A founder of Women 2.0 explains how the start-up scene is evolving for women and offers networking advice for aspiring female founders.Silicon Valley may earn praise for its creativity and dynamism, but rarely is America's foremost start-up hub held up as a model of diversity. The world's engineers may flock to the area's start-ups, but when Shaherose Charania moved to the Valley to explore becoming an entrepreneur several years ago, she often found herself the only woman on product teams and at networking events. These days, she and a few friends are doing something about this gender imbalance with Women 2.0, an organizaton that supports female founders and runs a host of women-friendly networking events around the world.
Every day our news outlets and social feeds are full of reports about strife over racial, religious and gender issues. Pair this with a polarized political climate, and it’s clear that the need for the acceptance — and celebration of our differences is vital. This applies to the workplace, too.
Embracing diversity in the workplace encompasses many things: gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, age and neurodiversity, for instance. Today, business and HR leaders are either working to create a diverse and inclusive workplace or they should be.
It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s good for business. McKinsey’s report Why Diversity Matters examines how diversity affects profitability and long-term valuation. Companies with the highest gender diversity among their executive management were 21% more likely to show better-than-normal profitability than competitors with the least gender variance in management. Similarly, companies with ethnic and cultural diversity outperform those without by 33%.
So how can we boost our efforts to be as inclusive as possible?
1. Educate your employees
Prejudice can influence each stage of the hiring process. For instance, one famous study found that resumes using the “white-sounding” names Emily and Greg received 50% more callbacks than resumes using the “African-American-sounding names” Lakisha and Jamal. Other research has explored the phenomenon of “resume whitening,” whereby minorities remove details that may reveal their race for fear of discrimination.
So it’s important to train new recruiters and hiring managers to recognize bias and then how to take action. There are lots of good courses available on Unconscious Bias and professional associations that can help you work to eliminate bias from your hiring process. The key thing is to do your homework and choose the curriculum that is most meaningful to you and your company culture.
But remember: as you introduce this training, reassure your audience that this is not about judging them as individuals. Bias, sadly, is just part of being human. We start to make a difference when we acknowledge it. Then, knowing what to look for, we can find ways to correct it.
2. Make job postings gender neutral
Taking gendered language out of postings may help job seekers to see possibilities they may not have considered before and so diversify your talent pool.
The language of job postings can influence the kinds of applicants you attract. For instance, researchers at Duke University and the University of Waterloo found that ads for traditionally male-dominated professions — such as engineering and programming — also prominently featured words associated with male stereotypes, such as decisive and dominant.
This same study suggests that replacing stereotypically masculine wording with gender-neutral phrasing can lead to more gender parity among candidates. For instance, instead of talking about “dominance,” you might instead talk about “excellence in the market.”
Similarly, avoiding words traditionally associated with…