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My company's workforce is mainly white, heterosexual and cis-male. Partly this is due to a lack of available hires in my industry (software/robotics).

Still, I would wish we could also attract other people.

What can we do to make it a safe workplace for everyone and communicate that it is one?


To clarify:

My motivation is to increase equality by making the place more welcoming to everyone.

It is already welcoming to white cis men. I do not want to change that. I want to make it more welcoming to other people too.

We already promote after work activities that are all primarily stereotypically male activities (e.g. Beer drinking, BBQ and Table Soccer). We do not promote any other activities that are not stereotypically male.

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7 Answers 7

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I have worked in both large and small tech companies that have valued inclusion and diversity and here is how we’ve done it. The results have been highly skilled teams that are not all white straight men, which leads to a wider set of experiences informing our products and services and better relationships with clients.

  1. Start with saying it out loud, both internally and externally, that you value diversity and are trying to make your hiring inclusive. Just about every major company has a page like this - it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re really inclusive and it can be lip service, but between companies giving lip service and ones refusing to, the latter are a lot more likely to have a leader have some drinks and start talking about “those people,” in my experience.
  2. Get the word out about hiring to places where more inclusive crowds gather. Around here there are various user groups like Girls Who Code and various tech groups for Black, Hispanic, LGBTQIA+, etc. techies. Send job postings to them!
  3. Train people, especially interviewers, on avoiding bias and not defining “culture fit” as “just like us in every way but, you know, different cosmetics.” Learn how to identify talent and results outside the usual. Word job posts using inclusive language (there are guides on how to do this, I’ve talked to a consultant that helped me learn this in one role).
  4. Advanced topic, overcoming privilege. Determine if candidates really need 4 year CS degrees or if candidates with talent coming out of community colleges, code camps, etc. are also good, and invest in training. Offer benefits like visa sponsorship, remote/flexible work, child care (at least via fsa) and similar that help those with kids, foreign roots, etc. enter the workforce.
  5. Ensure that you are cultivating a workplace that does not push out “others” (hate speech, etc.) and does not discriminate against them in promotion by valuing social sameness (e.g. hanging out with the boss at the country club - or strip club) over results.
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    If you can, have your business support STEM groups in high school and college. With my business, the pool of candidates is not very diversified to begin with. Jun 14, 2023 at 21:58
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    +1 for point 4. I have worked in the embedded software field for nearly 40 years and by far the best programmers that I have worked with were non graduates or had degrees in subjects like Music or Mathematics. The worst were all computer science graduates.
    – uɐɪ
    Jun 15, 2023 at 7:49
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    Great answer. I think no 3 is most important and where you can make the most impact. Most people are not aware of their bias. How often are women cut off in mid sentence? How competent do you assume someone to be based on gender, dress-code, confidence or even music preference? Do not just focus on the "usual groups" (women, race), but be inclusive for everyone, e.g. including ASD, disabled, even introverts (who can be a great asset in some fields, even as tech managers). Jul 8, 2023 at 12:55
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    Going to college is not "privilege". Its a choice. Pretty poor wording. Almost as poor as I was growing up but I still earned two degrees because I worked hard and knew what I was aiming for. The only privilege on that front comes from bias in the admissions departments.
    – Rig
    Jul 18, 2023 at 19:28
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    Neat answer, two things you might want to address if you agree: Since OP does not want to make it less attractive for cis-hetero-males, they might need to be careful with the wording and outside presentation regarding 1) because in the current climate a too over the top diversity advertisement can easily veer into being perceived as racist/sexist hiring policy, just saying the wording needs to be carefully chosen. Also think 3) is where the most impact can be made, not so much due to prejudices, but how people present themselves. Often "bro"-culture displayed in interviews will push certain Jul 22, 2023 at 17:18
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I work at a company that has done a good job at accidently being very diverse.

How do you do it?

Step One: Get rid of people who care about things such as race/sex/sexual orientation. One such group are people who make statements such as "We need a more diverse workforce".

Why are they bad?

  1. They are toxic employees who create a hostile work environment by bringing race/sex/sexual orientation of employees into the discussion when hiring someone.. in other words, bringing up attributes of a potential hire that don't effect their ability to do the job. You don't hire a white man, black man, latino, woman, or LBTQ+. You hire a software engineer. Everything else is irrelevant.

  2. Not only that but they have a tendency to go onto twitter (now X), indeed, and other workplace sites and complain about how racist/sexist/etc... your company is which discourages diversity. No one wants to work at a company where they will face discrimination. Except of course for people who barely scrape by as engineers and figure "Hey, I can be a checkbox and take home a check"... Which will only reinforce existing prejudices (if there are any).

  3. Such people are so filled with the righteousness of their cause that they are extremely inflexible and rigid. Don't need crusaders, need good employees who play well with others.

