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As companies prioritize diversity, startups try to produce diverse hires – TechCrunch

When iconic American power tool company Stanley Black & Decker began looking for ways to improve the pipeline of diverse candidates the company was reviewing for potential positions, it turned to an Israeli startup called Talenya for help. ugly.

The company was not the only one looking for startups to support them in new recruitment initiatives. Last year’s social toll in the wake of nationwide protests against systemic racism sparked by the George Floyd murder has prompted businesses across the country to reassess their own role in perpetuating inequality.

As part of this assessment, companies realized that the recruiting tools they were using to simplify the process of recruiting, training and promoting talent were not capturing the broadest and most skilled candidates.

“If we’re going to say this is a pipeline issue, we should first say we hired what’s available in the pipeline,” Uber’s director of diversity told TechCrunch, Bo Young Lee. “It’s not a pipeline problem as much as it is a recruiting process challenge.”

This is where tools like Talenya, Textio, TalVista, WayUp, Handshake, The Mom Project, Flockjay, Kanarys, JumpStart and SeekOut come in. In total, these companies have raised more than $ 200 million in funding over the past few years to increase diversity and inclusion and help solve the problem of diversity in technology.

“Part of our Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging strategy focuses on pipeline diversity to ensure that new talent better reflects the markets and communities we serve. To accelerate our progress, we started using Talenya’s artificial intelligence software in 2020 to help increase the applicant pool of women and people of color, ”said Suzan Morno-Wade, Executive Vice President and Director of human resources at Xerox, another company using Talenya’s software, in a statement.

It appears that women and people of color use fewer keywords and are less effusive when describing themselves in profiles or on job applications, according to a recent study published by Talenya.

This is why startups like Talenya and Textio are trying to highlight how to improve the candidate selection process by using broader language both in the text of the job description (Textio) and in the filters used to select. qualified candidates (Talenya).

“Keyword research is highly discriminatory for everyone,” said Gal Almog, CEO and co-founder of Talenya. “Minorities and women tend to put 20 to 30% less skills on their profiles. This does not only apply to women and minorities. We have added an algorithm which can predict and add missing skills. “

In some ways, this feature looks a lot like tools offered by companies like SeekOut, the recruiting startup that just landed a massive $ 65 million round from investors like Tiger Global, Madrona Group and Mayfield.

“The focus on diversity hiring and our unique approach to finding talent and delivering blind hire features has super charged adoption,” CEO Anoop Gupta said in an interview earlier this year. This same toolkit is something Talenya offers to its own clients.

Meanwhile, companies like WayUp are trying to give employers a window into how the funnel narrows after the selection process. The company’s new tool provides an assessment of how diverse candidate pools are slowly reduced to a much less diverse pool of candidates during the testing process.

WayUp co-founder and CEO Liz Wessel said the pool of candidates often shrinks dramatically after a battery of technical assessment and programming tests.

“Similar to SATs, many technical assessments have a strong correlation with socioeconomic status,” Wessel told TechCrunch.

While some startups focus on the hiring process itself, other companies take approaches to diversify specific jobs or to try to recruit from particular talent pools to help increase diversity in the industry. technology.

This is the mission that companies like Flockjay and The Mom Project have set for themselves.

“Most people don’t even know that a tech sales job is even a possibility,” Shaan Hathiramani, founder and CEO of Flockjay, a company offering a technology sales training program, said earlier this year. to the masses.

Hathiramani said his start-up could be a ramp into the tech industry for legions of workers who have the skills to work in tech, but lack the network to see themselves in. the company. Just as coding bootcamps have helped thousands of people secure jobs as tech programmers, Flockjay helps talented people who had never considered a tech job to enter the industry. industry.

It’s a way for non-coders to take advantage of the soft skills they had developed in other industries, including retail and foodservice, to step into the higher-paying world of tech companies. And it’s a way for these tech companies to find a more diverse pool of workers who can bring different skill sets and perspectives.

A few hundred students have gone through the program so far, Hathiramani said, and the goal is to train 1,000 people during 2021. The average income of a student before taking the Flockjay training program is typically from $ 30,000 to $ 35,000, Hathiramani said. .

Upon graduation, these students can expect to earn between $ 75,000 and $ 85,000, he said.

It’s obvious that tech needs to ‘do better’ at inclusion, and The Mom Project – a Chicago-based startup that focuses on connecting women, including parents, with jobs from specifically open organizations. employing people who fit that profile – is a company that is tackling an aspect of the problem that has become acute in the pandemic.

“Sixty percent of the job losses in the pandemic have been women, and the statistics have been even worse for women of color,” said Allison Robinson, executive director of Mom Project. “It’s like a canary in the coal mine.”

While The Mom Project currently has no tools to find candidates who meet more diverse profiles on this front, Robinson told TechCrunch they are considering doing it and how to approach it in a way that works. .

Ultimately, these are considerations that matter to companies of all sizes, according to Sarah Smith, managing director of Bain Capital Ventures.

“Either way, it is important that from day one [that] you have an eye on how to build an inclusive culture, where in an ideal world even the first person you put on the team could come in and feel quite welcomed. And… you really want people to be the best they can be and their perspectives and ideas ”, Smith told the audience at TechCrunch’s Early Stage conference. “I think it’s quite common for a team to become four or five within the network, including the founders, [but] I think once you like number six, if you don’t have gender or racial diversity yet … it’s going to start to get really tough.

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