Prior to Giraffe, Christian and I worked together consulting clients on how to tackle big problems. We worked on a lot of teams -- some great, some not so great. Often times we found that the teams who were staffed together tended to share similar backgrounds, similar likes and dislikes, and similar frameworks for solving problems. In one instance we were lucky enough to experience the opposite; a team where members came to the table with very different perspectives and skills. The juxtaposition of these varying team dynamics was stark.
As we grew to become managers, it was our job to build teams that were able to distribute the workload and deliver. After seeing very different project teams, we gravitated towards trying to find best practices that enabled teams to be built with diverse skill sets and perspectives. Our thought was that a diverse team with unique skills and behaviors creates a situation where everyone may not arrive at the same conclusion. Consequently, each team member would need to thoroughly grasp and approach a problem to effectively sell their solution in the face of potential pushback. We searched extensively for best practices that other organizations were using/not using to build diverse teams effectively and what methods could be applicable for us. Spoiler: there was no silver bullet. From these current best practices, no approach was consistently successful in creating diverse teams comprised of individuals who bring unique perspectives to the table. We were searching for something more robust and systematic to bring clarity to the process and inform not only us but other colleagues who were facing a similar issue. In the absence of a solution, we took it upon ourselves as a passion project to discover more about the topic.
Our initial angle for a solution was to address unconscious bias and reduce it as much as possible during the hiring process to allow for a more equitable experience for women and people of color job applicants. We set out to build a solution that took candidate applications from upstream channels and removed demographic characteristics from their resume and application so that Talent Acquisition managers would focus on the skills and qualifications of the individual, and reduce bias from the hiring process by keeping candidate applications anonymous. We loved this idea. We knew that this was a problem as many statistics corroborated this fact. The statistics we found here were truly disheartening in terms of the barriers marginalized groups face when applying for jobs. Here were a few stats/quotes that stood out and set us on our path:
White applicants receive, on average, 36% more callbacks than black applicants and 24% more callbacks than Latino applicants with identical resumes. - Harvard Business Review
85% of consumer spend is with women...yet women make up only 20% of the tech workforce - FoundersForChange
97% of US companies, have senior-leadership teams that fail to reflect the demographic composition of the country’s labor force and population - McKinsey & Company
“I feel like I have to represent the entire race. I need to come across as more than proficient, more than competent, more than capable. I have to be ‘on’ all the time. Because in the back of someone’s mind, they could be judging the entire race based on me. And I don’t want anybody else’s opportunity to be ruined because I messed it up. I know that seems really heavy, but that is often how I feel. I am pretty sure that when most white people make a mistake, they don’t feel like they’re representing all Italians or all Irish. But a lot of Black Americans do feel like that.” - PinkPetro
In response to these startling figures and quotes, coupled with our own experience as managers, we wanted to ultimately build a product that could help companies be trailblazers by creating more inclusive hiring processes for them. After all, when companies embrace D&I it isn’t just for feel-good reasons - there are tangible business benefits that hit the income statement:
Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. - McKinsey & Company
On average, firms headquartered in states that passed ENDAs experienced an 8% increase in the number of patents and an 11% increase in the number of patent citations, relative to firms headquartered in states that did not pass such a law. - Harvard Business Review
Bias is a natural phenomenon and one that we all experience. When making a decision our brains take shortcuts to arrive at what we deem to be the correct decision. Contributing factors to why we all have bias in most situations are that --
A) we have too much information
B) we need to decide relatively quickly
C) we have limited context
D) we have uncertainty around what is considered important.
Trying to remove bias from an individual is a tall order; it is easier, rather, to root bias from a system. We wanted to deliver on the above, but knew we needed more in our solution. Companies before us had offered anonymity features in the past, some of which were greatly successful, but often times this value add was coupled with a broader product. We spent a lot of time thinking how we could expand the value and offer a solution that was new but still had DE&I as a focal point. One of the questions we came across early on with Giraffe was, how do you define diversity? Is it external factors such as race, gender, age, persons with physical disabilities? Is it internal factors such as sexual orientation, military veteran status, skills, behaviors? There is no right answer, but it is important for your organization to decide in terms of distilling clarity for team members as to what your DE&I strategy encompasses. Considering that each team will define diversity in a unique way, we wanted to build a solution that looked across multiple factors. With the same mission of reducing bias within organizations, today’s Giraffe is on a mission to help companies build teams from a diverse slate of backgrounds, skills and behavioral traits -- skills and traits that better represent the greater population so that companies can unlock the flywheel of benefits associated with diverse employees: higher employee engagement, reduction in employee turnover, better customer representation, and diversity of thought.