women diversity

Tech could help make its industry more diverse. Source: Shutterstock

These startups could help the IT industry kick its diversity problem

AS COMPANIES of all sizes and backgrounds attempt to tackle the business world’s prevalent diversity issue, a number of key female-led initiatives are emerging in an effort to remove biases from businesses’ operations and reduce non-diverse hiring practices. 

Talent Sonar founder and CEO Laura Mather is one of the key people behind the ongoing initiative against non-diverse business practices. Her firm provides businesses with an acquisition platform that removes applicant and college names from submitted resumes.

This, of course, prevents a bias against potential employees that are females and those that have attended schools which are not traditionally considered high-tier.

Apart from preventing hiring managers to neglect an application based on a person’s name or school, Talent Sonar also analyzes the language utilized by employers in their job descriptions for gender neutrality.

Laura Mather, PhD, founder and CEO of Talent Sonar. Source: Talent Sonar

This is something that fellow tech firm Textio specializes in. In a statement to CIO, Textio CEO and co-founder Kieran Snyder described how her company utilizes natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to evaluate job descriptions based on gender-neutrality – from syntax, equal opportunity statements, down to the job posting’s formatting.

“The tech’s really looking top to bottom at all aspects of how the job post shows up to a candidate. Yes, vocabulary is part of it. Various words and phrases may get highlighted as reaching certain audiences or [being] problematic,” Snyder said, according to the CIO report.

So far, initiatives such as Talent Sonar and Textio have proven useful for employers looking to expand their workforce. Textio’s algorithms, for one, has aided manufacturer Avery Dennison and tools maker Atlassian, with the former seeing a 60 percent spike in female applicants within six months and the latter hiring an entering engineer class that is 57 percent women.

In a lot of ways, the issues surrounding workplace diversity usually stem from sincere ignorance on the part of employers, according to a Forbes report.

Thus, while many diversity-focused programs are initiated by companies, a good number of them end up failing within a year or two. This is because a lot of these ill-fated programs are developed simply as a way to comply with corporate governance and self-regulation.

Diversity, after all, is not limited to gender or race, as stated in a Chron report. Diversity in the workplace also pertains to employers being open to every employee’s lifestyle choices, including sexual orientation, religion, political beliefs, age, and disabilities.

In a lot of ways, an ideal workplace is an organization that is governed by a true meritocracy, where employees are evaluated based on their capability to perform their assigned tasks. Baloonr CEO Amanda Greenberg is quite aware of this and has designed a system that eliminates bias in decision-making.

At its core, Baloonr provides businesses with a system that allows employees to anonymously provide and vote on ideas for projects, thereby avoiding situations where an idea is evaluated and possibly rejected based on who suggested it.

“We create an idea meritocracy by using a unique flow, components of anonymity and randomization. In this meritocracy, business operations become more effective. Blind idea generation replaces in-person meetings, shortens meeting times. It speeds up product and project work,” Greenberg said, according to a CIO report.

Overall, Greenberg believes that once workplace biases are eliminated, enterprises would be able to function in a much more efficient manner. She further asserted that at the end of the day, biases in the workplace affect the bottom line, and that is something that businesses, regardless of their size, have to keep in mind all the time.

Greenberg elaborated on her ideas:

“Bias mitigation is the next wave of productivity. Drive an inclusive culture and employees will share ideas. Encourage a speak-up culture, and you’ll get a more innovative culture. You’ll also retain more of those female hires you worked so hard to attract.

“Bias has an impact on the bottom line. Enlightened leaders really understand bias has a negative impact on productivity and innovation. From hiring to retention; in every aspect, groups must eliminate anchoring bias and be deliberate in how they think.”