From the Executive Director’s Desk: How to Build an Equitable Workplace

An Open Letter from Ebony Tucker

Hello readers – last week’s blog served as yet another reminder that every workplace in the country, including Congress, has some serious work to do when it comes to building environments and cultures that are truly equitable for everyone, particularly Black and Brown women. Today, I want to focus on one way that employers can build more diverse and equitable workplaces: fundamentally rethinking the hiring process.

First, let’s define some terms. It’s common to hear the words “equality” and “equity” used interchangeably, but there are critical differences.  

Equality means everyone is treated the same way; for example, in an equal hiring process, all job candidates are beholden to the same resume review and to the same set of interview questions.

Equity, on the other hand, means that everyone is treated the way they deserve to be treated, in a way that accounts and corrects for systemic inequalities; for example, in an equitable hiring process, each job candidate’s experiences and skills are considered holistically, and interview questions are designed to understand whether a candidate meets the qualifications for the role, even if they took a non-traditional path to gain those skills.   

Building a diverse and equitable workplace takes real investment and hard work, but it’s also true that diversity is good for a company’s bottom line. For example, a study from Boston Consulting Group found that workplaces with more diversity on their management teams reported innovation revenue that was a full 19 percentage points higher than companies with less diversity among their leadership. 

But these diverse, innovative workplaces are not possible without an equitable hiring process. Here are a few examples for how employers can put such a process into practice:

Nix salary history questions: Fourteen states have already banned questions about salary history – and for good reason. Asking about a candidate’s past salaries exacerbates long-standing income inequalities for women, particularly women of color. Instead of asking a question that leads to continued underpayment, assess a candidate’s qualifications and then offer what they are worth, in alignment with others who hold similar roles within the company.

Question the gap bias: Recruiters can be skeptical of an unexplained gap in a candidate’s resume, which may prevent an applicant from even reaching the interview phase of the hiring process. In practice, this disadvantages women, who may have taken time away from their careers to raise children, especially if prior employers offered insufficient maternity leave. Time away from the workforce doesn’t mean a candidate isn’t qualified, so don’t put a resume aside for that reason alone.

Avoid the college trap: First and foremost, it’s important to consider whether a college degree is even necessary to perform a job, to ensure that candidates with the right qualifications but less access to higher education aren’t overlooked. But even in cases where college degrees are necessary, recruiters have failed to tap the talent pipeline from historically black colleges and universities, and this may be the result of a bias toward universities with which interviewers are more familiar, or perhaps even attended themselves. Rather than assessing the “name” of a university, ask questions to determine whether a candidate’s education – such as the classes they took or research they participated in – provided them with the skills they need for the role. 

These are just three of many ways that employers should be rethinking their hiring process. I hope employers will use these tips as an opportunity to bring more diversity to their organizations. Equitable hiring is the right way to bring more perspectives to the table, to offer more innovative goods and services to the communities they serve, and to secure the financial future of their business.

Thanks for reading! In the coming weeks and months, RALIANCE’s blog will be taking a closer look at other ways employers can build more equitable workplaces, so be sure to check back for more insights!

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