Quick Summary Catch up on our DE&I focussed webinar with our US Client Partner, David Helfrich for a refreshing, no-frills perspective - aiming to challenge traditional perceptions associated with DE&I.
David Helfrich, our US client partner, explores this dynamic topic offering a refreshing, no-frills perspective - aiming to challenge traditional perceptions associated with DE&I.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion has been at the forefront of many organizational initiatives over the past year, and rightfully so. In order to compete with the talent of tomorrow, we must all strive to be better and do better.
- Removing institutional/organizational barriers to empower openness and authenticity when driving DEI initiatives
- The challenges of hiring diverse candidates in niche subject matter areas
- Challenges in hiring “diverse” candidates who come from the same elite institutions
- Being conscious of subtle/micro-aggressive discrimination in addition to overt/obvious examples
- Mindfulness around terms/concepts like “diversity hires” and why language and phraseology is important
- How racism, sexism, ableism, and genderism in greater society is reflected in the workplace
Guest Speaker Introductions
Kristen LeBlanc [00:00:08] Hello and welcome everyone. I'm Kritsen LeBlanc. I am the executive director of ATAP the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals. We are so glad you could join us this morning for this amazing webinar opportunity. I'm going to kick it off to David. But first, I just want to let you know that if you have any questions or thoughts or comments or anything you want to put in the chat function or in the Q&A. We'll be monitoring it and we will be stopping to have a Q&A toward the end of the session. So thank you to Armstrong Craven for their support of this livestream. And David Helfrich is a client partner / head of the Americas for Armstrong Craven. So I'm going to go ahead and kick it off him to get us started.
David Helfrich [00:00:57] Perfect, thank you, Kristen, for that introduction. Thank you, everyone, for joining us. Super excited to be here today. I'm delighted to be joined by two experts in the field, two people who have great respect for - and before we get into that. I am head of the Americas, I partner for Armstrong Craven. We are a global organisation and put it in proper context for today's discussion. Approximately 65% to 70% of the projects were engaged in, whether it's an insider or a research project, executive search or talent pipelining, has a diversity component to it.
So even though this may be somewhat of an academic discussion today in practice, diversity, equity and inclusion is really at the forefront of the vast majority of businesses, nonprofits and organisations that you'll see out there, which is encouraging. That's not to say that we still don't have a long way to go, which we'll get into today. So without further ado, I did want to introduce our panellists.
First, we have Su jan, who is the principal of diversity at Workplace Consulting Group, working with organisations to diversify their workforce and to create inclusive, equitable work environments through consultation and trainings. She also was the vice president of Talent, Diversity and inclusion at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, where she led the Enterprise Diversity and Inclusion, Talent Acquisition, Performance Management and Leadership Development, along with the associate engagement teams. In addition to her expertise in DE&I and talent management, she has held leadership roles in IT, Operations, Marketing, Sales and Call Centres in various organisations and industries. Su received her MBA from Suffolk University and her M.S. in non-profit management from Northeastern University. Hi Su, how are you doing today?
Su Joun [00:02:50] Great, thank you. Delighted to join you.
David Helfrich [00:02:54] Perfect. Secondarily, we have Greg Whitt who was the legal recruitment manager at Earthjustice, focusing on Senior Level Lateral Attorney Recruitment, Legal Fellowships, Legal Clerkships, Internships and a variety of other roles from 2011 to 2019, Greg worked as a Legal Recruiter at the Federal Trade Commission and the Bureau of Competition. In 2018, he received one of the FTC's highest honours, the A Leon Higginbotham Junior Award. This award recognises supervisors, employees or groups that have made outstanding contributions toward fostering equal employment opportunities. Prior to working at the FTC, Gregg worked in professional development and recruitment at Arnold Porter LLP's Washington DC headquarters. Gregg received his B.A. in Journalism from Temple University. He lives in his hometown of Washington, DC, with his wife, daughter and their dog. Gregg, how are we doing today and what kind of dog is that, by the way? I was curious.
Gregg Whitt [00:03:55] The dog is a chihuahua-pug mix. His name is Primo. He's not well-behaved, but we love him anyway. Thank you for the great intro and looking forward to a great conversation.
The Importance of DE&I
David Helfrich [00:04:09] Wonderful. Yeah, we appreciate you both being here with us today. And you know, listen, we're kind of we kind of hope we can take the gloves off today, kind of move off the beaten path because when you think about DE&I. It's an exhaustive subject, right? Everyone's talking about something that is at the forefront of everyone's mind. But you know, I think few discussions go into really an authentic conversation to really give a no-frills interaction of what DE&I means, outside of some of the preconceived notions that we all care about. So I want to welcome you both and also say that this is an open forum to really challenge people's ideas on this as well to push the envelope. And our goal is to have a really progressive conversation that helps people think about DE&I in sort of a new way that hopefully fosters creativity and an open-mindedness to leave people with something different.
So to start, I mean, I wanted to ask, you know, why is this such an important topic, right? Because you know, we hear people sometimes make a business case for DE&I, right? I've heard many people say, oh, well, listen, the more diverse an organisation is, the more profitable it is. However, is this the right framing? You know what? Why would we look at DE&I as sort of a business profitability utility as opposed to sort of a moral imperative? What do you think the right way to view DE&I is? Is it comprehensive? Is it? Is it first and foremost a moral imperative as a humanity and as a society? Or do you also give credence to those who would make a business case for it? I'll open that up to both of you now, Su you can start, please.
