{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Opportunity Creation and Fairness

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris examine the measurement of diversity, revisit Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink examples of blinded interviews, and ways companies can support minority and women-owned businesses, from recruiting to vendor selection. What does your data say? Find out in this episode.


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{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Opportunity Creation and Fairness

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn
In this week’s In-Ear Insights, we’re talking about the creation of opportunities, whether it is jobs, hiring, career advancement, whatever the case may be. There is understandably a lot of interest as there should be about making sure all of our efforts, whether it’s hiring, whether it’s contracting, finding vendors are equal opportunity and bringing in the best talent possible. So Katie, you want to start off with how we got onto this topic?

Katie Robbert 1:59
Yeah. So I think the first disclaimer is, you know, so Chris, for those who don’t know us that Well, Chris, you are a minority and I am a woman. And so I feel like we are qualified to have this conversation. You know, I, we’ve seen a lot of conversation around this topic from people who are neither one of those things and I think that we wanted to bring it to the table from our perspective, because we are both of those things. I’ve seen a lot of commentary on current situation, the biggest one right now being black lives matter. And people in an effort their hearts being in the right place to say, I will mentor a, you know, black business owner or a woman of color in order to give them an opportunity and it’s unfortunately, it’s a little bit falling on deaf ears because it’s a little A little too late. It almost feels like like why why now, you know if that’s your best sort of response to the situation. The other thing is just it’s a topic that we try to cover in general, especially when we cover bias and bias in artificial intelligence. Hiring data is a big part of that conversation. So, you know, we just wanted to provide a little bit of context, maybe share a little bit of our own personal stories around what it looks like to create opportunities for non white folks, for women, for women of color for people of color, so people who don’t fit that traditional mold, and it’s not a knock at white men. Unfortunately, they happen to be the category that gets the most crap for all of this.

Christopher Penn 3:55
So let’s put it this way. When For example, you get hired at a position and somebody says, oh, we’re hiring you to meet a quota for short people in my case.

When that happens, is that giving that person and opportunity? And if so, what are the upsides and downsides to that particular approach as opposed to say, There’s a famous anecdote from Malcolm Gladwell book. I think this tipping point, the tipping point a blow is blink where they were screening, the Berlin orchestra screening for a first violin and I guess one of the candidates was related to the conductor so they said okay to make this completely fair, we’re gonna put a screen up so we can’t see the candidates we can only hear they’re playing and they you know, they did the the auditions they they took down screen, and it was a woman like, Oh, my God, what have we done? Because it turned out that she was a superior violinist. And now actually, if you look at the composition of many orchestras, they actually lean more towards the women than men and for a lot of instruments. How do we go from it? I guess the better question is, what are the approaches we can use to create outcomes like that where you don’t know the person? Or is there a case to be made that you should for a period of time swing the pendulum to to rebalance things I there’s there’s a lot of arguments for both sides.

Katie Robbert 5:31
There are and I can, I can understand and empathize with arguments for both sides. So to start with your first question, if I was hired at a place and someone said, We hired you to fill a quota, I would immediately turn around and walk out because I’ll be honest, that’s a bullshit reason to hire someone. Because you’re just checking a box. You. If you’re making that kind of a statement, you likely don’t care about their qualifications. You just want it to look good on paper, and you want you really Likely probably trying to get some sort of like Board approval or a tax break or something. So don’t do that. That’s a bullshit reason to hire someone. So that’s number one. Happy Monday.

Christopher Penn 6:12
I want to stop you though, because I think that’s a really important point. And the important point there is the motivation. Are you doing it for the person? Are you doing it for yourself? And that is a clear case, we’re checking the box, you are doing it for yourself.

