’s Young Black Elite.” Beasley’s research showed the Black students who studied science and technology were less likely than white students to stick with their majors, and those who did stick with them were less likely to apply for technical jobs. They often pursued nonprofit or business work instead, because of the negative things they’d heard about the culture at tech companies, and seen how few Black people worked in tech.

“Any student of color looking at the numbers from the tech giants is going to be turned off and wary about taking a job there because it tells you something about what the climate is,” said Maya A. Beasley, in a New York Times article.

We see similar patterns for women in tech. A Harvard Business Review article found that 52% of women in STEM careers will eventually leave because of hostile work environments to women, or lack of women representation in key leadership positions.

Recruiting/Hiring

Not surprisingly, this is a major area contributing to lack of workplace diversity, because we can’t have a diverse team if candidates from underrepresented groups never make it through the front door.

Here are some of the key areas of recruitment and hiring that often, however unconsciously, keep us from finding talent that represents the growing diversity of the country.

· Limited searches: The reality is that many job positions are filled through referrals — someone already within the company knows someone they think would be a good fit for an open role. A Payscale study found that over 1/3 of job offers go to candidates who received a referral. Of course, given that most companies struggle with diversity and that we tend to know people who are “like us,” especially in racial identity, that means that many of the candidates we consider will be “like us,” and we’re not even tapping into the diversity of candidates in the larger talent pool. The same Payscale study found that 41% of referrals are from a family member or close friend, and 32% are from a business contact, such as a former coworker or client.

And when we do try a wider search, we’re not often searching as widely as we might think. We’re probably searching a limited number of majority white or white male dominated universities, professional organizations and Greek organizations, rather than groups and universities where we’d be more likely to find candidates from underrepresented groups.

· Job descriptions (JDs): Companies often write the job descriptions associated with postings without doing enough thinking about whether the qualifications they’re asking for are what they need. As a result, as Porter Braswell, CEO of the Human Resources tech platform Jopwell said in a Fast Company interview, job descriptions often function more to keep people out than to bring them in.

Another part of the problem with JDs, according to Braswell, is that companies often try to use the same verbiage and same qualifications as their competitors. This means that in practice, we only consider candidates who’ve held the exact same “seat” at a competitor’s company, and since competitors tend to have the same lack of diversity we do, we’re caught in another vicious circle.

In practice, of course, we often do consider candidates who have a variety of different skillsets and experiences we think may be compatible with the roles we’re filling — we look for evidence that candidates are able to adapt and learn, and or that they have the popularly discussed attribute of “grit.” We just don’t offer the same considerations and opportunities to members of underrepresented groups, and we write our JDs in a way that, intentionally or not, makes us think we’re only being professional in doing so. In doing so, we’re not only keeping good candidates out but are shortchanging ourselves, by not giving ourselves the opportunity to add people with different skillsets and perspectives to our teams.

· Bias against non-white names: Even if we get resumes submitted to us by a more diverse candidate pool, we may subconsciously not give them the consideration we give to resumes of candidates who have more “familiar” sounding names. A classic study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) called “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination” found that, all other things held equal, resumés associated with white-sounding names received 50% more callbacks than resumes with “Black-sounding” names. Interestingly, the study also found that federal contractors and employers who list “Equal Opportunity Employer” in their advertising discriminated as much as other employers did.

Lack of career paths

Many companies have some success in improving workplace diversity, the “D” in “DEI,” but struggle with the “E” and the “I.” That is to say, the overall number and percentage of underrepresented groups increases, but not the number and percentage who are in advanced and leadership positions.

It’s important to remember here that pay equity should not be the sole focus, is not a substitute for opportunities for advancement. For example, it may be theoretically possible to create more precise employee review and compensation programs so that any two employees, regardless of race, gender, orientation or any other factor, earn the same money if they do the same job equally well. But if we see trends that over time, white male employees get promotions and wage increases while women and employees of color do not, we have a problem. We seem to lack equality in terms of consideration for opportunities, which means stagnant career paths for women and people of color.

Poor Retention

Poor retention of employees from underrepresented groups directly follows from lack of well-defined career paths and opportunities for advancement. For example, Black tech professionals often leave the tech industry for more welcoming pastures in sectors such as oil and gas, automotive, and healthcare technology, because these industries tend to have far more diverse representation. The same Harvard Business Review article cited earlier about the rate at which women leave STEM careers found that, specifically regarding the tech industry, 41% of women working in the industry leave, compared with only 17% of men.

