In 2014, Google released their employee diversity statistics for the first time, revealing that only two percent of their employees were African Americans. It was upsetting to realize that a powerful company that has been branded as representing innovation and information sharing does not hire more African American technology professionals. While Google benefits from minorities consuming their products (Android phones, Gmail, Google Apps), they don't seem to have executed a successful plan to recruit underrepresented minorities.
Four years later, diversity and inclusion have not drastically improved at Google — the percentage of African Americans has only ticked up by half a percentage point.
Understanding the meaning of diversity is not the issue with companies that lack diversity — most of them know that diversity encompasses not only race and gender but also cultural perspectives, sexuality, religion, political views and even geographical location. The real issue is that companies are not genuinely incorporating inclusion into their work environments. To improve their diversity numbers, companies need to directly incorporate inclusion into their hiring process and company culture.
But the act of inclusion requires companies to move out of their comfort zone, and too many of them are hesitant to do that. Below, I have outlined four reasons why companies continue to lack diversity and inclusion.
1. Leadership Lacks Diversity
In the past, when I applied to technology companies like Google, I always visited the leadership team pages on their company websites. The majority of these leaders are almost always white males. But it's impossible to encourage diversity and inclusion at the employee level if the entire leadership team lacks diversity. Companies should aim to hire a diverse set of professionals to represent their HR teams, operations teams, business development teams, etc. Every level in a company must have a passion for the execution of diversity and inclusion if a company wants to improve the number of underrepresented minorities they hire. After all, we don’t need leaders that will only talk about diversity and inclusion — we need leaders that will execute on plans to improve diversity and inclusion.
2. The Hiring Processes Lack Inclusion
The hiring process in companies that lack diversity and inclusion is broken. When you fail to hire underrepresented minorities, it's clear that an inclusive recruiting process is not being executed on a daily basis. Human resource professionals need strong organizational change and leadership skills as they develop a solid lifecycle plan for diverse hiring, and often benefit from creating a diversity roadmap. For example, companies might want to start hiring top talent from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The same way Fortune 500 technology companies and Big 4 consulting companies actively recruit from Stanford University and Virginia Tech University, these companies should turn to HBCUs and liberal arts colleges to find top-performing minority students. Further, it is important to start at the grassroots level: Companies might want to consider going into urban communities to address the lack of educational resources and train future Fortune 500 professionals.
3. Exclusive Company Cultures
The process of transforming company culture is reliant on having an inclusion-friendly mindset. Unfortunately, most of these companies have created work environments that provide amenities and incentives geared towards majority professionals. Companies like Google need to appeal to professionals who have attended HBCUs or were raised in urban cities like New York or Washington, DC — this means revamping their company cultures to make minorities more comfortable on a daily basis. However, workplace improvements can’t occur if you don’t understand your employees’ cultural perspectives and differences. Companies may want to conduct surveys as they recruit and hire new employees to get a pulse on whether they feel included, and what they can do to improve.
4. A Fear of Change
There's no doubt that companies like Google are high-performing already, so revamping their culture and recruiting may bring fears around their performance. It's true that the process of rebranding a company’s culture, including the hiring process and employee engagement, takes time and effort away from daily company operations. However, the overall reward of having a more diverse workplace is undeniable — studies have shown that diversity can drive innovation and have a positive impact on the bottom line. Imagine: diverse production teams could improve overall product design, product development and product releases. If companies want to brand their products for a diverse consumer population, a diverse professional population would only help.
Top-performing minorities are not just seeking compassion — they want equality. They know that they are qualified to be extraordinary contributors at successful companies, and their education, experience and expertise is valuable. But if companies want those talented professionals to come work for them, they need to put in the effort.
Kanika Tolver is a former highly-decorated government employee turned rebel entrepreneur and Certified Professional Coach. She is a serial innovator who’s fueled by an extraordinary commitment to social change and to helping others create their own “epic lives.” Tolver helps individuals establish themselves at the “architect of their own life” to realize career, business, life and spiritual success — all in a way that promotes restoration, balance and nurturing one’s authentic self. Her services include career coaching and technology coaching.