Katie Robbert 6:27
And so that’s it. Thank you for clarifying that. If you are hiring someone based on their gender, ethnicity, you know, preferences in life, but you’re doing it for yourself. Stop. So Chris, you gave a really great example of them blinding the audition, and putting the screen in front of the people who were auditioning for this orchestra. You can do the same thing in hiring. Now obviously, at some point you have to meet these people but Most companies go through a few rounds of going through resumes calling and, you know, so on so forth. And one of the most basic techniques is to take the name and the location off of the resume before giving it to the hiring manager. And that might be something done by human resources on neutral third party, whatever, whatever that looks like, but just take the name off the resume. And that right there already reduces the amount of bias that will be introduced. So you know, it’s interesting. So Chris, I don’t know if this happens to you, but because of your name, versus who you actually are. Do people get confused because you have a very non Asian name, but you are actually Asian? So your name is Christopher Penn. And so, and I know you’re laughing. But the point being is that someone might look at your resume and go, great, we need another Christopher and then you show up and then like, oh, You’re not what we expected.

Christopher Penn 8:03
It’s funny you say that because I remember in the early days of podcasting, one of my friends said, Listen to my podcast for a while this is way back. And then when we actually met, he’s like, I expected you to be a six foot tall white guy like, this is really weird. Like, no, you got the five foot Asian.

I have not encountered that situation, I don’t think in decades, mainly because after a certain point in my career, this is a topic for a whole separate show. I have not had to use a resume to get a job in close to 20 years. However, I will say and this goes back to the hiring example. I used to work at a company. It was based in Atlanta. And for listeners who don’t know the demographics of America very well, Atlanta as a city is close to 60% African American. And so one of the things that I think is indicative of a company Culture is how well does your company represent the place It is based in. And this company had zero African American boys none. And their whole thing was, well, we couldn’t find a qualified candidate. So like, that smells like experimental itoro as, as the Spanish would say. I had to hire for a marketing coordinator had that position. And we already had a team of three all Caucasian folks. And I said, Okay, I’m going to open the position, we’re going to get a bunch of resumes. And what we did is I got a 200 resumes, I took a pair and printed them out, took a pair of scissors to them cut off all the identifying information, the clubs, their interests, all that stuff, was just their work history is nothing else. And then I had the team go through and say, okay, I’ve numbered all these things. You just give me your top three numbers, you know, 22, number, 76, number, whatever. Lo and behold, there wasn’t a single Caucasian in the final selection pool of 10. We had five African Americans, three Muslim Americans. And then to Hispanic Americans and Latino Americans. And I was like, Huh, funny that you chose these people based on their true qualifications based on their work history and work with par.or, Salesforce or whatever. And sure enough, we ended up hiring one of the Muslim Americans. It was just it was very, very off putting for us the company, I got reamed out by HR for for violating the traditional process of hiring and I’m like, I don’t really care. I wanted the best human being for the job, regardless of what container it came and, and this is a challenge that I see a lot with. every industry I saw a post by a, a PR agency last week, you know, we’re committed to diversity. You go to that page that organizations executive team, look, it’s entirely Caucasian. Where one thing doesn’t match the other.

Katie Robbert 10:56
Well, you know, and so your story on the One hand is sort of an inspirational Oh, well, we could do it that way. But the other part of your story is you gotten a lot of trouble for violating the traditional hiring process. And I don’t know that a lot of companies are comfortable with that kind of blinded process, because you know, we as humans just naturally, are we gravitate towards things that are similar to us. And so it’s something we’re born with. It’s a behavior change. And we know, just in general, that change management, no matter what kind is really difficult, and so Oh, I mean, what are some of the baby steps that people can take?

