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raceAhead: May 19, 2016

May 19, 2016, 1:03 PM UTC

I recently spoke with Porter Braswell and Ryan Williams, the co-founders of the specialty-recruiting firm Jopwell. “It’s a diversity platform, specifically for black, Latino, Hispanic, and Native American candidates,” says Braswell. It’s not charity, and no talk of “lowering the bar” is tolerated. He says these are highly qualified, underrepresented candidates who most likely haven’t had access to elite campus recruiting and internship programs through which most big companies currently find minority candidates. Those are the very types of recruiting programs that brought the two co-founders to Goldman Sachs, where they worked before they developed the Jopwell concept. “We were part of a real, but small, minority diversity pipeline,” says Williams. They could see it was a bottleneck. “We started looking for ways to bring together overlooked candidates and get exposure for them at scale.”

Digital technology clearly has made so much of this easier. But Braswell points to a different catalyst: In late 2013 and early 2014, tech companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook released dismal employee diversity numbers. “It was real, it was objective, and the world was saying, whoa, where are the black and brown people?” he says. In their world, it was also an opportunity looking for a solution. “So much of our story has been around timing, and this willingness to have this uncomfortable conversation.” Jopwell launched in August 2014.

Leveraging the uncomfortable conversation, along with the palpable energy of the two founders—talking with them is like getting a shot of human potential espresso—has earned them $4.25 million in equity support from investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Kapor Capital, Omidyar Network, and Magic Johnson Enterprises. And the candidates on their platform have already made over 7,000 career connections, which they define as a job application, a recruitment inquiry, an interview, or a job offer. Companies using Jopwell include big players like Carlyle Group, Morgan Stanley,, Facebook, and KPMG, as well as smaller enterprises like Khan Academy and City Year.

As the site grows, they’ll be working with an increasingly rich dataset of recruiting activity and information, insights they promise to share with raceAhead. Stay tuned.

On Point

Transparency around race is still rare.
Since we’ve been talking about data and transparency, it’s worth noting that Accenture (No. 98 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For list) made news a few months back when it released its diversity stats, a rare step for consulting firms of any kind. While the company is about half white and one third Asian, black employees make up 7.4% of the firm's workforce, while Hispanic or Latino employees hold 6.3% of jobs.

We need to talk.
In this HBR podcast, Kira Hudson Banks, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at St. Louis University and a principal at the consulting firm The Mouse and the Elephant, argues that we need to start talking about race before something blows up at work. “It’s essential that we build that muscle around race because we typically don’t come to our workplace with those skills.”

I get so emotional.
A new, and hilarious, public service campaign from McCann in New York aims to help the tech advocacy group, Girls Who Code, debunk systemic barriers that keep women out of tech by, well, confirming them. Turns out boobs and menstruation do hold us back! Shout out for racial inclusivity.

Unforgiveable whiteness.
Gene Demby offers a thoughtful analysis of how, thanks in large part to the primary season, we are struggling to talk about whiteness, white identity politics, and white racial grievances. The takeaway? We’re having a hard time.

Who needs sleep?
The health and productivity problems caused by insufficient sleep has become a popular topic of discussion these days—along with specialized advice and expensive remedies. But Marcie Bianco argues persuasively that a lack of sleep is not a badge worn by a competitive elite. “Many of us work so hard and for so long not because of some type of machismo, but because the current economic climate dictates that we do.” Who really suffers? Studies show that women, black, and Hispanic Americans have the most compromised sleep.

Your network at work.
Sent by a devoted reader: If you're into race, research, evidence based strategies and changing the world, Brookings is accepting applications for a Fellow or Senior Fellow to play a key leadership role for high-priority cross-program work on race, place, and economic mobility in America. You should apply.

The Woke Leader

Marching into the mainstream.
MARCH, the award-winning graphic novel trilogy co-created by Congressman John Lewis about the civil and human rights movement of the 1960s, will now be available through the New York City Public School System as part of the Passport to Social Studies curriculum. The final installment of the series, developed with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, drops this August. 

Say my name.
Writer Jesse Washington takes us back to a terrible time, when a man who shares his name was the victim of one of the most horrific hate crimes in America. It was 1916, in Waco, Texas. Washington the writer introduces us to the short and tragic life of Washington the victim, and explores the uneasy sway the memory of the event holds over the people of Waco. It’s a difficult, but important, read, and the photos are graphic. “Even today you get caught up in the wrong place in Texas, you gone,” he was told.
The Undefeated

So hard to say goodbye.
The literary magazine, The Offing, is a small, ambitiously inclusive publication, an offshoot of the Los Angeles Review of Books. But mission aside, doing the work can be challenging in surprising ways. In this deeply personal letter, editor Casey Rocheteau discusses why she felt she had to leave. For fans, this was a tough blow. But for others, it offers an object lesson in how hard the work of inclusion can be.
The Offing


We can’t walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur. We can’t just lock up a low-level dealer without asking why this boy, barely out of childhood, felt he had no other options. We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.
—Barack Obama