The Number One Diversity in Tech Issue These Companies Face — and How They’re Tackling It

by Madeline Hester
November 14, 2019

“There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

That’s a familiar phrase from many tech giants regarding diversity hires. Since 2014, Microsoft, Google, Apple and Facebook have released employee demographic charts. While the transparency is appreciated, the numbers show the needle still needs to be moved toward a more diverse workforce. At Google and Microsoft, the number of black or Latinx employees grew less than one percent since 2014. The data looks especially grim among technical workers like coders, engineers and data scientists. 

We don’t have to wait for the tech giants to make a change. It’s the responsibility of every company to take steps toward creating a diverse workplace, and that's a good thing. Diversity means a medley of ideas, a workforce that accurately reflects its user base, and ultimately, better business margins. 

We talked to three Seattle companies who are taking concrete actions to attract and hire diverse candidates. From posting on diversity-focused job boards to hosting diversity-and-inclusion training seminars, these companies are challenging the status quo. 

 

geocaching
geocaching

The treasure map has gone digital. Geocaching HQ is a platform that lets users search and find hidden geocaches using map coordinates. To attract diverse treasure hunters requires a diverse team. 

Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs Jennifer Arterburn told us how posting on diversity job sites attracts more candidates.

 

Diversity, and the tech industry’s lack of it, is a topic that isn’t going away anytime soon. But headway is being made thanks to company’s that identify their own issues and work intentionally to remedy them. What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing?

Hiring for technology jobs in Seattle is challenging right now because of the competition for talent. Seattle's population seems to be growing increasingly more diverse, so that helps, but we still struggle with attracting a diverse candidate pool in such a competitive job market. Like many companies, we rely on our own site to attract job applicants as well as other recruiting sites. We've recognized that this alone isn't enough.

We need to do more to attract diverse candidates and once we have them in the door, we need to highlight the importance we place on diversity and inclusion. It's not just lip service, it's part of who we are and want to be.

We've added a diversity and inclusion statement to all of our job descriptions... 

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue? 

To attract more diverse candidates, we are expanding our recruiting efforts beyond just the usual job site. We post on job boards like Ada Developers Academy's network, Colors Careers, Hispanic/Latino Professionals Association and the HBCU Career Center. We've added a diversity and inclusion statement to all of our job descriptions as a way of letting job applicants know that these are important values for us. 

Additionally, we have become a “Seattle Safe Place”, which is a Seattle Police Department program to help provide a safe space for victims of hate and bias crimes. The Safe Place sticker is one of the first things candidates will see when they come in the door at HQ.

We also have Encompass, our diversity and inclusion initiatives, started by HR Manager Eileen Kim and our Co-founder and Lead Developer Heather Walicki. We don't miss an opportunity to share information about Encompass with both candidates and newly hired employees, so that they understand that we are being mindful about creating an inclusive work environment. Finally, we've also taken steps to educate our employees who are on the front lines of hiring, both conducting interviews and hopefully referring candidates, on unconscious bias and on how to be an ally. 

 

glowforge
glowforge

Not all 3D printers are created equal. Instead of printing layers of plastic, Glowforge uses a laser to cut, print and engrave a wide range of materials. 

Public Relations Manager Katharine Kemp explained how they reevaluated the hiring process to prioritize diversity and inclusion.  

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing?

We know first hand how important diversity in tech is. Our diverse team helps us and our current and future customers. It helps us better understand their needs and helps us to produce better products. We also know that, despite progress, the tech industry is still lacking diversity and we are building our company to intentionally help remedy that. 

One challenge is attracting diverse talent and then convincing them that we are worthy of consideration. Given that we treat everyone the same when they interview and we hire entirely on the ability to do the job, we need to ensure that we have a diverse applicant pool right from the start. And once we have employees in the door on day one, we have to work hard to continue building and fostering an inclusive culture.

...we need to ensure that we have a diverse applicant pool right from the start.

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue?  

We prioritize candidate outreach that diversifies our applicant pool with the continued and increased focus to find the best and the brightest. We take salary negotiations out of the equation: we determine the right amount to pay each employee just above the 75th percentile by pulling the most up-to-date data. By doing this, we refuse to follow the status quo that often penalizes women for negotiating. Also, we’re open about our insurance. We know that the predicament of someone searching for a job is that often, inclusive insurance coverage is the difference between taking a job or not. So we post our full insurance plan on the website. 

Before someone even steps foot in the door for an interview we ask about their preferred pronouns and give employees the option to include them in email signatures. We offer diversity and inclusion trainings that are immersive sessions for every employee. These interactive sessions, taught by experts, cover topics including D&I definition; dimensions of diversity; unconscious bias; microaggressions; inclusive culture; the allyship continuum; actual employee action plans and more. 

 

tune
tune

TUNE’s SaaS platform helps businesses build and manage marketing affiliate partnerships. 

By attempting to remove unconscious bias from the hiring process, MacKenzie Martin of human resources said they are attracting more diverse candidates to TUNE’s job postings.

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing? 

At this stage, our employees and much of the industry are aware of concepts such as unconscious bias and people know that they should not discriminate based on protected classes or characteristics.

In the real-time recruiting life cycle, decisions are being made about how to define job requirements, which applicants to phone screen, how to grade their interviews and who to move forward with. Each of those decisions is a point where biases can exclude candidates from underrepresented groups and reduce diversity. 

We started by updating all job descriptions to include gender neutral language...

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue? 

TUNE’s recruiting team and hiring managers meet to build a candidate profile based on hard and soft skills for the open role to ensure consistency throughout each candidate experience. We started by updating all job descriptions to include gender neutral language, created a list of standard behavioral questions to ask each candidate and offered bias trainings for each interviewer to identify and correct their biases throughout the entire screening process.

Our diversity and inclusion program is managed by HR leadership who directly reports to our CEO. We are continuing to work and grow as a company to build a sustainable sense of belonging in our company and for our employees. 

 

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