Diversity hiring

A common culture does not mean “people who look and act exactly like me.” Building a cohesive team means hiring people who have a common sense of purpose and mission, and a shared outlook on what is important within the confines and context of a company.

There has been a call within Silicon Valley to increase the ethnic and gender diversity of companies. A few tools or approaches you can use to prioritize diversity hiring include:

1. Recruiting

  • Make sure to source and pursue diverse candidates for a role.
  • Work with your executive and recruiting teams to think through how biases may emerge in your hiring processes.1
  • Some recruiting companies you could use include Jopwell and Triplebyte.
  • If using a recruiting firm, specify the importance of gender and race.
  • If you do college recruiting, make sure to recruit on campuses with more diversity in their student bodies.
  • When interviewing women, include women on their interview and hiring panels. Ditto for people of color.

2. Role models

  • Think about diversity broadly. Did you include women and underrepresented minorities as investors? How diverse is your board and executive team?
  • Can you provide programs to mentor women and underrepresented minorities?
  • Do you provide press or speaking opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities? This may help attract other candidates to your company.

3. Benefits

  • Think about the benefits you offer. Do you have a maternity policy that supports working mothers? Do you have pumping rooms or other infrastructure for new parents? Are these rooms actually reserved and available for new mothers?

The hardest part of diversity hiring for startups is that startups tend to source key people out of large incumbents (e.g., Google, Facebook, etc.). These companies act as “feeders” to startups who are looking for experienced hires or executives who have operated at scale. Since these large companies lack a lot of diverse employees (particularly in engineering, product, and design), diversity hiring becomes more difficult for downstream startups. As a startup, you will need to look at less common sources for talent, and in today’s environment where diversity is an increasing focus for many companies, it may be more competitive and may take longer to hire candidates with diverse backgrounds. 2

  1. Biases may not only impact hiring diverse ethnicities and genders, but also even prevent you from effective hiring of other sorts. For example, I have seen back-end-heavy engineering teams who can’t hire a great front-end engineer because their interview questions and styles are geared against this other type of engineering hire.
  2. There has been some debate in the past about whether diversity hiring has a “pipeline” issue or an inherent bias issue. This complex issue is not an “either/or,” but rather a “both.” Unfortunately, the reality is that there are two types of problems: (1) companies need to change their practices to ensure that they are seeking diverse candidates and embracing/supporting diverse employees, and (2) the industry at large, particularly larger companies that employ the hundreds of thousands of qualified candidates that startups want to poach from, has a diversity problem itself.