Secondly: Hire based on merit. Only things that matter when hiring someone are:

  1. Can they do the job. How we do this? ask technical questions until you hit something that they don't know. The humility to say "I don't know" is more valuable then knowledge... Can teach skills, wisdom is much harder to teach.

  2. Will I enjoy working with them? no matter how qualified an individual is. If working with them makes you want to gouge out your brain with a dull spoon, don't hire them. They are not worth it. They will create negative productivity. Cause people to leave. etc...

  3. Are they mature enough. You don't want to hire someone who cannot create a strong boundary between personnel life and professional life. Work is work. Personnel life is personnel life... Leave your politics at the gate we are here to solve engineering problems. Not societal problems. An easy way to test for this is to recommend interviewees to come "professionally dressed." People unwilling to dress to impress (and we the interviewers have to suffer thru this too, we don't dress fancy every day) because it interferes with their "style" or whatever... Lack the maturity/ability to compromise that is required for consistent long term social interactions with people of different socio/economic backgrounds (which are far more important in terms of diversity of thought then superficial differences.

  4. No token Women/Black/Indian/Whatever in hiring committees. Hiring is done by the group with the open position. Don't bring a women into the hiring committee just because you are hiring a women. It is disingenuous and makes candidate feel like you are looking at them as a diversity checkbox rather than an individual. Good candidates will be insulted by this and find a different employer. Bad candidates won't care and won't be hired because they didn't meet points 1, 2, 3. Only people in the interviewing process are the manager, some randomly selected co-workers (shortest straw loses...), and HR. People that the new hire will interact with on a daily basis.

Third: Invest in your employees.

  • Most of our hires are entry level positions... Because all of the high level positions in the company (except when the company is expanding in a new direction and needs specific/unique skillset at a high level) are filled by internal promotions. This does mean that you can see how the makeup of software engineers in the USA has changed overtime... And I would guess that this is the number 1 reason for diversity because as the pool of candidate becomes more diverse so have our hires, not by intention but because we hire based on merit.

  • Have good leave policies. Maternal/Paternal family leave. FMLA leave, etc... Also also encourage employees to use their vacation days. Employees are an investment. time off is important, family is important (to those with families)...

  • Have a good retirement package, that encourages employees to stay long term.

  • Discourage overtime. If a project takes overtime to finish, that project was poorly planned/managed. Sometimes it is required due to unforeseen problems... But employees (and their families if they have families) need to be compensated for their overtime. Just because someone is "exempt" doesn't mean their overtime is free.

  • Value the dignity of work. As a company we do not value diversity/inclusiveness because frankly they do not impact the bottom line/serve purpose of the company. However racism/sexism/bigotry in any form is not tolerated. All work is valuable, be it janitor or CEO. Additionally never make people redundant. Jobs can become redundant which leads to retraining. But laying off people because their job has been automated is bad taste. This also creates employee loyalty.

    • Part of valuing the dignity of work is good pay. People don't work for free. And it is more expensive to replace someone then it is to pay them what they are worth. At least for us.
    • Be conservative. Explosive growth, then layoffs, then explosive growth then layoffs shows bad planning, and makes people feel like they are not valued.

That's all we have done/do. note this is not advice on how to make a "diverse company" this is advice on how to make a company that people want to work at... This won't guarantee a "diverse workforce" which is a pointless goal as there is nothing about "diversity" that makes your company good or bad and it is also a very racially charged/bigoted goal, having this as a goal for your business makes you someone we wouldn't hire, we don't hire racists/bigots. Also, following this process you could very easily end up with a mono race workforce depending on who applied to the company/how individuals compared to another. But it will ensure that you hire people based on their merit, which should tend you towards a diverse set of candidates over time.

If you think that hiring solely based on merit will not lead to a diverse set of hires. It could very well be that you secretly think that some groups of people just aren't as qualified as other groups of people.

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Best way to make your company more diverse? Only look at LGBTQ+/more diverse applicants. Stop promoting Cis white heteronormative men internally. This will increase your companies diversity by increasing the number of diverse hires, and decreasing the number of white heteronormative males in your company as they leave when they realize they won't be promoted due to their race/sex/sexual orientation. Which will serve to increase your diversity even more!*

Oh, you didn't mean forced diversity? men make up 83% of all engineers. White's make up 67% of all engineers. White men make up 50% of all software engineers, in the USA. In Germany, I think an even higher percentage of engineers are white, as Germany is an 86% white country.

Diversity hiring is a big initiative at Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Intel, AMD, Microsoft, Cisco, HP, etc... Unless your company is offering the same benefits/pay as those giants, the majority of your applicants are going to be white men. The big corps hire a lot graduates... It is likely that a large percentage of your hires are people who were rejected by the above because they were white men... You may not be aware of this, but they are and probably very leery of the term "more diverse/inclusive" which to them means "will discriminate against me based on the color of my skin". If you start speaking loudly about becoming a "more diverse company" a lot of your talent pool will start looking for a company that isn't racist/sexist/hetrnormativephobic against white males. It's possible that the brain drain that causes will be bad for business.

