According to recent studies, recruiters are increasingly focused on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in their hiring practices. However, the tech industry continues to miss the mark when it comes to attracting and retaining diverse talent from underrepresented groups. Compelled to positively contribute to the black community’s advancement in the tech industry, Mechanical Design Engineer Tyron François launched a podcast.
CodeSwitch.io is a podcast where tech professionals explore the skills and character traits contributing to their success. The discussions with François aim to show marginalized groups that a tech career is stimulating, rewarding, and, most importantly, attainable. A critical resource for industry hopefuls, the podcast also offers insights for talent acquisition teams, and engineering leads hiring tech roles.
Below, François discusses the development of CodeSwitch.io, DE&I in the tech industry, and strategies businesses can leverage to mitigate bias when hiring engineers.
What does DE&I mean to you, and why is it so important in the tech community?
François: To me, DE&I means cultivating and celebrating a diverse workplace while implementing business practices (and values) that allow all members to feel acknowledged, accepted, and appreciated.
Prioritizing DE&I within the tech industry is particularly important. Studies have shown that gender and racial representation within the industry do not accurately reflect the available workforce.
DE&I can have a real impact within tech on prospective and current workers, companies, and consumers. Fostering an inclusive workplace enables tech workers from marginalized groups to feel supported and empowered, which increases employee retention and satisfaction.
Consumers can also benefit from DE&I when products and services are designed with all user demographics in mind. This ensures that no one is left feeling underserved and undervalued or, worse, unprotected.
What has been the most rewarding thing about your career in tech (so far)?
François: The continuous learning and implementation of new skills have been one of the most rewarding things so far. I’m continually learning new programming languages to automate repetitive tasks, creating even more intricate parts by honing my computer-aided design skills or identifying patterns by increasing my data analytics knowledge.
Who (or what) is your current source of inspiration?
François: I’m driven by the belief that we’re all meant to influence the world through love and self-fulfillment. Professionally, that means becoming the best engineer that I can while ensuring that my work contributes to the betterment of society.
When did you decide to start a podcast based on underrepresented groups in technology?
François: The idea came about during the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement last spring. Learning about Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd’s assassinations, I felt compelled to positively contribute to the black community’s advancement.
The ultimate goal is twofold:
1) Highlight talented folks belonging to the tech industry’s marginalized groups.
2) Reinforce how a tech career is stimulating, rewarding, and most of all attainable.
Although certain demographics are marginalized, the former is essential because we occupy this space, and many of us have noteworthy accomplishments. The latter is crucial because mental barriers often impede underrepresented folks from pursuing a career in technology.
I want to spread awareness that a tech career can be fulfilling and attainable. It’s also important to share that underrepresented communities can reap all the benefits that the tech industry offers. Things like flexible schedules, stimulating tasks, higher salaries, access to stock options, and restricted stock units are all possible.
What hiring strategies can you recommend businesses leverage to mitigate bias?
François: The first step is acknowledging that we all have unconscious biases that cloud our judgment. Once we’ve accepted that we’re all susceptible to such influence, we can take actionable steps towards objectivity. The following practices outlined by reputable sources strongly resonate with me and seem conducive to mitigating unconscious biases in hiring:
- Eliminate University Bias.
- Historically, Black Colleges/Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) frequently produce competent candidates that can compete with Ivy League graduates. Removing university names from the resume selection process can help mitigate implicit bias, according to Glassdoor.
- Leverage partition dependence bias.
- Humans tend to draw different conclusions from the same information, depending on how the data is grouped. According to Zhiyu Feng’s article, that’s “partition dependence bias,” published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal.
- The study found that when resumes were all grouped, HR professionals were less likely to select candidates from diverse backgrounds. However, when the resumes were categorized based on a “diversity-related dimension,” such as gender, ethnicity, or nationality, HR professionals were more likely to select diverse candidates. Manipulating the partitions can help increase workplace diversity.
- Prioritize culture “add” over culture “fit.”
- Companies can mean well but inadvertently discourage diversity. According to Forbes, attributing too much importance to cultivating like-minded thinking disguised as “culture-fit” can impede diversity and inclusion.
- On the contrary, a “culture-add” approach welcomes individuals with unique perspectives.
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