Cultural issues

All of the factors we’ve discussed are also issues with our corporate culture, because they reflect normative assumptions by those in leadership positions about how important diversity is and how to achieve a more diverse workforce. And culture has a lot to do with not only how well a company is able to function, but also the image they project to the world outside the company, which in turn affects their ability to attract top talent from diverse and underrepresented groups.

We’ve seen that employees leave or avoid companies and entire industry sectors when they think they won’t be able to thrive in those spaces. There are many “vicious cycles” an organization can get into when it comes to poor diversity performance, and the indicators candidates get about how serious a company gets about improving diversity is one of those, because it can keep good candidates from wanting to apply and can cause talent stuck in stagnating career paths to leave.

There are many indicators of the health of a company’s culture when it comes to diversity, including the numbers of employees from underrepresented groups, and more importantly, the numbers in leadership positions. The importance of statements that company leaders make about DEI also cannot be understated, whether those statements are made internally or publicly. A good example of a public statement that harmed the perception of a company’s commitment to DEI is the statement made by the CEO of Wells Fargo in 2020 that blamed the bank’s poor diversity performance on the very “pipeline problem” we’re talking about. His statement resulted in a great deal of criticism from other business leaders and undoubtedly further damaged his company’s ability to attract top Black talent or talent from other underrepresented groups.

And we should note that although the Wells Fargo CEO made a public statement, internal statements that either seem to devalue diversity efforts or blame poor diversity performance on external factors can have a negative effect on recruitment and retention as well. Not only do these statements affect the way employees can perceive a future for themselves within the company, but also hurt efforts to recruit new talent, for the simple reason that people talk. And in today’s transparent and well-connected business world, it’s easier than ever for employees to share experiences using general social media sites or on platforms like Linkedin and Glassdoor. Statements claiming that there just aren’t enough candidates from underrepresented groups to hire can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Culture matters, and words matter, so it’s important to take them seriously, and to be committed to learning and changing in service of our diversity goals.

Lack of Clear Commitment to DEI

Many companies talk about and may sincerely be committed to improving diversity, but don’t always communicate why they value diversity as effectively as they communicate other business goals. For example, what do they even mean by “diversity?” Talking in general about having a more diverse workforce can promote the idea that all underrepresented groups are interchangeable when it comes to degree of underrepresentation and urgency for improvement in hiring, retaining and advancing. We wouldn’t be so general about any other business issue — if revenues were falling, we wouldn’t just say “revenues are down,” but would want to know which revenues from which products and services were down the most, how long they’ve been down, and other specific details needed to address the problem. Similarly, to do diversity better, we’d need to recognize that Black talent is the most underrepresented group in business and especially in tech, and Black women are the most severely underrepresented of all. Now we have the specificity we need to home in on improving our recruiting and career advancement.

Another indication of how seriously a company takes DEI is whether they incentivize diversity goals the way they incentivize other business goals and hold departments and executives responsible for meeting them. People leaders who produce lower than expected production or sales numbers each year should expect that their compensation and bonuses would be impacted by that, and so should leaders who consistently produce lower than expected diversity numbers. Top-level leadership should demonstrate a commitment to be judged by that standard and hold others accountable in turn.

And of course, a big part of success will come from having executives willing to learn, listen and be part of the solution. As Porter Braswell of the career platform Jopwell concluded, “It’s very important for CEOs especially to exercise those muscles and surround themselves with people with different perspectives and experiences and roll up their sleeves to learn.”

It’s Your Plumbing, Not the Pipeline

In summary, we’ve seen that the main explanation for lack of diversity in the workplace is not supply, but issues within the organization itself. In other words, it’s not a pipeline (external) problem as much as it’s a plumbing (internal) problem. We need to focus on fixing the plumbing.

“The pipeline has a bias,” says Kalimah Priforce, who runs Oakland-based Qeyno Labs, which organizes “hackathons” targeted at minority youth. “Their version of the pipeline is what’s creating the problem.”

What Are Some Effective, Recognized Ways to Improve Workplace Diversity?