Su Joun [00:05:47] Absolutely. Again, I'm Su Joun. My pronouns are she/her and hers, and I'm really happy to join you all today. So David, my first response to that question would be all of the above, all of the above. I don't think we need to spend any more time debating even about what the rationale is. I'm hoping in the year 2021, we're done with having to get permission to do this work or having to justify this work or convince organisations and senior leaders to do this work. Because let's face it, if we know there is racism, sexism, genderism, ableism, etcetera, in society, we have to assume there is racism, sexism, genderism ableism etcetera in organisations.
People don't come to an organisation's door and completely leave everything behind. I know in a way we sort of looked at that maybe 20/10 years ago that we do separate work and home, but we all know that it's flawed. It's the same. You know, it's people who function in society, also function in organisations. So we have to assume if we - if we see the events that is unfolding and highlighting things that have been in our country for - for hundreds of years, we have to assume that it's in our organisation. And for those organisations and say, well, I only want to focus on business, well, diversity equity inclusion helps with business. There's a direct correlation between financial performance, innovation, decision making, war on talent, all of that. So and for those who sort of have an individual commitment to - to do this work, it's it's applicable to that as well. So I would say all of the above. Let's stop debating the reasons why and let's just get to making an impact.
David Helfrich [00:07:40] Very well, said, Gregg, what are your thoughts?
Gregg Whitt [00:07:42] Yeah, I completely agree with Su. I think, you know, business case is - is like long settled. I think we can all agree on that. I think, you know, from my perspective, I think I work in a pretty unique environment that I work for Earthjustice, which is the premier environmental, non-profit law firm. And when you think about environmental issues, you typically - the communities that are suffering when there are environmental problems are communities of colour, they are tribal and indigenous peoples, they are generally people who've been underserved and in some cases rendered voiceless. And we work in partnership and on behalf of these people. So for us being able to work across cultures and in partnership with different groups of people. I mean, it's a very real part of the business and that's why and we're a non-profit right.
The other thing about Earthjustice, I think it's unique is that we are always representing others. You'll never see in a case, Earthjustice versus so-and-so. It's always us working in partnership, representing other people. And so, in order to represent other people, in order to represent people who may be from different cultures experiencing different things and not only represent but work in partnership with them, these are communities who know more about what's going on than we do. So, in many cases, they are leading the charge and we're working in partnership with them. We have to be culturally competent. And so, it's much more explicit in this organisation.
But still, if you are in a corporate profit-driven environment, it doesn't really change, right? If you want to make money and we talk about structural issues as they relate to racism, sexism, you know, all of these issues that if we can come together and agree that these issues exist in our society, that's going to be reflected in commerce and business. And in order to be the best business that you can be in order to create an environment where you can represent and make money for your stakeholders, you have to keep in mind the people, the human beings that are involved, both from a consumer/customer perspective to internally how you're going to work as a team to reach all these goals. So, it doesn't really matter whether you're in an NGO, whether you're in a corporate environment, whether you're in a state or federal government it's still vitally important. And it's not - I think people have long looked at it as sort of a squishy kind of kumbaya thing, but it really is a factor in succeeding in no matter what business environment you happen to be in.
Racism, Sexism, Ableism and Genderism in the Workplace
David Helfrich [00:10:56] Very well said it, fascinating comments to that I'd like to segue into a different question for you because, you know, in the United States, certainly, I think we all remember we're all probably young enough and old enough to remember the turn of the century around 2000 when, you know, I think there was sort of this optimistic attitude that we were kind of moving towards a post-racial, a post-sexist society. I think people got a sober awakening that that wasn't the case. We still have a lot of these structural problems in the United States. And I'm curious from your perspective, outside of your professional capacities, both of you, do you see racism, sexism, ablelism and genderism in general society? And do you see those experiences reflect what you experience in the workplace? In other words, do - when you experience that in our general society, are those same challenges existing in the workplace? Is it less challenging, more challenging? I'd be curious to hear both of your perspectives on that. And Greg, if you could start it off, please do.
Gregg Whitt [00:11:59] Well, I think, you know. At Earthjustice, you know, these issues are very front of mind. I think particularly when you're talking about, um, you know, environmental issues that the people are dealing with clean water, food that are free, that is free of pesticides and poisons. Clean air, they intersect with so many of these other issues, right? Um, they don't put coal-fired power plants or bus depots in areas typically in areas that are - people got rich people that are - feel that that are not a homogenous, typically these things that cause these health issues end up a lot of times in black and brown neighbourhoods.
So, it intersects with a lot of social justice issues, housing justice issues. And that's something when you know, when we're doing our work, we have to think about environmental justice and environmental racism as a real, real issue to deal with as we try to, you know, litigate cases in and push policy forward. So, I think externally, that's something we have to think about. Internally, you know, we work in a team environment for the most part, right? That's something that we're evaluating candidates on all the time, on how you work well with others, how you work across different departments.
