“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say,” wrote 19th-century essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. At the office, managers and employees should be assessed purely on talent and performance. One company, Joonko, reduces bias in the hiring process by finding and curating diverse and highly-skilled job candidates for employers.
I sat down with Ilit Raz, cofounder and CEO of Joonko, to get her thoughts on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace. Joonko, which has offices in Tel Aviv and Birmingham, Alabama, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help employers hire qualified and underrepresented job seekers for remote positions.
“There’s strong evidence that the companies which intentionally invest diversity are more innovative, yielding elevated business performance. Having a more diverse team makes for more diverse viewpoints in product development, sales and marketing processes, management, and other business situations,” says Raz, who pledges 1% of her software company’s revenues and time to world-changing causes. “That’s beneficial for enterprises that seek better solutions for customers, who themselves are part of changing demographics. I’m seeing a lot of companies starting to replenish and add to their headcounts now, and with the shift to remote work making for a wider talent pool, there’s a major opportunity for meaningful, long-overdue change.”
Sourcing Female Professionals
As most professionals know, engineering, computer science and artificial intelligence are male-dominated fields. In North America, 69% of senior management roles are held by men, according to a 2019 Grant Thornton report, while just 16% of chief information officers are women. According to Pew Research, women comprise 22% of board seats at Fortune 500 companies (2015 data) while a 2019 McKinsey & Co. study found that women occupy 24% of c-level positions.
Thanks to greater awareness of the gender gap, companies are rethinking their recruitment practices. Female and D&I professionals are also altering the landscape by occupying more positions of responsibility. A 2019 study by Human Capital Media found that women now occupy 47% of management positions across all sectors.
“I look forward to a time when we will no longer feel the need to applaud companies for appointing women to senior leadership roles, when gender equality in the workforce will no longer be a news-worthy issue,” says Joonko’s Raz. “I’m confident that it’s approaching, but until that day comes, companies need to intentionally invest in hiring more women to tech positions, promoting them internally and assisting with their career development. At the same time, I believe that business leaders need to cultivate a better future for the workforce by funding and supporting initiatives that help girls and women to advance.”
Raising D&I Awareness
There’s greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) awareness compared to a generation ago. That means many HR departments are actively recruiting persons with disabilities, military veterans, LGBTQ+ members and underrepresented groups. According to Accenture, companies that hire and support disabled workers have significantly outperformed competitors in both revenue and net income over a four-year period.
“There are several ways to increase diversity hiring, which is especially important during the pandemic, when HR can be limited in the recruitment channels they’re able to tap into,” says Ilit Raz. “We send qualified D&I candidates weekly emails that alert them to new, open positions, which helps to keep recruiters’ pipelines full. We also think it’s important that recruiters have the ability to browse remote-ready candidates according to their professional qualifications, regardless of geo-location.”
She adds, “And from their side, D&I employees can maximize the value they bring by fully utilizing their expertise. Business stakeholders ideally care most about performance, and that’s why it’s so important to focus inclusive recruiting practices on candidate pools that are pre-qualified according to skills and specialized credentials.”
Recently, Blackstone Group announced it would no longer recruit from Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and others in order to be more inclusive. Instead, the private equity firm will go directly to college campuses to cast a broader net.
Unleashing a Remote Workforce
Finally, enterprises are adjusting to work-from-home (WFH) realities during the pandemic. Some local governments are even offering cash incentives for workers (between $2,000 to $15,000) to relocate to their city. WFH is tailor-made for the mobile and social generation: two-thirds of U.S. professionals say they can be effective working telecommute, according to a LinkedIn June 2020 survey, with employees in human resources, product management and marketing topping the confidence list.
Raz says remote teams actually improve the quality of a workforce: WFH is all about finding the best person for the job no matter the location. Thus, recruiters can hire niche skills in regions they may have ignored in the past, such as Alaska, Hawaii or a Native American jurisdiction in Washington state or elsewhere.
“Remote positions pave the way for a wider pool of skilled candidates who vary in gender, ethnicity, sexual identity and physical ability,” says Ilit Raz. “Greater exposure to more parts of the country makes more inclusion easier.”