The best person for the job is not always the most skilled person.
When hiring, I attempt to account for blind spots within our current team, the energy the new hire will bring to our team, and how we will improve as a whole organization. The best candidate for the job is not solely based on the individual’s qualifications, but how that individual impacts our team dynamic. We hire valuing the differences each person possesses because we believe it strengthens our team and our company.
When our teams consist of all (or mostly) one gender, one race, one religion, one age range, etc. it is our responsibility as leaders to evaluate if that pattern aligns with our core values and if it serves the growth and health of our companies.
Last year, I was in an article with 29 women in tech nominated for the 2017 Business Journal 40 Under 40 Awards. There were over 1600 total honorees nationwide, about ⅓ were women, but only 29 of us were women in tech. Diversity and inclusion matter me because I see the gender gap in the numbers.
As a technology company, the following are some ways that we find value in creating a culture that celebrates diversity.
Diversity in Age
We live in an era of technology and information. The way that each person relates to technology is different depending on when they were born. For example, there are members on our team that can’t remember a time before the internet was available at home, and team members that have lived over half their life without the internet. Having voices on the team from a broad age range gives different perspectives on how we might identify, approach and solve problems through technology.
Diversity in Experience
We bring our experiences and perspectives to every challenge that we tackle and having team members who comes from a myriad of backgrounds means we hear more perspectives. At CauseLabs, our technology often serves the underserved. I was raised in poverty and experienced poverty in my early twenties. Thus, I have some insight into the mindset of our users and while every product still requires user testing, I am able to surface some of those challenges during ideation phases and we can creatively design for those hunches much earlier in the process.
Diversity in Personality
Lastly, groupthink can also hamper innovation and creativity so even having varying personality types on your team can lead to generating more creative solutions. We are mindful of the makeup of our team and try to lean into a balance of personality types to avoid getting stuck in a problem solving rut.
Our technology is changing and the landscape of business is evolving. Our workforce also needs to adapt. Being mindful of diversity in our hiring practices can help us better map the future of our companies. This goes beyond gender or race, as noted in the examples above, but I also try to create equity for those who are underrepresented.
Equity for Women in Technology
Numbers speak volumes and the U.S. is falling woefully short of the mark on equity for women in tech. In 2018, women accounted for only 15% of employees in tech jobs. As a leader, and as a woman, I strive to take action and to create equity. As this article is written, CauseLabs is woman-owned, woman-led and 50% female. Until we create equity, it is impossible to achieve true equality.
Equity and equality are terms we use as we attempt to create fairness. Equity is giving everyone what they need to have the opportunity to succeed. Equality is treating everyone the same and giving everyone the same amount regardless of their current status. Equality aims to promote fairness, but only works if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same amount of help, otherwise the same imbalances continue to persist. Other great visual examples can be found at the public health online educational resources at GWU: https://publichealthonline.gwu.edu/blog/equity-vs-equality/
That does not mean I hire unqualified people based on gender, race, religion or age. We have a rigorous hiring process. But yes, I 100% value the varying backgrounds and perspectives that we have on our team and I am grateful for our differences because I believe those differences make us stronger and more creative.
“Like-minded individuals from like-minded backgrounds will produce like-minded results. But the world we live in today demands we challenge the status quo; it demands a diversity of approaches to real world problems. It’s about gathering a diversity of voices and life experiences to fuel the creative fires of innovation.” wrote Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton In Yes, And. “In other words, hiring well often means hiring different.”
I believe equity is needed and that diversity is valuable, but I recognize that hiring based on forced policies can be crippling for everyone involved. It can feel discriminatory. It can cause resentment and can lead to diminishing someone’s worth. I’m not advocating for forced diversity, equity and inclusion, but I am urging leaders to take an organizational pulse. Are your biases affecting your hiring? Are you building a culture of innovation? Do you have a team with diverse perspectives and experiences?
A Culture of Opportunity
As the CEO and owner of CauseLabs, I set the tone for inclusion and create the environment that will foster diverse and healthy discussions. I’m fortunate to have had good role models in my predecessors, but also, I do not fit the typical mold for leading a tech company. I qualify for several of the marginalized audiences in America. I am an Asian American, Female, Service Disabled Veteran, who was raised in poverty, chose to be a stay-at-home mom for seven years before re-entering the workforce, and took 13 years to finish my Bachelor’s Degree. I did not start at the top. When I re-entered the workforce in 2007, most companies could not see my potential and it was hard, even to start at the bottom. It doesn’t matter where you are in a company, but the culture to be your whole self and to thrive is crucial.
At a recent event, a gentleman shared the story of a woman who told him he only kept his job during the layoffs because he was black. The thought of that sickens me. No one should ever hear that they have their job only because of diversity policies; no one should ever make another person feel belittled in that way. Everyone on my team has their job because they deserve their job and because they have the potential to bring greatness to our team. Period.
Hiring in 2019
It’s not just because of our company values that this matters to me. I see the state of our country and I believe this is an important topic that warrants discussion. I want our clients and partners understand where I stand on these issues and I hope that they respect every CauseLabs team member as I do because their interactions with our team are also a part of shaping our company culture. Thus, as we hire in 2019, I seek to find balance with my team’s makeup and the current dynamic, and I am always looking for people who will be a spark and who have the potential to deliver passion and excellence for work that matters.