Most business leaders today recognize the value of diversity, and many even spend a great deal of money supporting internal efforts or contracted services to produce more diverse lists of candidates. When these efforts come back with the same lists of mostly white, mostly male candidates we usually see, it causes them to blame the “pipeline problem,” since if there really was more candidate diversity out there, wouldn’t these efforts have found it?

We’ve already discussed some of the reasons why this conclusion doesn’t hold up, but perhaps an analogy from another context may help.

Suppose we go out and spend a fortune on the best fishing equipment available. Everything is top of the line, and we spare no expense. We take our high-end new equipment out on the ocean for days at a time and we catch….absolutely nothing. What conclusion should we reach? Should we conclude that we have a “pipeline” problem — that there are no fish in the ocean to catch? Or do we conclude that we have learning yet to do, and that while we may have some of what we need to catch fish, we’re missing some of the key strategies and knowledge to succeed?

The second conclusion seems to make the most sense, especially when we realize that other people are catching fish. For example, Pinterest made changes that resulted in greater numbers of referrals of candidates from underrepresented groups, and also set specific diversity goals alongside other business goals. Colorado-based cloud communication company RingCentral began better communicating its DEI goals and holding its leaders accountable, with the result that currently, less than half of the company’s employees currently identify as white. “Our senior leadership is really involved with our ERGs,” said Stephen Stewart, director of talent brand and recruitment marketing at RingCentral. “They are ambassadors and executive sponsors of our DEI programs and initiatives because we know how important it is for leadership to get involved.”

So yes, other companies, even tech companies, are succeeding in improving their workplace diversity. And that means they’re also succeeding at tapping the benefits of diversity, including better workplace culture, better employee retention, and a wider and better range of ideas to improve productivity and drive the business forward. That success and those benefits could be ours, too, unless we’d like to argue that we’re less capable and resourceful than our competitors.

In what follows, we’ll build on what we’ve learned so far to identify actionable strategies we can take to get our diversity efforts on track.

Fish Where They Are, Not Where They Ain’t

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the pipeline problem makes at least a little contribution to the diversity deficit in business, even if, as we’ve seen, it can’t account for the level of failure we see. Would doing a limited search that yields unrepresentative results help or hurt the problem? If we’re concerned about the pipeline, we should be searching more pipes. Or, to return to the fishing metaphor, we should follow that wise old angler’s adage: “There’s no use fishing where they ain’t.”

A great strategy to concentrate our search results the right way is to search for schools, networks and professional organizations that primarily include and cater to underrepresented populations.

For instance, say we wanted to make sure we’re including Black professional talent in our searches. We can search the 100+ historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the US for starters, and Wikipedia maintains a helpful list of those. We can also search organizations for Black professionals, a partial list of which includes:

That’s only a partial list, and only includes national organizations. Be sure to also search out local organizations like Black Tech Nation in Pittsburgh and Black Women Talk Tech in Atlanta, New York, and San Francisco. You may be able to find others in your areas by searching the internet using terms such as “Black engineers” or “Black developers” and along with the name of your city or geographical area of interest.

Greek college organizations, aka fraternities and sororities, can be another good way to search for talent. In fact, many recruiting efforts already do rely on such organizations — it’s just that the searches are being conducted by mostly white recruiters who search only within the mostly white Greek networks already familiar to them.

Try widening the net to include fraternities and sororities that provide non-white students a lifelong network of contacts and support. The Black community has very strong fraternities and sororities, with the leading ones collectively known as the Divine Nine and formally called the National Pan-Hellenic Council. They are Alpha Kappa Alpha (ΑΚΑ), Alpha Phi Alpha (ΑΦΑ), Delta Sigma Theta (ΔΣΘ), Iota Phi Theta (ΙΦΘ), Kappa Alpha Psi (ΚΑΨ), Omega Psi Phi (ΩΨΦ), Phi Beta Sigma (ΦΒΣ), Sigma Gamma Rho (ΣΓΡ), and Zeta Phi Beta (ΖΦΒ). Latinx Greek organizations include Alpha Psi Lambda, Gamma Zeta Alpha, and Kappa Delta Chi.

Remember too, that not all states have rates of college attainment for Black adults below the national average. Try concentrating on candidates from states with attainment rates above the national average, like Maryland and New Mexico. We can also try searching some of the fields, such as oil & gas and healthcare, where non-white tech professionals have gone after leaving the tech industry.