You know, we're primarily a legal organisation, but we have we're 100% donor-funded non-profit. So we have a really robust development team. We have a really robust communications team, H.R, Operations, IT, all of this infrastructure to help us do this work. And we have to work together with one another. And that means that again, you're working across cultures, you're working, you know, our team have to be very, very diverse. And so we have to think about not only a diversity equity inclusion as we try to do the work of the organisation, but also as we try to figure out how to do that work together.
Gregg Whitt [00:14:19] And so to answer your call, the short answer is yes. These are things that I'm thinking about every day as an employee, particularly as a talent acquisition professional and making sure that our processes are as inclusive as possible as - that our job ads are using language that are not excluding people subconsciously or consciously that we're thinking about, you know who we are going to be on our hiring panels when folks are coming in for interviews. All of these things, even when candidates are trying to apply, if a candidate has a visual impairment, it is our - is our applicant tracking system going to be usable for that candidate or are we are we thinking about all of these things as we try to do our jobs both internally and externally? So these are things that really come to the forefront. And again, they're really, really important. These are these are things that we need to do to do our jobs. These are not things that we say to feel better or to look good. We cannot do the job without really, really wrestling with and reckoning with these issues and thinking about ways to approach them differently going forward.
David Helfrich [00:15:44] Fascinating, yeah. And Su, please yes.
Su Joun [00:15:48] I second everything, Gregg said. I'm actually going to get to answer another angle of your question, David. I'll speak for myself because you talked about personal experience. I'll speak for myself being a female and being a person of colour and being an immigrant, I will share some of my experiences and how that relates to being a professional of colour, female professional of colour in the workplace as well.
So I would say first thing I want to say. Not seeing representation is very, very painful. And when I was a child, there was I'll just again, like I said, I'll speak for myself when I was a child, I was desperate looking for a doll that looked like me. There wasn't any. There was no Asian dolls and never mind that there was no dolls that had black hair. So I remember being nine years old, bought a dark brown haired doll, and painstakingly with a Sharpie, I covered each hair strand. Now I didn't do DE&I as a living when I was nine, but as a nine year old kid, I instinctively knew I needed something to represent me because I wasn't seeing it in books. I wasn't seeing it on TV. I wasn't seeing it anywhere around me. And so not having representation is inherently, inhumanely and instinctively painful. And then the second thing I would say is, even now, as I'm now a grown-up everywhere I go, I can't help but clock who else in the room looks like me. Rather, it's a business meeting. Rather, it's a restaurant. Rather, it's an amusement park, right? Even at concerts, even at Broadway shows. Wherever I go. A subway bus, I instinctively clock.
Who else looks like me? And if I don't see many people who look like me, I feel unsafe and I don't feel relaxed. And that's just how it is. And that is also very painful. And unless you sort of know what that feels like, you don't know the pain of that.
The other thing I would share is that I have children. And I'm talking to them about fairness and meritocracy, work hard, study hard. And I also have to balance that with the-with the - with the reality of society. So I have to balance that work hard, study hard, yes, but also be aware of systemic 'isms'. And that conversation is also very difficult and - and you have to know that meritocracy is true. But at the same time, meritocracy is not true and it's a myth. And then on top of that, one of the things is I have a child who has autism and painfully being aware that the school system is very much based on teaching sort of a common denominator -a generic child, if you will, and is not capable of adapting to anyone who learns differently, reacts differently. Doesn't understand authority. Social skills, all of that is just not designed for that.
Su Joun [00:19:15] And so, if you put all that together from my personal experience and you bring it to work, this is what we address on diversity inclusion on a day-to-day basis with our clients is, yes, work hard, study hard, have a lot of degrees, but also realise there are barriers that are systemic that has nothing to do with you as an individual. Yes, we tell people to speak up, but if you're in a room where you don't feel safe or comfortable, your ability to speak up is very limited. And then you couple that with, well you know yes, I'm bright and equipped and talented, but at the same time, how much of myself do I bring? How authentic should I be? That lack of representation is also painful and makes you second guess everything, which then makes you hesitate, and people wonder, well, you're bright, why aren't you saying more, volunteering more and so forth? So everything you experience as an individual, you bring into the organisation.
So, David, to your question, yes, there is some separation. I am in essence, a - a different person when I come to work than when I'm at home. But how much is that difference has to be is where that burden and imposter syndrome, all of that comes. And so every organisation says, speak up, be authentic. We value diversity. But really, what they're saying is we want someone who is diverse but who acts walk talks just like us. And then it becomes very, very difficult.
The Challenges in Hiring Diverse Candidates
David Helfrich [00:20:44] Very interesting, and it actually just came to mind. Su what you just said is a segue to the next question, which is the challenges in hiring what we consider diverse candidates who may come from the same elite institutions or actually may come from some of the same philosophical backgrounds.
So what I mean by that is to use an example. If you look at our Supreme Court in the United States, right, it's if you look at it's pretty diverse. I mean, just a lot of people from different backgrounds represented. Yet they all graduated from either Yale or Harvard Law School, and they're all essentially former prosecutor. So I wonder if we're really getting sort of the rainbow grades of true diversity if we're just sort of recruiting people from the same elite institutions? I'd be curious from both of your perspectives. You know, Greg, oftentimes we've seen AM Law 100 firms. They kind of do the same thing, right, when it comes to their diversity recruiting. Typically, they'll first go to the Ivy League law schools as opposed to maybe broadening their scope and looking at people from different backgrounds. And Su I'm curious from your experience at Blue Cross Blue Shield in some of these blue-chip organisations that if you witnessed the same thing or have you witnessed that organisations, nonprofits and firms are actually evolving beyond that to sort of broaden their scope? Greg, do you want to take that?
