Me (right) with my teammates at Kapor Capital. Image by Jed Sullivan.
As a Latino first-generation college graduate working in venture capital in Silicon Valley, I understand both the importance and challenge of helping early-stage startups build diverse teams. Despite recent movements to increase diversity across tech companies of all sizes, women and people of color, among other groups, still find themselves a small minority in tech. This issue is important not only because tech should be more representative of the population at large, but also because diverse teams are truly good for business.
While systemic challenges still prevent many qualified individuals from entering tech jobs at higher rates, the innovative nature of startups can help us break down these barriers. Technologies built around tackling these challenges can scale and generate massive change quickly across many industries and geographies. Combined with initiatives such as Project Include, which provides resources and expertise for companies interested in creating more diverse and inclusive workforces, companies can now address their diversity challenges with more support and promise than ever before.
Here are a handful of ways tech startups can help solve their own industry’s diversity problem:
Whether you’re a startup or a Fortune 500 company, the first step to building a more diverse team is recruiting a more diverse pipeline of talented applicants. A growing number of startups focus on helping companies connect with candidates from historically underrepresented groups in order to source great talent outside of go-to hiring pools.
Did you know that some job descriptions may make you less likely to apply for a role you’re interested in? And no, not just because you’re overqualified. Recent research revealed that a job description’s wording can, for example, actually deter women from submit their résumés. Fortunately, software companies such as Unitive and Textio have created technology that scans job postings for biased language that helps companies mitigate the risk of driving away qualified candidates from particular groups.
As humans, we are hardwired to judge one another; whether our biases are positive or negative, conscious or unconscious, science suggests that they are there. To help address this, startups such as interviewing.io introduce blind, virtual interview processes that focus solely on candidates’ technical skills. Structured video interviews via platforms such as WePow can also help remove screening biases, as can artificial-intelligence-informed interview software such as Juji, which analyzes word patterns and other communication signals to create individuality profiles. Virtual and augmented reality startups can also help interviewers learn to be more empathetic, decreasing the amount of negative bias they could have with interviewees when having them come in for in-person interviews.
Communal spaces can be vital ingredients in building more inclusive workforces, especially in an industry where 83 percent of workers are men and 100 percent of women of color in STEM have experienced some kind of bias. In addition to physically creating supportive spaces, software companies such as Glassbreakers can help companies develop data-driven mentoring programs and resource groups to improve overall employee engagement, which increases retention, job satisfaction, and a company’s bottom line.
We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the use of data in human resources, and with that comes a lot of opportunity to discover when managers are making biased decisions, when groups of applicants are being overlooked, or when there’s an unfair pay gap between employees. Software such as Atipica tracks trends in a company’s recruiting and hiring, using data from résumés to reveal inequitable hiring trends that may otherwise go undetected. AI-driven diversity software such as Joonko focuses on creating an equitable workforce by notifying managers when employees are being treated or compensated unfairly relative to their peers. There’s enormous potential in harnessing data to provide companies with actionable insights.
Let’s be clear that technology alone cannot solve our workforce diversity challenge. Tech can help solve tech’s diversity solutions, but we all still need help and buy-in from organizations’ C-suites to do so. As more leaders take advantage of tech-driven diversity solutions, we can and should be able to diversify our workplaces.
*Kapor Capital is a Jopwell investor and partner company. Glassbreakers, Atipica, Unitive, and WePow are also Kapor portfolio companies.