Christopher Penn 11:46
I this is so I’m going to go off on a limb here and say that you can’t take a baby step. This is not a thing that is a baby step. But this is a thing in which the situation now and current events gives you permission. To make a bigger change to say like, Look, we’re saying all these things and changing our profile pictures and social media, let’s walk the talk. Let’s change our hiring process process to be a blinded hiring process. Yes, it’s going to be uncomfortable, you’re going to have candidates in front of you that you’re really not comfortable with. You gotta live with that. Because if we want to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the law, we have to figure out a way to remove these considerations. Because to your point, if your candidate pool is radically diverse, at that point, as a hiring manager, you don’t really get a choice. Let’s say you know, as opposed to if the pool you screen and you happen to pick all people who look like you. No one, no one else has the opportunity to present themselves if you blind it completely. And now you have a rainbow of flavors to choose from. You like hmm, I need to hire five people and and only one of these five People looks like me so the other four by default are going to have to people who don’t look like me. I think that’s okay and I think if we if companies are willing to embrace the moment now and then to defend to leadership and the Board of Directors will look everybody who’s not taking big steps towards diversity is getting lambasted. We don’t want this to, you know, going back to the whole selfish thing. We don’t want to affect our share price, or our customer base. And we don’t want customers boycotting us we’re going to have to do this thing that is your it is for a, I guess, a progressive hiring manager or HR person’s ability to say, let’s use current events to force a bigger change than we might otherwise be comfortable making. Especially when you look at there are some fantastic studies done by McKinsey and Company saying companies with diverse leadership companies with a gender balance, leadership, etc. perform better financially 1617 18% returns on investment higher than non diverse companies. So There’s a case to be made that diversity makes you money, which we all like. And there’s a case to be made that by taking these bigger steps now you have the cover of current events to protect you from that, as opposed to what I had to go through, you know, when these things were not on the forefront of everyone’s mind. were, you know, a what’s what’s your Well, that’s, that’s where there’s the culture of not liking that kind of change happening. So,

Katie Robbert 14:29
you know, there’s a couple of there’s a couple of pieces in there that I just want to sort of go back to So, you know, I don’t disagree with you when you’re saying that it’s going to be uncomfortable. Um, my concern, and this is not a justification for why companies don’t do it is that they don’t want to be uncomfortable. They don’t want to change things. There’s a reason they haven’t changed things and regardless of what current culture is right now, there’s a lot of companies that say, well, that’s great for them. But that doesn’t impact me, that doesn’t impact us. We don’t need to change, we are not the problem. And I think that that’s going to continue, you know, from us looking in on the outside, we know that that’s going to continue to perpetuate the issue I belong to and as a very small example, I belong to quite a few community groups on Facebook. So communities, you know, that I’ve grown up in, or I currently belong to now. And there was this one overtly racist post that kept getting shared. And apparently people kept reporting it back to the group admin, saying, This is racist, you have to take it down. And then the group admin posted it and said, this has been reported to me multiple times. It is racist, but I think it’s funny And that, to me was so disheartening and mind blowing, and unsurprising all at the same time. That I think humans ability to change or to see things for what they really are, or to see that they’re part of the problem. It’s, we’re not even close to being there yet. And so, while I, Chris, I feel like the story that you’re sharing is a very small, like segment of the population that is okay with being in that uncomfortable situation. Majority aren’t. Mm hmm. And I think that that’s, you know, I just want to remind people that, you know, Chris and I are firm believers in it doesn’t matter. Like what you look like your background, as long as you can bring the right skills to the table, we’re happy to hire you. That’s a unique thing that’s not common. And so what we’re trying to do is to Challenge other companies to lead with that foot of, you know, forget names and locations. You know, Chris, your recent newsletter was all about, you can hire from anywhere. So you’re absolutely right. The world is your talent pool. But what is the likelihood that other companies are going to take advantage of that? Yeah. And that’s what makes me really sad.