Gregg Whitt [00:22:03] Yeah, sure. So having worked at one of the aforementioned M100 law firms and then worked at - having worked at a mid-sized federal government agency and now working at a steadily growing non-profit, I've seen I've seen this evolve quite a bit. I would say that yes, there is a particularly in legal recruitment. There's been a history of employers kind of fixating on - on these same law schools. Right? And I think, especially in recent years, particularly in the last five years, I think you're starting to see a little more movement from employers in being more open-minded about the sources from which their candidates are coming.
I think for the reasons that I think you're alluding to, David, that. You are you - even if you get candidates who have, you know, that, you know, diverse profiles from all from the same school, you are still potentially getting a homogenous group of candidates in terms of their thinking, certainly in the way they've been educated. And so I think that more employers are starting to seek out different sources and seek out different students, particularly, you know, for us, right? If we were doing legal recruitment of all of the historically black colleges and universities, only six have law schools right on, you know, that's Howard Law School, FAMU, Texas Southern, UDC. What am I missing? NC, I think in North Carolina, central yes. Yeah. And then Southern University. And so you're talking about, you know, six law schools that are either two, two of them in Washington, D.C. and the rest of them are in the south. And that's a region of the country. I think that are law firms, certainly the white-shoe law firms that we're thinking about have spent a lot of time in terms of doing outreach and connecting with people down there. And I think they're missing out on an opportunity to interact with students, potential candidates, who bring a wealth of different experiences that will really transform how they approach the work at their own, at their firms and their even if you hire for in-house or things of that nature.
You know, I think I do think we're getting better. But I do think it's, it's an uphill battle, particularly with some hiring managers, particularly with some managing partners who've been doing things the same way for a very long time. And so their minds have been successful, I think, in some ways. But I think, you know, in terms of how the world is changing, I think they're really, really missing out on opportunities to become a much more impactful firm or a corporation or non-profit by being a lot more open-minded in terms of the sources from which they are finding candidates. And I think I think it's changing. Certainly changing and my organisation, but it's changing very, very slowly. And I think, you know, more conversations like this are needed to help really cement with the hiring managers and leaders. And really, it always comes down to leadership. I'll help them to understand why it's so important that we're really, really broadening our view in terms of where we're finding candidates.
David Helfrich [00:26:11] Fascinating. What are your thoughts, Su please?
Su Joun [00:26:14] I was just going to say our progress is absolutely being made, but it's happening at a very painful pace. And according to two recent studies, I think women, referring to just talk gender and race for a moment. I think women, even with all the women in the pipeline, it's going to take 100 years to parity in the C-suite, even if diversity, even in law firms a lot of diversity in the entry-level. But as you grow up into partners, it becomes smaller and smaller. And you could say that about health care. You could say that about the music industry. You could talk about non-profits. You could say that about retail, just about any industry. If there is some diversity in the entry-level, some in middle management, but then really very little in Board Chairs and in CEOs.
In fact, I'm sure you all know, we all laugh, but we also have to understand from the statistic. I believe there is more, more CEOs named James and Michael than there are all women CEOs combined. There are more Board Chairs named John than there are all women Board Chairs, and we laugh at this. But it's still and you talk about the progression of the Supreme Court. Yes, it is very diverse, but not too long ago it wasn't at all. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said, You know, when will she stop fighting for gender rights in the Supreme Court? And she said, when we have nine women, Supreme Court justices and people are like, what, nine women? And she's like for hundreds of years, we had nine men, no one's fought with that. And this whole feeling, if we - if we just have one of each, we're diverse.
And that is, of course, not true, right? We seem to be OK with just having one of each and having some tokenism. But we have a person of colour on our board, we have a woman and we have a person who is part of the LGBT community. We're fine. And that kind of settling for just a few is, I think, what is contributing to the slowness of the progress that's being made.
Su Joun [00:28:17] And then the other part is, I'm sure we have a lot of recruiters, a lot of talent acquisition folks in the audience, which is, you know, they are hiring managers are like, yes, give me a diverse pool of talent, if they even ask. But they usually ask, and let's say, at the beginning, and then they always hire the person that they're familiar with. Oh, David is tried and true, Greg is tried and true, Sarah is tried and true, Chris is tried and true. I know them from my network, so it's a sort of a safer bet to go with that or the filter, so if you think about it, we use the same filter to filter a diverse pool of talent, and that just tells you the outcome will then still be the same, right?
Because things like executive presence, the communication skills, for a moment, I'm just going to put education and, you know, big-name previous company experiences to a side for a moment. Just looking at our criteria we use, we use the same filter to filter diverse talent and then we say, well, we have to adjust the filter. Are we lowering our standards? And you're like, no, you just need a different filter because your talent pool is different. You can't. So to my earlier comment about we say we want diverse talent, but we want someone who walks and talks and acts and runs meetings just like us.
That's literally what I mean is you have to use a different set of filters if you're going to have a different set of talent.