* Hiring people for diversity is sexist/racist. If you don't see how it is racist/sexist to hire people based on their race/sex/sexual orientation, instead of their qualifications for the job then you just might be sexist/racist.

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Originally I already added a comment since your question was locked, but I'm happy to see it's open again now.

In short, the fast (but still legal and not detrimental to the actual work) way to diversify is to introduce positions that have more diverse pool of applicants. Entry level positions have big pools => bigger chances. Other types of positions, such as designer, HR have a more diverse pool (if by any chances you guys would benefit from that employee).

Other than that, people of different skin colours and sexes are looking for the same thing - fulfilling work for a fair pay. Provide that and you'll get the most possible candidates. It's not your fault the pools are what they are.

In the meanwhile, be nice to your current employees. I don't know how I would feel if I saw my boss writing "there's too many white female sexually ambiguous employees here, how do I change that". I know you mean well, but try to look from their perspective.

You can make your workplace ready for diverse hires by standing up for your current employees. In my experience, anyone who had strong feelings about how women should be also had strong feelings about how other men should be (and would let others know). Eg, I work in IT and one guy just nonchalantly joked about some guy asking if a meal contains milk. Because apparently lactose intolerance is hilariously unmanly.

But I hope this last part is irrelevant to you and guys in your company are respectful of each other. Even among straight white men there's enough diversity and making sure that's respected is good training wheels for a more diverse group. If they are respectful to each other, it's unlikely they'll suddenly be rude to a new hire.

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From the perspective of an completely out homosexual man....please don't. Just treat us like everyone else and hire the best people for the job.

In my 30+ year career, I've met plenty of LGBTs with little to no effort on the part of the employer.

stereotypically male activities (e.g. Beer drinking, BBQ and Table Soccer)

I guess you don't know many gay men or lesbians. :) Why would you think we wouldn't enjoy these as well?

Finally, we don't want to work with a 'check-box hire' any more than anyone else and you risk reenforcing a stereotype if they don't work out. Skills, creativity and work ethic set the example.

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    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on The Workplace Meta, or in The Workplace Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Kilisi
    Aug 8, 2023 at 3:16
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    The comments while interesting were going nowhere so I've moved them, feel free to continue your discussion in chat.
    – Kilisi
    Aug 8, 2023 at 3:18
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Step 1: In your job advert, add “diverse candidates welcome”. This should attract these people to apply at your company, plus keeps some people that you don’t want from applying. Better: Ask someone with actual experience about the best wording to make it as effective as possible and legal.

Step 2: Make sure there is no numpty in HR who bins applications based on name. That happens unfortunately.

Step 3: In your interviews consider that different groups act in different ways. Two people with identical knowledge will give you different answers. Some have been raised to act confident, others haven’t. Don’t fall for that. Find who is best for the job, but find it accurately not based on your prejudices.

Step 4: Make sure all employees back you. If you hire someone and they get harassed, come down hard on the offender. That goes in all directions.

Step 5: Not often a problem, but make sure your workplace is suitable for everyone.

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    Step 5 actually can be a big problem. There are many companies where discrimination has been part of people's culture for so long that they do not realize that what they consider normal might make the workplace hostile to some people. Consider if many people in the company support the AfD and support for those policies are expressed commonly.
    – David R
    Jun 15, 2023 at 16:03
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    David I meant literally the workplace (office). Is it suitable for a wheelchair user, do you have enough toilets, that kind of thing. Never looked at the country tag, so lucky I know what AfD means (and I thought fj Strauss was right wing years ago).
    – gnasher729
    Jun 16, 2023 at 22:19
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When hiring, have one person filter/mask all "unimportant" information in CVs and covering letters.

Specifically, blot out names and any hint of gender. Remove photos if supplied. Give each candidate a number based on the order their CV arrived.

Then the first cull should be done by a different person. This forces the initial selection to be highly focussed on skills and prior history and relevant stuff not their gender or age or appearance.

Once you've eliminated the bottom 50-80% do you look at any other detail in the process, and this is the point you become aware of names.

Ultimately you want the best 3-5 candidates for the position for interviews.

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    That is a good stratedgy, but i think the hiring process is not the problem. We do not even get applicants that are not white males. Our problem is more with attracting those employees. Jun 29, 2023 at 8:30
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    related: article about "blind audition": theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2013/oct/14/… Jul 8, 2023 at 13:16
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    @SybillePeters Nice link, thank you. I initially read it as "blind auction" and was confused at first :)
    – Criggie
    Jul 8, 2023 at 21:39
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    This is the only correct answer I see here. You could blot out college names too but there is some degree of difference in institutions. This gets you candidates with the qualifications in for the interview and doesn't encourage lowering standards or expectations to get someone of a certain color or sexual preference.
    – Rig
    Jul 18, 2023 at 19:34

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