Christopher Penn 17:26
The other thing that you can do as as, especially for companies, and we see this, for example, we’re based in the state of Massachusetts in the USA. And the state has a mandate inscribed by law that a certain percentage of state budget must be spent with either women on businesses or minority owned businesses. And so encouraging an A and requiring people to do these things is a good thing. Yes, you are checking the box on a business that has to meet certain criteria. But a business is more than just one person So it encourages entrepreneurship, it encourages people who are in the minority to start their own business, try that try out the thing. And it is very straightforward requires no laws for a company to do the same and say we will commit that 10% of the vendors we use will be minority owned businesses, whether it’s it, whether it’s data processing, doesn’t matter what it is. If you are, if you are in thoughtfully reaching out and say, okay, in my candidate pool, I have to have at least 10% of my budget going towards this type of business. It will encourage you to check out different kinds of businesses and honestly, you’re gonna find some really, really cool stuff, particularly in the realm of data science. One of the fastest growing and most interesting places for AI development right now is Nigeria. Now when I say Nigeria, a whole bunch of people have a whole bunch of have internal reactions just to that country’s name alone. But none of those reactions are they’re doing some cutting edge work in artificial intelligence, particularly around things like neural networks. You don’t think of it because you have a mental preconception of what Nigeria is about for a lot of people’s like, that’s where spam comes from. Well, no. In the IoT world, that is a unfortunately, a deeply embedded perception.

Katie Robbert 19:25
Oh, I thought you meant like the food.

Christopher Penn 19:27
No, no, no. Electronic. Okay. If you require yourself to think about, okay, where can we get different vendors from and you broaden that idea? There may be companies out there that are doing some stuff that you’ve never heard of, because they literally cannot get the attention. Now, I would say that that depending on where you either may be also a a strong impetus to geographically restrict that to benefit businesses within your community or within your region. But it’s something that should be on people’s minds. are you opening the door to different kinds of candidates? are you opening the door to different kinds of vendors? are you opening the door to different kinds of business partners? On the flip side, and this is, again, this is going to be in that uncomfortable category? Are you willing to close the door on a company that for example, is covertly or overtly racist? Or sexist, or bigoted? Or whatever the discriminatory category is? Are you willing to do that? Even if they are a trusted partner, for example, if Would you be willing to say you know what, you are out of alignment with our values? And you show absolutely no indication of being willing to change? Are you willing to cut ties with that organization? It’s difficult, especially if that is a profitable partner. I get that. But if you want in the long run, term to achieve those productivity gains that McKenzie has documented, you may have to do that, even if it’s just in your own self interest just to get to those level benefits.

Katie Robbert 21:14
I think one of the places to start because we’ve given people a lot to think about, but I think we also need to sort of challenge them, okay, like, what can you start to do? So if you work for a large organization? Check out what their values are? Do they have values that are listed? So on Trust Insights, we list our values, right on our website, and we’re constantly checking each other to say, does this align with our values? If not, it’s out and so Chris your point, so I would say, No, we won’t work with partners who you know are sexist, or racist or bigoted or you know, all of those other things that you’ve listed. If you are trying to do right by your yourself, and the culture and your company, start with what the values are. And if there are no values, that’s where to start. And, you know, challenge your C suite to say, what do we stand for? I know we just make sprockets and widgets, but we employ human beings and what kind of a company culture are we trying to create for these human beings? Is it a safe one? Is it a homogenous one? Is it a diverse one? Is it one where you know people just show up and they get the work done and nobody cares about each other? Those are everyone’s entitled to create their own kind of company culture. You are then also entitled to choose not to participate in one that doesn’t fit with you.

Christopher Penn 22:45
Unsurprisingly, I will also recommend that you look at the data and look at the candidate pools that you’re pulling from is the candidate pool representative of the candidate pool that is available in your region in your industry on in the planet If it’s not, there’s a really good place good place to have some starting talking points. I want to close with a really interesting quote that I saw floating around on. On Instagram, I think it’s one that will give us all something to think about is diversity gets you a seat at the table. Inclusion means you’re allowed to talk at the table. And belonging means that people listen to you when you do talk. So when you’re thinking about the kind of culture you want to create, when you’re thinking about the kind of decisions you want to make, think about what level you want to achieve. I would encourage everyone regardless of where you are, to aim for that belonging that everybody who is at the table feel safe to talk and that you listen to and that you you take give them equal weight as anyone else at the table. You have follow up questions about this or any other topic from our podcast, please go head over to dot AI you can visit a concern for the podcast subscribe there, join the email newsletter. If you want to have a real time conversation, join our free slack group over at Trust slash analytics for marketers will talk to you soon take care.

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