And then on top of that, once a few slip through, rarely
do they get promoted because we look at leadership through a certain lens of
leaders that we've had in the past and we currently have. And so what you're
left with is you - if you work hard and get a diverse pool of talent, chances
of them making it to the final round is slim. And even when they make it to the
final round, the hiring manager usually ends up hiring based on who they feel
most comfortable with. And then on top of that, if the few that gets through
and gets hired, the promotional path is also to the point where we used certain
criteria for leadership and then making it to higher levels of the
organisation is also very slim. And then organisations get exhausted and they
say, you know, it's not working out.
This is this is very painful. This is just what the output is yielded such small results, what's going on? And they're forgetting that they have to fundamentally change the way we look at talent because here's what happens. I always say diversity and inclusion is like diet and exercise, not because I want to minimise that, but because we all want to do the right thing. But when day to day things happen, we just resort right back, right? We all make New Year's resolutions in January and then we're like, oh, but for this birthday party, we're going to do this. Oh, I went grocery shopping and I bought. I've shopped on the outside aisles and got all this healthy food, but we're having mac and cheese again for dinner. So naturally, kale and spinach is going to rot, you know, my vegetable drawer, in the refrigerator. So it's it's the fact that we all want to do the right thing and we all do it. But then we don't change our practices and our policies and the way we do things, which means all that hard work just sort of goes to waste.
Breaking Institutional Barriers
David Helfrich [00:31:42] Yeah, I like I really like that analogy of diet and exercise because it's funny, but it also rings true in terms of, you know, the kind of day to day really discipline you have to have and constant mindfulness around the subject. Wonderful analogy. Also, I want to remind everyone who's tuning in. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in, because we are going to get to a Q&A. So if there's any kind of burning question you have on your mind for the panellists, please feel free to fire away. But I saw a really funny meme on LinkedIn around diversity hires and this whole term and the whole phraseology. And I wanted to discuss it with you both because essentially this meme, questions this preconceived notion some people have if they see a person of colour or they must be a diversity hire, right? And while simultaneously, we don't question if a white guy named John gets hired, is he a homogeny hire?
So the meme was the CEO, John and Sue. Actually, in the meme, the CEO's name was John. So John hired Jay, another homogeny hire, right? And then, like, rolled their eyes. And it's funny because I wonder what it's going to take for us to normal -to get to a point where we normalise having a diverse workforce, meaning where we don't even question anymore whether somebody is there because, you know they deserve to be there, if they're there because of meritocracy or other reasons. And I think it's funny that we never question whether somebody is in that position because of longstanding privilege or long-standing relationships they have, or just because they come from a sort of background that the hiring manager is more familiar and comfortable with, right? So I'm sure from your perspective, how are we going to abolish these preconceived notions that are erroneous about diversity hires every time they see somebody, a person of colour who joins an organisation? Su do you want to start?
Su Joun [00:33:39] Sure. I think the quick answer is when we have critical mass.
David Helfrich [00:33:48] Yeah.
Su Joun [00:33:49] And the long answer is it's going to take deliberative hard work to get to critical mass. Our human brain, studies show is that where we - our brains are wired to notice of difference quicker. We are also programmed to notice negativity quicker than positivity. And so if you combine those two statistics together, we notice difference quicker and we notice negativity quicker. We always go, you know that diversity hire we made? Remember, we hired that director, that VP of colour two years ago? It didn't work out so well.
And I always kind of, people use that sometimes as a reason why diversity hiring is hard. And I always go, what about the 10 others that you hired that didn't work? Right? And then also so many people are like, I don't want to change our hiring criteria because it's so worked for us, tried and true. And I go, Yes, so every person you've ever hired, you always been 100% satisfied with? Oh no. Every person you've ever hired, you hope they never leave? No. Exactly, it's not like the current hiring process has yielded 100% results for you. So what we're saying is you've got to change that and you're not actually giving up a lot to change your hiring filtering process. So I would say the quick answer is once we get to critical mass.
Once we have professional difference at every level and every - and it's not just represented by one, right? So if we have a critical mass of women, critical mass of people of the LGBT community, critical mass of nonbinary gender, critical mass of professionals of colour and so on and so forth. I think at that point, hopefully we won't be questioning it, but it's going to take a while to get there. And I what I'm really just pushing back on is making the assumption that diversity hire is unique and had a separate - and we had to lower our standards for that. And yet assuming that homogeneity hire, which we don't even notice must have been based on meritocracy. And I also just want to kind of put a big bow around that whole statement, which is to say, and no organisation and no individual's immune.
When we talk about systemic 'isms', it includes all of us, every single one of us. There is no nice person who's, you know, who's immune to this knows no progressive person. There's nobody who marched in the 60's who feels that immunity. We're all not immune.
That's what definition of systemic barriers are, systemic racism, systemic embolism, systemic genderism, systemic sexism and so on, systemic ageism, all of that. The systemic 'isms' mean it's embedded into all of us. So for people to say, Oh, we don't have that problem because we're a non-profit. We don't have that problem because we're all nice. We don't have that problem because we're so collegial. We don't have that problem because we're so polite. That is not true. I'll leave it right there. Go ahead Gregg.
