Confronting Implicit Bias while Building a Diverse Workforce

Ring Central Blog


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Mar 15, 2022

As the first truly global cloud communications and collaboration company, RingCentral has remained on the cutting edge of our industry in part by placing high priority on diversity as we build our company as well as our products. Diversity isn’t just a buzzword, and it’s also not just black and white. Research has shown that diversity and inclusion matter for many reasons – among them, diversity boosts innovation, team performance, and, ultimately, the bottom line. 

To be a diverse company, we have to think about representation across a number of variables. Knowing that the pandemic set women’s gains in the workforce back a whole generation, women have to be a particular concern right now. Data also show that black workers lost jobs at twice the rate of white workers during the pandemic. And the “Great Resignation” has seen younger workers leaving in droves, with some saying that they may never return to traditional work. 

Especially given the impact of the “Great Resignation,” businesses have to rethink their hiring practices and make sure that they are doing their very best to hire a diverse workforce given some very trying circumstances. We’re fortunate that we do know where to begin with that, and it’s not via the perfectly-crafted job posting or luring new staff in with luxurious perks. To hire the best, we have to know ourselves best first, and one way to do that is by exploring the biases that we may be carrying. 

One way to reveal our biases is through taking Implicit Association Tests (IAT). There are over a dozen of these, and they are very eye-opening when it comes to gaps between our own theories and practices when it comes to biases. 

After becoming aware of our biases, there are a few more things that we can do in order to make sure that diversity remains a priority, including:

1) Offering flexibility is the most important factor in securing a diverse workforce. Making sure to support flexible hours and the ability to work from anywhere with the best tools for connection and collaboration helps to ensure a level playing field.

2) Don’t make assumptions about those who opt to return to in-office work as opposed to those with whom you might work only in virtual space – and make sure not to favor one group over the other. The pandemic changed how we work, and each person and family made their own unique decisions about what they needed to do in order to cope during a difficult time. Make sure not to punish people whose choices differ from your own or from that of other workers. 

3) Raise awareness of implicit bias by teaching your employees what implicit biases are and how to identify their own. Employees who are better informed about bias are more likely to scrutinize and correct their own behaviors.

4) Partner with groups like Girls Who Code that help to target diversity in your hiring pipeline.

5) Define job requirements narrowly and with the awareness that women are likely to apply for a position when they meet 100% or more of requirements; men will apply if they meet only 60%. Make it less stressful for female applicants by giving them a true target to hit, not a wish list. 

6) Think about hiring as a team-building, not a one-by-one effort. As diversity is very much about the composition of a group, this makes a lot of sense.

History has given us a great example of why confronting our implicit biases is essential to building a diverse workforce. According to the American Economic Review, in the 1970s, America’s symphony orchestras were only 5% women. Orchestras began to hold “blind” auditions, which involved putting up a screen so that the player couldn’t be seen and laying down carpet so that women’s heels couldn’t be detected clicking across the floor. These seemingly-minor changes increased the likelihood that women would join orchestras by 50%.

For companies to orchestrate more diverse workforces, we don’t need screens and carpet. Rather, we need to consider our own implicit biases alongside what a wide range of diverse staff will need in order to want to join our companies and then stay and thrive within them.

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