LinkedIn released its latest workplace diversity report yesterday. At best, the news was mixed.
Where the professional networking platform has made small strides in some areas, like increasing the number of women in leadership positions, the report showed only a small improvement in their number of black and Latino workers. They now occupy 3% and 5% of the roles at LinkedIn in the U.S., respectively, up from 2% and 4% last year.
In her excellent analysis of LinkedIn’s report, Fortune’s Stacy Jones uncovered some other issues that highlight how bias and inexperience might cause serious, if inadvertent, barriers to inclusive hiring. It’s a must-read.
In Jones’s piece, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, the executive director at ReadySet, an Oakland-based diversity solutions firm points out a unique irony of LinkedIn’s struggles: “If they can’t or won’t get it right, then who will? LinkedIn has literally every worker’s bio. That’s an enormous resource,” said Hutchinson. “The multiplier effect is not just limited to positive impact. It can be negative too.”
LinkedIn's struggle with diversifying its workforce also raises the so-called "pipeline" issue—the claim that there isn't the necessary talent coming up the ranks—that has become annoyingly familiar for anyone doing diversity and inclusion work. It's an issue that crops up across all sectors, not just in tech. “It’s a myth,” says Rory E. Verrett, managing director of Protégé Search, a boutique advisory firm which recruits and develops diverse talent. “I just went to a Harvard law celebration of black alumni. There were 1,600 black lawyers there, every one outstanding. There’s no pipeline problem.” There is, however, a commitment problem. “Recruiters are just not connecting the dots," Verrett says. "It’s that simple.”
Verrett has had numerous jobs in executive recruiting, including a stint in-house as head of talent management for the NFL. One problem, he says, is that executive recruiting is a largely white, male field. Diversity becomes a checklist, not a way of thinking. “There has to be an institutional commitment to that talent—following them over the course of their careers, understanding their strengths, their accomplishments, how they’ve grown, what makes them tick,” he says. Is there an ombudsman holding people accountable for diversity initiatives? As LinkedIn demonstrates, sitting on a database of diverse talent isn’t enough. Make sure recruiters are providing more than one diverse candidate on a slate. And ask them about their own experience recruiting diverse candidates for their own firms. “If you want your recruiter to bring you more diverse candidates, start by asking how diverse their own firm is,” he says.
And, companies can and should do more to help people manage the barriers they face. “I’ve seen this time and time again—minority executives watch less qualified white peers get promoted, get raises, and get identified as high performers more than them, and it’s demoralizing,” Verrett says. Twenty or 30 years into a career, the opportunity costs start to add up. “Companies need to step up their game and address these issues head on if you want to recruit or retain these executives,” he says.
But, looking ahead, Verrett concedes that the talent pipeline might be in danger of thinning out. Corporate life has significantly less appeal to young people of color entering the workforce. “Millennials came of age in a golden age of minority entrepreneurship—watching Jay Z, Tyler Perry and Beyonce, become multi-millionaire entrepreneurs without spending one day in corporate America,” he says. New digital tools and access to a global marketplace make start-up life even more accessible. “Add to that mom and dad’s frustration with corporate life," Verrett notes, "and you have the gumbo that creates the strong entrepreneurial pull for millennials.”
Report: Black students less likely to have computer science in school
A new report released yesterday from Google and Gallup highlights the racial, socioeconomic, and gender gap in K-12 computer science education. But, innovative programs are starting to pop up in schools across the country, supported by the tech companies who say they’d like to hire a more diverse workforce. New guidelines for best practices in computer education—and insistent parents—are helping the cause.
A list of eight projects by women of color that foster diversity in tech
These women are publishing curated lists, hosting regular online chats, creating media companies, or launching specialized training programs. Combined, they are reaching millions of professionals who need support navigating the world of tech—and tech titans who need help building inclusive workforces.
The student loan system is the hardest on low-income borrowers
It’s an arcane and unforgiving system and it’s hardest on the low-income students who make up some one-third of federal student loan borrowers: More than 220,000 low-income borrowers who have already defaulted on their student loans will default again in the next 24 months. But, due to regulations, they are now ineligible for loan rehabilitation unless policy makers make changes.
Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud are untrue and dangerous
Citing voter fraud, Donald Trump has been asking his largely white supporters to monitor the polls in districts other than their own, which to many worried observers feels like a dog whistle signal to intimidate voters in communities of color. The good news: It’s almost over.
What the Harvard strike means for other universities
The Chronicle of Higher Education (paywall, sorry) has an in-depth analysis on the now two-week-old Harvard food service workers strike, and how the richest university in the world is negotiating with their lowest paid workers. The news is mixed: Workers currently get competitive wages and benefits, though the health care component lags badly behind the norms. The university is tip-toeing forward. But as concerns about income inequality spread, more strikes in more schools are predicted.
The Woke Leader
A short video on police violence from a team led by Harry Belafonte
“Against The Wall” is a powerful, 3-minute social justice piece on police violence from Harry Belafonte and Sankofa.org and features some very familiar faces—Michael B. Jordan, Michael K. Williams, Danny Glover, and activist/commentator Van Jones. “By using the faces of those we recognize, familiar faces, we look to re-sensitize the community to really see the problem,” says Belafonte. The video matches close-ups of the celebrities with police-recorded audio of some of their more famous and deadly encounters with black boys and men. Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz directed.
Great Britain needs to think about its own history with black people
David Oyelowo, star of the film Selma, is now hellbent on creating film and art that helps people in the UK understand their own past. “People of colour have been expunged from Britain’s history,” he said, speaking at a symposium that kicks off a season celebrating black acting. He says that emphasizing period films, like his latest one about a black diplomat who marries a white woman in the 1940s, is an important way to start. The symposium also called for significant changes in hiring in the entertainment industry.
How a weekly dinner changes lives
When a DC couple learned that a schoolmate of their son occasionally didn’t have enough to eat at home, they invited him for dinner. That invitation turned into a weekly event and a table wide enough to change the lives of all sorts of teens in need. They even took in a New York Times columnist. A feel-great story of love and abundance.