Gregg Whitt [00:36:57] Yeah, I think you know the - long term, it's going to take some pretty drastic changes to society, and I don't think any of us individually, or on this call are going to be able to make those changes. It's going to take some sort of big collective changes on a societal, structural level. I think in the meantime, it can take - it takes continuous hard work. It will continue to be difficult. You're going to continue to have to contend with ignorance. You're going to have to contend with the concept that having diverse applicant pools and hiring candidates from diverse profiles is equated to lowering your standards.
We have to continue to contend with all of this, but it's going to take continuous pressure, particularly for those of us who work in talent acquisition. For those of us who are doing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice work to not let up. And to only not let up, but to continue to recruit more people to the cause in all of our organisations. We've already proven over decades now that you'll make more money. So that again, we talk about business case that we - I think those facts are settled. Now it's going to take, I think we have to focus more on how it changes.
How agile we can be as organisations and how it can change how efficient we can be, how it changes the structure of what we do, how it improves our processes, how longer and more thoughtful processes upfront will result in better hires, hires to stay with our organisations longer, hires that perform better in that climb the ranks of our organisations. And there's plenty of statistics to bear this out. But you know, putting statistics in the face of leader's gut feelings is - that's the fight, that's the fight. And then the last part of it is frankly new people in charge, people who continue to hold on to these antiquated notions, have to go. I mean, at some point we need those people out and we need people who are really being thoughtful about what diversity, equity, inclusion and justice means to their organisations, to themselves personally, to society as a whole. But again, it's going to take a long fight and it's going to take constant pressure. And that's, you know, that's how I'm going to approach it.
Su joun [00:40:04] Therefore, absolutely, if I could just add to that, 100% agree with Greg. And I would also like to add the fact that at the same time, this is not insurmountable. Just a few pebbles strategically placed in a creek will change the course of water. It doesn't have to be huge boulders and rocks, so I do just I don't. It's a it's a yes, and you need those constant huge changes. And at the same time, I believe there is something that every single one of us on this call can do. If we all throw in a pebble, we can fundamentally change the course of this water.
Diversifying Talent Pools
David Helfrich [00:40:48] Absolutely, absolutely. So now we're going to segue into some audience questions, we've got some live questions here and I've got some questions as well. That were delivered to me last week anticipating this webinar. One is actually in line with what we've been discussing this past week, the three of us in terms of the challenges of hiring diverse candidates in niche subject areas. So a question from just from Justin is do you have advice for more problematic skill sets, talent pools
We have a full software team and software engineering has a built-in issue regarding hiring diverse candidates because of the existing talent pool. We see no qualitative difference in candidates being able to make it through our hiring process based on background. But the starting pool is the main barrier, and this is an interesting question because I've actually seen this in my day to day life in terms of the challenges of hiring diverse talent in Tech, particularly within Software Engineering as well.
I know some interesting clients I've talked to have actually started to - to home grow their talent, meaning they'll start recruiting diverse talents directly from the university and have them sort of grow within the organisation to become those senior level engineers that they're looking for.
But I'm curious from both you, Su and Greg, in terms of - are there any areas that you've experienced where there seems to be a lack of diverse talent? Just because of the subject matter, because I've seen in software engineering, for example, you know, it's pretty much dominated by middle aged white men, right? So have you seen that? And I'd be curious. And it sounds like Justin is curious too, what solutions have you seen to be effective in addressing that?
Gregg Whitt [00:42:32] So. You know, in the legal fight, I've encountered this myself. So, prior to working with justice, I was working at the Bureau of Competition for the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition. And so, I was hiring antitrust attorneys. And you know, that is an area of practice, of the law of its kind of hot now, but I think when I first started, it was one that I spent a lot of time on law school campuses sort of explaining the basics. And I think, you know, it was a two-part solution to - in terms of improving the diversity of our applicant pools at that time was one, starting really early and being proactive on reaching out to like First-Year law students. And in some cases, if there were opportunities to do so, reaching out to high school students at one, just like explaining what it is that we do, why it's important and why it's a path that could be right for them.
The next part of it, I think, is working with hiring managers to be much more open-minded again about what constitutes the requisite experience for that particular role.
There is like sort of an ideal antitrust attorney who has an undergraduate degree in economics and, you know, went to one of these law schools that has one of the pre-eminent antitrust professors there. And that's a path that's easy to see. Same thing currently in environmental law there. You know, we do impact environmental litigation and there's a path where you go to, you know, certain law schools and you, you know, study environmental science in undergrad. And it kind of makes sense very easily for a recruiter to look at their resume and say, OK, I get it. But I think if you think a lot more broadly about the types of candidates and the type of skills that they bring to the table, I think you'll start to see a lot more diversity in your applicant pool.
So currently, if you think about environmental impact litigation, what's to say that somebody who has been doing civil rights impact litigation or housing litigation or litigation in any number of other contexts, what's to say that that can't those that skillset can't be transferable to the work they currently do in our organisation? Right? I think generally, if you find people that are smart, thoughtful, can write and have sort of the baseline skills, you can teach them new legal statutes. Now how does that transfer to tech? I imagine it's slightly different, right? You know, there are certain things that you have to know in order to be a programmer or, you know, take on specific roles.
So I think the first part in starting early and starting pipelines as early as you possibly can and being proactive in terms of your outreach, both, you know, certainly in cities and locations where your company has high visibility and taking their time to really like go out and sort of tell the good news of your company to very, very early potential applicants, I think is really helpful. And I think, you know, in terms of, you know, building up your pipeline internally and as David alluded to with one of his colleagues, I'm starting to really devote a lot of time and resources to professional development, for early career professionals. I think it's going to be really, really helpful in that regard.
