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Tech To Support Diversity and Inclusion

24 Jun 2021

Our recent research has highlighted that only 42% of respondents felt that technology would improve their companies' approach to diversity and inclusion. A further 45% were on the fence and thought there was a possibility it could have an impact, but they were not sure.

Only 11% thought there was no chance technology could help tackle the biases that many still face in workplaces across the country.

Interestingly, while we don't necessarily agree with the 11%, there is a rather significant caveat that accompanies the use of technology to combat this issue, and it is perhaps what they are alluding to.

There needs to be complete buy-in from leadership at the top of the organisation for any meaningful change to occur. Otherwise, all the technology in the world isn't going to change anything.

Some firmly believe that several businesses are still just paying lip service to this issue.

So, before we delve into the fast-growing world of HR tech to look at a couple of tech solutions that have been created to tackle these challenges specifically, we thought we would find out about the embattled Chief Diversity Officer.

Supporting the Chief Diversity Officer

Some feel like attempts to tackle this issue has become a tick-box exercise, highlighted in a recent blog we wrote on the frustrations and challenges facing Chief Diversity Officers (CDO). 

The considerable increase in CDO's hired post 'Black Lives Matter' highlighted just how reactionary many businesses still are regarding this issue.

The issue for many of the existing CDO's is the lack of impact they felt they could have and their inability to affect any real change in their organisation. Often without any budgetary responsibility and the leadership buy-in to provide the backing required, many felt the role was toothless.  

While the consensus is that we are making great strides in improving diversity, the worry is that while those leaders taking it seriously (only around 5%) are making significant progress, the 'laggards' (29%), according to McKinsey's diversity report, are falling ever further behind.

Companies that had fully embraced a changing diversity and inclusion agenda have made considerable progress in the last five years. For example, they had, on average, increased the gender and ethnic diversity of their leadership to 40% and 32%, respectively, which is a rise of 53% and 88%.

Contrast that with those businesses lagging behind and who actually went back to just 8% and 0%, respectively.

Ownership is vital in tackling this issue. It is crucial that the leaders of our business not only address the problem and take a zero-tolerance approach to stamp out any negative behaviour but that they own the issue.

They need to be seen as the leading the change, as this will inspire the next level of management, who are so often tasked with implementing the strategies, to buy in.   

Engagement from the start is crucial, and it has to be absolute. At this point, those who don't buy into the approach are no longer the right fit for the organisation.

The results speak for themselves. There is considerable evidence that businesses that genuinely embrace a diversity and inclusion agenda will see an improved performance. For example, in recent data published, companies with more than 30% female executives were expected to outperform their competitors by up to 48%.

Likewise, those with a strong ethnically and culturally diverse team outperformed those in the lowest quartile by 36%.      

So, the evidence for a more diverse workforce is there. But how can technology help this?

There are thousands of tech solutions in the HR space, many focused on improving diversity and inclusion. So we have taken a look at just a few that seem to impact people choosing to join a particular company and whether to stay or not.

Hiring 

It starts right from the initial hiring process.

Let's face it, the language used in job descriptions can get a little 'samey'. However, it is often written in a way that puts off specific demographics. It might seem like a small part of the whole process, but the language you use on these adverts, combined with the content on your social channels and your website, tell candidates a lot about the organisation.

Much of the bias will be subconscious, especially from males of a certain age and ethnicity. However, research from Total Jobs, which reviewed 75,000 job ads, found that UK job adverts are rife with words that reinforce gender stereotypes.

The gender-specific terms, of course, work both ways. Below is a list of phrases that hold appeal and put off either gender in equal measure:

Top three male-gendered words:

  • Lead
  • Analyse
  • Competitive

Top three female-gendered words:

  • Support
  • Responsible
  • Understanding      

According to the research from Total Jobs, those companies employing gender-neutral language will fill jobs 14 days faster than those with phrases that were masculine or feminine.

There are a couple of tech solutions that can support the neutralising of your copy. While the list is quite extensive, here are a couple of examples.

Total Jobs Gender Bias Decoder

This tool is free and very simple to use. It is based on university research that found male and female-coded words were reinforcing the gender stereotypes and reducing applications.

For this tool, you simply copy and paste your advert, and the system will assess your language and make suggestions on how to adapt your copy.

TapRecruit

Although they do have three different products and a freemium option, this is more of an enterprise solution.

TapRecruit has been through several iterations to get to their 'Inclusion Meter'. They started by using algorithms to decode the gender bias amongst job adverts. However, it was clear as they developed the product that inclusion was an issue that affected several different groups.

So, they have developed their 'Inclusion Meter' which, is backed by considerable research and continually adapting to assess the language you use in your adverts for biases in seven key areas, including:

  1. Racism
  2. Tokenism
  3. Ableism
  4. Ageism
  5. Nationalism
  6. Elitism
  7. Religion        

Textio

Textio is similar in its approach to assessing your job advert copy and supporting you and your team to find the right words to attract talent.

They use a bank of hiring data and academic research to provide a live score of your copy as you write. Based on the criteria of the role you are recruiting for, it will adapt and advise on the likely success of your advert copy

They have a bias meter that assesses your advert copy based on an unconscious gender bias and makes suggestions on adapting your language.

Textio also offers a Central Library, which you can open out to your team to help everyone assess their copy and adapt their adverts to ensure these changes are companywide.

Employee Experience  

Once you have recruited your team, creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive culture is not easy.

As we mentioned, it isn't just the flick of a switch or adding the words 'Diversity and Inclusion' to a set of brand guidelines. It takes total commitment from leadership and a concerted effort from the whole team to affect the change that needs to happen.

There have been considerable developments in technology to support the training required to open people's minds to the potential unconscious bias that some members of your team might be experiencing.

It can be a fascinating and often uncomfortable discovery for many and a real eye-opener to the challenges that many colleagues face.

So, while many providers are on the market, we picked a couple from the World Economic Forum's list to highlight.

Equal Reality

Taking the time to walk a mile in someone's shoes, figuratively speaking, of course, can shine a light on the challenges your colleagues face daily.

The Equal Reality team has created a series of virtual reality training systems that produce different scenarios.

They have a workshop around race, gender and unconscious bias that allows team members to see the world through the eyes of a colleague and experience the same prejudices they might face.

They also have a more immersive product for a Learning and Development programme that can foster real, long term organisational change.

This sort of approach can provide some actual context for people and help them address their behaviours.

Benchmarking    

One of the areas where employees continue to face discrimination is pay. 

While significant research points to the fact that employees are now more motivated by career progression and well-being than remuneration, pay is still an important issue and often a source of discrimination.

Research by GapSquare has indicated that by 2025, 60% of the working population will be female or from an ethnic minority, and 52% of employees consider leaving when they uncover a pay disparity.

GapSquare

Gapsquare has developed software that can identify and address any disparities in your remuneration strategy. They have developed their own FairPay Pro product, which maximises the data available to identify any potential inequality and provides a data-driven solution.

The product incorporates legislation and builds in context to help outline the company position.

Going forward, however, it creates a transparent pay structure that enables the employees to have complete faith in the system and to remove any potential barriers.  

Tech is only part of the solution  

Technology is developing at pace to try and solve some of the issues we face and support the challenges faced by discriminated groups. 

However, as we suspect the 11% of our HR professionals survey were suggesting, while it can provide context and the data behind some of the problems, it is dependent on senior members of the team to lead and not accept any form of bias. 

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