Do You Need to Worry About Workforce Diversity?

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Industry Buzz

Do You Need to Worry About Workforce Diversity?

A few days ago, I came across Chris Isidore's post on CNNMoney about Google's recently released workforce diversity report. The post ends by offering to help people from the "underrepresented groups" get their job skills in front of Google.

On first reading, you wouldn't be alone in thinking that Google's hiring practices might be discriminatory. Google's general workforce breakdown is:

  • 70% men, 30% women
  • 61% white, 30% Asian, 4% 2 or more races, 3% Hispanic, 2% Black, <1% other

In tech jobs, their breakdown is:

  • 83% men, 17% women
  • 60% white, 34% Asian, 3% 2 or more races, 2% Hispanic, 1% Black, <1% Other

Google even states in its report that "We're not where we want to be when it comes to diversity."

But how big of a problem is it really?

Do your demographic homework

When you're trying to determine whether your workforce is sufficiently diverse, you need to look at the demographics of your talent pool, not the demographics of the general population.

A quick visit over to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows some interesting employment data for women and ethnic groups.

In computer and mathematical occupations (presumably a large portion of the jobs at Google), women represent only 26.1 percent of the workforce, Black or African Americans make up 8.3 percent, Asians 18.5 percent and Hispanic or Latino 6.3 percent.

According to those numbers, while Google does have room for improvement, the problem isn't quite as significant as it might first seem.

You should also look at the demographic statistics for the particular regions where you operate; they might not be in keeping with the national averages.

And look at the demographics of the schools/programs you typically recruit from. They'll tell you about trends for the future.

All of these are sources you should be using to set your benchmarks and determine whether you might have potentially discriminatory recruiting/hiring practices.

Recruit for diversity

In its report, Google comes out and states:

"All of our efforts, including going public with these numbers, are designed to help us recruit and develop the world's most talented and diverse people."


"Having a diversity of perspectives leads to better decision-making, more relevant products, and makes work a whole lot more interesting."

I think that's well put, and a goal every organization should aspire to.

So how can you shift your recruiting and hiring efforts to create a high-performing, diverse workforce?

Make yourself an attractive employer to all races, genders and age groups - Look at your total employment package and ask yourself: "Are there elements here that might make us unattractive to a particular employee group?" Then ask some employees from those groups. You might learn that things like your dress code, policy on working hours, benefits package, office layout, social media policy or some other element are making you less desirable as an employer to a particular, underrepresented group.

Make sure your hiring teams are diverse - It's human nature... we tend to hire people who are similar to us - usually quite unconsciously. So make sure the teams who review resumes, interview candidates and make the hiring decision are as diverse as possible. That way you'll help to overcome unconscious biases.

Provide sensitivity training to all your employees - While some people are quite consciously and deliberately biased or discriminatory, most are not. So we need help to discover the unconscious and sometimes subtle ways we discriminate. Sensitivity training can help teach us all to be more inclusive in our dealings with others.

Start a dialogue - Much like Google is doing, you can start a dialogue in your organization about your desire to have a highly talented, diverse workforce, and the value that brings to the organization. It will get your people thinking about ways to be more inclusive and welcome diversity.

It's all about the quality of your talent pool

Ultimately, what you want to do is hire the best candidates for your roles. It should never be about meeting quotas.

You just want to make sure you're not intentionally or unintentionally excluding a group of highly talented people because of their race, gender or age.

Your Turn: What suggestions do you have for ensuring your workforce is high-performing and diverse?

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