So one, just being more open-minded about the sources of the candidates and the skill sets that are transferable being, you know, very open-minded about those candidates and giving them the opportunity to prove you wrong in some cases. And then two, devoting the time, the effort and the resources to professional development whenever possible, particularly for your very early professionals, I think will also help.
Su Joun [00:46:50] I think Greg hit on all the major points. I will add, translate that open-mindedness into actual action, so make it so that your job description is as open as possible. Ask yourself what is the minimum, minimal criteria that you need so that you just have a more open pool to begin with? As opposed to describing someone who just left, right? That person didn't start with 20 years of experience, but yet you're describing that person in your job description, so ask yourself for the job that is today and what you want in the future, does it need five years of maximum experience - minimum experience? Does it need an undergraduate degree? Does it need - so really make your job description so that you're defining the minimum threshold as opposed to changing your threshold later in the process. So that's one. Translate your open-mindedness into open processes.
The second part is I am not aware of any industry, that is not struggling with diversity. Every client we've ever worked with, in the music industry, oh music industry, we have such a lack of diversity, law - our tech industry, our health care, all of that. And yes, retail and health care, sometimes has gender and racial diversity, but again in the entry-level roles. So I've yet to meet an industry that says we have no problem with diversity. Every industry tells me they uniquely have difficulties with diversity. So just know that you're in good company. But you know what? We're not going to settle for that. To hide behind the comfort that, hey, our industry has it already difficult is not an answer, right? And so you do have to do all those things that Greg talked about.
Su Joun [00:48:36] And then I will also say this, for every organisation that tells me they can't find diverse talent. There are 10 diverse talents who tells me they can't find opportunities. So there's a map going awry somewhere, which means we may literally be not functioning in the same network groups, we literally could be missing each other and we know from statistics, David you asked about society versus organisations.
We know statistically, we hang out with people who are similar to us. I think the latest stats show that 90% of white Caucasians hang out with other white Caucasians. About 80% of black African Americans hang out with other black African Americans and so on. And so naturally and networks are not overlapping. So our Governor in Massachusetts, said, you know, when he first became Governor, he said my administration will never be diverse if I only higher within my network.
So you really have to look outside your network to find diverse talent because we are unintentionally but comfortably living within and interacting with people who are like us and thus not seeing diversity.
So we could continue to look outside our network. A great place to start is historically black colleges and universities that we mentioned earlier, but there is a professional organisation for everything. There's a professional organisation of black engineers, there's an organisation of Asian-American lawyers, there's an organisation of women in sales, is an organisation of LGBT leaders. So there's an organisation for just about everything and just do a little bit of Google work. Robin D'Angelo at the end of her book 'Nice Racism', says I have a tip for you, Google it. Google it. And you will find an organisation that you will be able to help you find - that will be able to help you find diverse talent.
Gregg Whitt [00:50:21] And I just want to reiterate one more point this you made earlier, because it's really, really important, as we're seeing again, really drill down on what a need to have is versus a nice day of like really, really, really asked yourself if - if you're hanging on some hanging onto something, there's merely a nice day off because so many of our job advertisements are seeking these unicorn candidates that frankly don't exist or if they do exist, they already have a high paying job.
And so, you know, really, really drilled down on that and try not to hang on to too many of those nice to haves. And I think you'll have a much, much better time in terms of having diverse amputee pools and then again, take that open-mindedness throughout the whole process. Now you have a diverse applicant pool. Make sure that the hiring panel also as diverse as possible. You know, at some point, your organisation may not be where it needs to be yet, but you know, keep that in mind.
Then finally, you know, be evaluating candidates own cultural competency on emotional intelligence. These are all of the things that you need. So even if early on, if you're very early in this process and I like to hope that you aren't, but if you are, even if you aren't hiring as many candidates from diverse backgrounds, you are at least hiring candidates who have some cultural competency and emotional intelligence in addition - in addition to functional skills. So as you continue along, this path can be better at hiring candidates from diverse backgrounds and get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Su joun [00:52:06] Absolutely. And just to underline that even more. Don't be so worried about letting go of these criterias, as Gregg said, because you know what? I've seen plenty of hiring managers that don't even hire on that anyway. Can I just tell you how many finalists was hired based on? He's a great guy. I'm like, I didn't know that was a criteria or he has a great sense of humour, and I'm like, I didn't know that was a criteria. And so the final hire usually ends up having nothing to do with the criteria anyway. So don't be so concerned about letting some of those go in the beginning.
Statements of Solidarity
David Helfrich [00:52:43] I mean, really important points. I'm glad you reiterated both of those points. We do have another question from Tanya, who says our company is a non-profit in energy utilities, and we began our DE&I initiative in mid-2020. So very recently and it was officially approved by the board for BRG with regards to black leaders. However, our dilemma is what the definition of allyship. What would you recommend, especially in terms of defining inclusion?
