How recruiting software firms help close the diversity gap

The IT industry's not all discrimination, harassment and misogyny. Savvy, progressive recruiting software startups are focusing on diversity and inclusion from the beginning, and using technology to help firms hire the best and brightest from underrepresented talent pools.

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Gamergate and the Ellen Pao trial are two of the most recent examples of the IT industry's ugly side, not to mention some of the most widely publicized instances of discrimination. But IT isn't all harassment and misogyny. The same incubator environment that's spawned some horrific examples of bias also has given rise to firms that are using technology to actively increase diversity in IT.

Diverse companies are stronger companies, says Jon Bishke, CEO of Entelo; they're more innovative, productive, claim greater market share and higher profitability. Companies that actively seek out candidates from diverse gender, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds also have lower employee turnover rates than those that are more homogeneous.

Entelo diversity

Bishke's firm, Entelo, includes a diversity module within its data-driven recruiting solution. Entelo Diversity is a Web crawler that uses a proprietary algorithm to aggregate profiles from publicly available information and make diversity a key component of the recruiting process, Bischke says.

"It uses what's already indexed to create a more in-depth profile of a candidate, and then look at certain data points that could signal whether candidates are male, female, Hispanic, a veteran, " Bischke says. For example, is the candidate a member of the NAACP? That could signal they're African-American or, if the candidate was a member of a sorority during their college years, the assumption's made that they are female.

Tools like Entelo Diversity also help connect candidates with firms they might not otherwise consider. Candidates from underrepresented groups are more likely to consider your business as a potential workplace if they know you support a culture of inclusion, Bishke says.

"People who fall into underrepresented groups don't want to go work for a company that doesn't represent them. And if you're not focusing on diversity, you have a disadvantage when attracting the best talent; sure, maybe you can get the best white male talent, but not necessarily the best talent available, if you're overlooking these underrepresented groups," Entelo says.

Piazza

"Technology has allowed access to a much wider, deeper talent pool," says Jessica Gilmartin, chief business officer for online social learning platform and recruiting solution Piazza. "Businesses can't possibly talk to every single available candidate at a job fair or a recruiting event. They can't afford to spend exorbitant amounts for travel, in-person interviews, that sort of thing. But now, they have tools that let them say, 'I'm looking for every woman who will graduate with a computer science degree this year, who's taking advanced algorithms, knows C++ and Java,' for example."

Piazza began as an online social learning platform to help professors, teaching assistants and students -- especially female computer science students -- collaborate at any time of the day or night.

"For female students in STEM courses, we know they often feel incredibly self-conscious in these classes. They're often in the minority; they have to speak up much more loudly and even repeat themselves two or three times before they're heard. Even if they are heard, there's the very real chance they'll face discrimination and harassment -- so many drop out of computer science courses because they don't want to deal with the 'boys club,'" Gilmartin says. Because Piazza allows students to ask and answer questions and collaborate anonymously, it removes much of these challenges, especially for women.

The solution has been incredibly successful, according to Gilmartin. "We currently have one million student enrollments each year, 30,000 professors, 1,000 schools in 68 countries," she says. Top computer science schools like Stanford, Harvard and Cornell, among others, use Piazza to help students collaborate and communicate and to do so anonymously, if they choose.

In 2013, Piazza opened its platform to recruiters looking to fill IT roles and to help women working toward STEM degrees land positions in the field.

"Just as we had helped students learn, we wanted to help students find jobs. Last year we opened it up to recruiters, and we've been oversubscribed both years. Piazza Careers is specifically targeted at helping proactive, progressive and innovative companies target female tech talent," Gilmartin says.

The Careers platform is optional for students, but those who choose to use it in their job search can upload resumes, work samples and show off their coding skills to potential employers.

"We are excited to work with companies that are specifically reaching out to female students. We believe much of the 'skills gap' companies are facing is a pipeline issue, and we can help address that -- there are approximately 60,000 female [computer science] students using the platform. Men tend to start coding much earlier than women, but with mentorship and guidance starting as early as their freshman year, we can help women catch up and encourage them to stick with [computer science] as a major and as a career path," says Gilmartin.

In addition to gaining a recruiting and retention edge, says Gilmartin, diverse and inclusive workplaces result in better products that appeal to a much broader range of potential customers.

"Customer bases for any product are diverse. If you have very similar product teams building products aimed only at one demographic, they won't be able to reach all markets or appeal to all potential customers. You need a diverse range of perspectives to match your customer base," Gilmartin says.

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