Diversity Should Be a Hiring Priority. Why isn’t it?

In a recent Deloitte report, 52% of employees said gender diversity was not a C-Suite priority for their executives . According to another report by DiversityInc, only 0.8% of CEOs are African Americans . Diversity in gender and race in HR is one of the most important factors in a successful business (as we’ll discuss later in this article), but it seems consistently ignored by the people best equipped to make the difference. Why is this?

Racial Diversity: Hire and Forget

Even the most prominent and successful companies, the ones everyone else looks to to find success, aren’t doing right by minorities. Google, often seen as the market leader when it comes to software, has a workforce made up of only 30% women and only 35% minorities , with only 5% of those minority numbers coming from African American or Hispanic backgrounds, despite the fact that they make up around 11% of college IT graduates .

This lack of diversity is prominent in just about every part of business, but in HR it’s even more impactful. Beyond handling some recruiting functions, HR is responsible for the complaints many people place with the companies they work for. Without diversity, HR managers may not have the groundwork to relate to some of the issues employees of different races might place. When companies tout diversity but only take half-measures, it can actually be harmful to business. But the answer isn’t to exclude people — it’s to more fully include them.

An Unfortunate Boys’ Club

The number one factor in making leadership hires should always be qualifications, so why are women consistently looked over when it comes to succession planning and executive positions? Naomi Bloom ( @inFullBloomUS ), a veteran HR management expert, attributes this lack of recognition to a tribal culture where those in power (usually white men) take care of and promote their own.

“Those who make leadership appointments remain substantially male and white, and they tend to appoint folks who look and behave like them in spite of the often awesome credentials and performance of their female and minority colleagues. Sometimes this is a result of real biases — he’s assertive whereas she is bossy — and sometimes it’s a result of that much more subtle but equally destructive comfort factor.”

This leads to a corporate landscape where the number of CEOs named “John” and “David” both outnumber all women in CEO positions . This skew in leadership trickles down to other departments (eventually affecting HR), because it reinforces the idea that only certain people are qualified for particular roles, placing people in boxes they should be free from.

Diversity is a Resource — Harness it

Your initial efforts to diversify your company might be a bit bumpy, but the rewards on the other side are worth it. There’s more to diversity than making your company more appealing to work for; organizations with a racially diverse workforce outperform their non-diverse counterparts by an average of 35%. Better gender diversity also leads to a 14% net profit.

It won’t be easy, but there are small steps you can take in modifying your HR hiring process to accommodate people of all kinds. Begin by weeding out as much bias in the hiring process as you can. Make applications anonymous until the interview. Use as diverse a hiring team as you can to make sure checks and balances are in place to prevent one person’s preconceived notions from controlling the process. Administer skill-based tests and use them, along with the interview, to determine who’s best qualified for the job. Making all these efforts will lead to better, more diverse hires today, and better returns and company growth tomorrow.