I think that means in terms of defining inclusion in terms of allyship time, if you if you want to restate that, I don't know if that question is clear, but maybe it is. But let me also bundle that with a question we got from a different, a different guest who who also asks What do you believe in organisations or companies obligation to issue solidarity statements for social movements like BLM or StopAsianHate or no, no Dapple and not to quote a pipeline? Maybe we could talk about that in the vein of allyship and what it means in the workplace. So I'm curious in your perspective, do you think it's -do you think it's the right place or do you think it's an obligation of a company or organisation to issue such solidarity statements with particular social movements? Either one of you can - can start with that.
Gregg Whitt [00:54:09] I'm less interested in solidarity statements of the companies not going to do anything. Um, so. I mean, I think solidarity statements are important. Fine as long as they are paired with action, right? Um, if you look particularly, you know, over over, you know, last summer on so many corporations, you know, put black boxes on their social media feeds and they set aside all of these millions of dollars that they were planning to distribute to different communities that have been that have been harmed. And that money has not yet been distributed. And these companies continue to - to donate money to campaigns that frankly work directly against the same people they purported to be in solidarity with. So. Those statements are fine as long as they are paired with action. You know, in terms of terms of allyship, I guess is the question to how how do we define allyship or?
David Helfrich [00:55:27] So yeah actually we got some clarification. Tanya, thank you for clarifying. She says our members include allies, however, we would like to determine their role in the DRG, for example, rights to voting or holding an office, and they don't want to create reverse discrimination. I'm still - I'm still not clear what the question is, Tanya. Help us out here, but maybe the question is clear to you both. But would you need further clarification on that?
Gregg Whitt [00:55:58] I mean, I actually would, but Su, if you have some thoughts, I'd love to let you go ahead.
David Helfrich [00:56:03] Yeah, why don't we stick with - for now the question of solidarity statements. Su if you - if you have a view on that because we are we are running out of time here.
Su Joun [00:56:13] Sure, so solid, I echo second Greg's statement, solidary statements are meaningless unless you provide action. If I could, just if I could just take some of the energy and time spent on wordsmithing solidarity statements into actual actions. I will be a very happy DE&I practitioner. So I would say focus - default to action more than statements if you had to. So as long as that statement plus action, I'm all for it. Not in fact, not I, talent is, there is so many studies that show that people actually look to see if an organisation has done something or has made statements in certain social causes. And that's the kind of organisations they want to work for with a great resignation that's happening. More and more people are becoming picky about who they join. So it's not really about Greg and my comfort level.
Your talent pool is looking for a statement and for actions, and they're looking at your org chart. They're looking at your board photos. They are literally doing the homework and saying have you made a statement?
Have you put your money where your mouth is? Is their actions in it? Is it just one diverse person shopping in every photo opportunity? Or is there actual diversity that all of that talent is becoming savvy consumers of employers so that they're looking for it. It's almost irrelevant what Craig and I think. The other part is in terms of the question about BIG's business resource groups. Sometimes that call EIG's employer resource groups, they're sometimes called affinity groups. All of that aside, it's an ongoing question about if you have a woman affinity group. Do you allow men in? And if you do, what role do men play? That's an ongoing debate, and it's an ongoing conversation, which I think is the question that's being asked here.
Su Joun [00:58:05] So the first question, first answer is from a best practice perspective, all employee resource groups is - should be open to everyone. Why? So that that the very people who need to hear the pain is there to hear it. Or else you just have an echo chamber. And all employee resource groups you have some money to spend. They should have a budget, not just a group of volunteers.
Having said all of that, you also could have separate meetings, and so it is welcome to everyone. All allies are welcome. Yes. Having said that, though, they should always be put aside some forums and some opportunities where people could also just talk together. Women, for example, say yes, it's great to have an employee resource group for women. And yes, I want men to be in the room, but every once in a while, I just want to have a dinner and just talk amongst ourselves. Fine. Absolutely. Right? And then the leadership of those employee resource groups, at least at the beginning, should represent the groups that you're you're you're supporting, right? Even if it's just a hot ticket, if it's an employee research group for women and the two presidents are men, you know, maybe not the best thing to do.
So at least in the beginning, until you really got it down of the folks who are making decisions, be representative of the group that they are that the employee research group was designed for. So that would be the the quick answer, because you have to you want to grow that talent. What you don't want to have is a white saviour complex or a male saviour complex or have allies speak louder than the ones that they're trying to support.
So I wanted to just say that. Very quickly a word about allyship and friendship.
Allyship is actually giving people critical mass, not stepping in front of, not speaking louder, but echoing, supporting, reinforcing, standing physically and figuratively with the community that you support.
You're trying to support with your allyship, and that's different than friendship. I'll tell you what I mean by that. And so we're in a meeting. And David, you see me constantly getting interrupted. You're telling me afterwards, Su, I'm so sorry that happened to you. That's friendship. I value that. But you know what? I also really need allyship in the meeting say Su is constantly getting interrupted, and I want to hear what she has to say. That is allyship.
David Helfrich [01:00:31] 100% beautiful points. We have a lot of great questions still on deck, but we are out of time, unfortunately. I wanted to thank you both for joining us. So, Greg, it's been super enlightening from my perspective. All the people who tuned in, thank you for the great questions as well. If either of you just have a concluding statement you'd like to leave us with. Please do. But I do appreciate the fact that we are out of time and I know you, you're both very busy. So on behalf of ATAP and Armstrong Craven, thank you, Su, thank you, Greg. We really appreciate your time and expertise today.
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