As a female, minority founder and CEO of a company in Silicon Valley, diversity is a topic I grapple with every day. At Teamable we spend a lot of our time helping our clients build and nurture a workplace culture that values and supports diversity and inclusion efforts. In the process, I’ve learned a lot from recruiting teams that are prioritizing finding and hiring women for technical, management and leadership roles. I’ve also learned a lot about some common excuses I’ve heard used to explain or excuse a lack of diversity. Let’s take a moment to smash them
1. “We don’t have a diversity problem, we have a pipeline problem.”
The most hackneyed response I hear when a lack of diversity is pointed out at a company, on a team or at an event is that there just wasn’t enough of a qualified pipeline of diverse candidates. From the industry that in the past 20 years has fundamentally reshaped almost every part of our economy and daily life, that response is getting pretty old.
My first run-in with the “pipeline” problem was when hosting an engineering leadership meetup. None of the partners and organizations I was working with could find a woman engineer to appear on the panel. Being the CEO of a referral recruiting company and having a team of engineers gave me the opportunity to do what hundreds of tech workers do everyday when they run into a problem: try to hack together a solution.
On that day, Teamable’s diversity referral search feature was born from necessity. Tapping into the collective social networks of a team of 11 at the time, we were able to source a list of 912 woman engineer leaders (those mythical CTOs, senior engineering managers, senior engineers and data scientists, and senior product managers) to invite to our meetup. Something that we were struggling to do with our previous toolset became accessible when we focused our efforts. This leads me to the second excuse.
2. Recruiting for diversity is too hard
Today, I’m proud to say that Teamable works with heads of talent and technical recruiters at some of the most innovative companies in Silicon Valley to help them source, recruit and hire top-quality, diverse candidates. Everyday I learn something new from our customers that inspires me to work harder. But, the thing that has surprised me the most is also probably the simplest.
Lyft has seen amazing progress in fostering and building a more diverse workforce and it hasn’t been with complex incentive programs or catchy marketing. Lyft has simply prioritized, in word and action, the sourcing and hiring of diverse candidates. At its most basic level this means reaching out to and phone screening the diverse candidates that cross their radar and actively sourcing diverse candidates in all the places they show off their work (i.e, github, dribble, kaggle, and other online communities).
I don’t mean to oversimplify the amazing work that Lyft does. Diversity and inclusion certainly takes a lot more than a commitment to sourcing diverse candidates to be successful. But, a lot of organizations throw their hands up in the air and argue that the challenge of diversity is too hard for them to tackle or too large for them address, when all it really takes to get started is picking up the phone.
So this International Women’s Day, when our problems seem intractable and the forces we struggle against appear insurmountable, let’s all remember that there is no good excuse to not get started on the work of making the world a better place.