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Robert Walters Los Angeles Diversity & Inclusion Breakfast Wrap-Up

We’d like to thank everyone who attended our Diversity and Inclusion Breakfast on Friday, May 3rd. We gathered a diverse group of highly influential and respected leaders to share their ideas and experiences around building diverse and inclusive cultures within their businesses.

The evidence is clear; women remain significantly underrepresented in leadership. According to LeanIn.Org’s newly released Women in the Workplace 2018 Report, “Only about one in five senior leaders is a woman, and one in twenty-five is a woman of color."

When you bring together women and allies to discuss diversity in a safe environment, you’re more likely to have honest and productive conversations. It’s conversations like these that catalyze real change in the workplace. Robert Walters strives to facilitate these conversations around diversity, especially because as recruiters, we are in a position to truly impact work culture for the better.

So what can you do today to ensure your business is doing more than just checking off the diversity box? See a summary of May 3rd's discussion below:

1. Ensure your hiring process is fair

If you’ve been following the conversation around gender diversity closely, you may have heard of a popular study conducted in 1999 (progress is slow!) in which participants were presented with identical resumes (one containing a female name, and the other a male name). The odds of a candidate being hired increased by 71% when the resumes were perceived as belonging to men instead of women, despite the fact that each candidate had the exact same qualifications.

There are a few ways to combat these gender biases in the hiring process. First, ensure your job descriptions don’t suggest a toxic culture or unintentionally discourage female applicants. Read about some excellent resources for eliminating problematic terms here: (5 actionable steps to increase gender diversity in your workplace).

Second, consider adopting a blind hiring approach (eliminating identifying information from a resume), or require unconscious bias training for employees involved in hiring.

“I think a skills versus experience-based approach will actually help improve the top of your funnel, says Nick Kim, Head of Platform at Crosscut Ventures. “If you do an experience-based approach, you're going to inherently exclude people.” For example, a job description seeking analytical or quantitative-skilled candidates will attract a more diverse candidate pool than one seeking “investment banking experience”, which already has a ton of built-in bias.

Alternatively, consider throwing the resume-approach out altogether. “By attending networking events, you can actually meet people in person and see some great values and attributes that aren’t as obvious on a resume,” says Faye Tracey, Head of the People & Talent Recruitment Practice at Robert Walters.

2. Promote flexibility

According to Women in the Workplace 2018, “less than two-thirds of companies offer maternity leave beyond what’s required by law, and just over half offer fathers the same benefit.” 

“Women tend to drop out the workforce during childbearing years,” says Eleanor Hsu, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Flower Muse. “The number of executive level women that have not been able to come back into the workforce because they were out for five years is astronomical, and they simply give up.”

Ensure there are policies in place that will allow women to return to work. Danelle Larsen, CFO of UPTIME Energy suggests that companies adopt adult internships programs (also called returnships)  for previously employed women at the midmanagement level, which can assist women returning from a career break.

Depending on the size and complexity of your company, flexible or remote working options might alleviate some of the stress that comes with balancing work and family, ultimately improving work performance and employee retention.

3. Make diversity a business priority

Embracing diversity is not just the right thing to do - it’s also good for your business. In fact, companies with diverse leadership are 15% more likely to outperform industry averages. So how do you go about making gender diversity a business priority?

“I would like to see a CEO be the diversity initiative leader of a company--go out there and say, ‘I wanna go join the women's groups, 'cause I wanna understand what they're thinking.’ That kind of top-down mentality is going to make everybody feel that diversity is valued,” says Christina Dunbar, Director Global Talent at Scopely.

Or, we can all take a leaf from the Australian governments’ book, as suggested by Fiona Quinn, VP Business Affairs at AvantStay, who is also a former employee of the Australian government. “We instituted a rule that everyone (whether it was VC’s, pitchers, etc.) could not come in unless their directors were at least 33% women, or diverse people,” says Quinn. “That's the only way to really reinforce this message for founders; we won’t honor this commitment unless you’re actually taking it seriously as well.”

“When I was a COO, I was doing diversity & inclusion training once a week because it was one of our top goals, but that required buy-in from everybody that this is going to be one of our top goals,” adds Minnie Ingersoll, Investor at TenOneTen Ventures. “If I’m ever asked to speak on a panel, I always ask if there are other women or people of color on the panel. Having everyone get in the habit of asking that question for staffing panels or pooling events reinforces that that's something the participants care about.”

3. Cultivate an inclusive culture

Microaggressions at work are all too common-- particularly for marginalized groups, including women of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Being in the minority at work (whether that means the only person of color or the only female on a team) can leave individuals feeling isolated and experience more pressure to prove themselves. 

“Women who are Onlys are having a significantly worse experience than women who work with other women,” say the researchers of Women in the Workplace 2018. “Over 80 percent are on the receiving end of microaggressions, compared to 64 percent of women as a whole.” 

What can you do to ensure this doesn’t happen at your workplace? For one, you should develop clear guidelines for what behavior will and will not be tolerated-- and this doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

“In my company, I’ve tried to turn it into a positive. As a high growth startup, I say that it’s a good thing that you’re watching what you’re saying. This is how we turn from a 5 person startup, to a 500 person large company--that they’re causing you to be professional,” says Fiona Quinn, VP Business Affairs at AvantStay.

The bottom line

“Our specialist base is very much about high growth, generally tech, Series A-E level startups, which means that we can advocate building great diversity from the foundation, from the beginning,” says Faye Tracey, People & Talent Recruitment Practice at Robert Walters. “The challenges are not Uber or Lyft that have the budget for those sorts of things, hence why these conversations are so important.”

Ultimately, a diverse company starts at its talent pipeline. Acknowledging the many ways that gender bias holds women back in the workplace is just one step. An inclusive and flexible workplace where diversity is a business priority is not an impossible dream. Policy, follow-through, understanding, and conversation are all catalysts for change when it comes to  leveling the playing field for good.

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