Here’s a bonus searching pro tip: You can make your searches faster and more effective using “Boolean operators.” These are simple keywords (AND, OR, NOT, and AND NOT) used to either combine or exclude keywords in a search, resulting in more focused results. The “AND and “OR” keywords can be particularly helpful.

For example, let’s say we want to search the talent pool of software engineers from a HCBU. We can do that by building a search string containing the names of all 105 HBCUs (readily available in this list from Wikipedia) with the names of each college in quotes and separated from each other by the “OR” keyword. This part of the search says we’re looking for any candidate from any one of the 105 listed universities, and would look something like this:

(“Alabama State University” OR “Albany State University” OR “Alcorn State University” OR …)

Now we’ll hone in on software engineers by adding an “AND” keyword to the search, so that now we’re looking for someone who has both the term “software engineer” and the name of an HBCU associated with them. We now have a search string that looks like this, and is ready to get plugged into Linkedin to search for candidates:

(“Software engineer” AND (“Alabama State University” OR “Albany State University” OR “Alcorn State University” OR …)

This Boolean search strategy is one championed by recruiting professional Glen Cathey, and can be modified to perform many different talent pool searches. For example, we can also use it to search networks of Latinx Greek organizations for sales professionals, or women’s professional networks for tech professionals.

Find More Pipes

As useful as it is to expand recruiting searches by searching professional organizations, colleges and Greek organizations associated with underrepresented groups, it’s not in itself going to cast the net as wide as we need. That’s because only a fraction of any particular group will be associated with those organizations. For instance, Porter Braswell of Jopwell estimates that only 1% of all Black Americans belong to a Black professional organization.

That’s why it’s important to be creative, and to find more “pipes” to search. There are fewer barriers to joining social media platforms and groups, so those can be productive places to look. Look on Linkedin and Facebook, as well as purpose-built platforms like Jopwell, which provides a place for students and professionals from underrepresented groups to find career opportunities.

Review and Update The Rest of Your Recruitment/Hiring Process

As we’ve seen, talent searches aren’t the only places that recruitment and hiring can go wrong. We also need to revisit our referrals, our job descriptions, and our resume reviews.

· Referrals: As mentioned previously, referrals don’t often increase diversity because the candidates reached tend to be similar in background to the employees doing the referring. Companies can certainly keep a certain number of referrals in the mix, but should proactively seek more diverse referrals, perhaps by incentivizing referrals for underrepresented candidates. Pinterest followed this model for their engineering team and saw a 24% increase in female referrals and a 55-time increase in the percentage of referred candidates from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.

· Job Descriptions: We want job descriptions that bring good candidates in, not keep them out. It’s time to distinguish ourselves from our competitors by not wording our job descriptions exactly like they do, and putting the thought and purposefulness into them that we recognize we need to put into other areas of the business. What do we really need and want from our candidates? If we’re looking for someone with project management skills and the ability to adapt quickly, we can consider people with other backgrounds in which those skills would be requisite, such as consulting or finance. Doing so lets us tap into one of the most significant values of diversity, which is having people aboard who think differently and can bring new insights from different work experiences to the table.

· Resumé Reviews: We’ve seen that studies show that resumes associated with non-white names tend to result in much fewer callbacks. Using a blind resumé review process removes identification details such as names (which may indicate gender or racial identity) or the year of graduation from college (which may help indicate age). When combined with better success at getting applications from diverse candidates, this helps ensure that when the resumes reach us, we’re able to judge them on their merits without the distorting effects of assumptions based on race, gender, or age.

See Diversity as an Opportunity, Not a Problem

Again, language matters. Do we talk about diversity as a problem to be solved — a particularly tough nut to crack? Or do we talk about it like an opportunity, which in fact it is? Companies that improve their DEI performance by recruiting and advancing candidates with diverse identities, backgrounds, and experiences have the benefit of a wider field of ideas to drive the business forward, as well as better employee retention and a better culture.

Let’s make sure we’re talking about diversity the way we talk about other business goals — as opportunities. We’ll generate more excitement about our DEI initiatives and willingness to engage with them by doing so.

And that, perhaps, is one of the biggest takeaways we can have. We have the power to do better and doing better will result in a more productive company and a better company for all workers, positioned to grow and evolve well into the future. But first, we need to look at the pipes in our own house. Fix the plumbing, and we may be surprised how well the pipeline works.