On workplace diversity

I had an interesting conversation the other day around hiring, recruitment and workplace diversity. How companies should look to hire the best candidate regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc….

I see two issues.

The first is subconscious bias. In other words biases we make and we aren’t even consciously aware of them. If we aren’t conscious and protecting ourselves from these various different biases (confirmation bias, halo effect, attraction bias, beauty bias, etc) then it’s highly likely we will we not hire “the best person”.

Having diversity targets makes sense as well (especially for large corporations). Just read this article from the Harvard Business Review, diverse corporations perform better.

The second issue is a grassroots problem. If we aren’t providing equal opportunity early in people’s lives then the level of expertise can snowball. We can see people without a diverse background getting more opportunities because they’ve become (through luck of the draw) “better candidates.”

Similar to the argument that Malcolm Gladwell points out about hockey players in his book Outliers. Making the NHL is much easier for players born in the first quarter of the year. Why is this? Because when they are 4-5 years old and start playing hockey they are bigger then younger players in the same cohort and thus are given better opportunities early on. Extrapolate this to the future and players born early in the year are more likely to make the NHL.