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Centering Equity in Hiring Senior Leadership

August 2022
David Harap
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Diverse senior leadership is the foundation of a strong company. However, the only way to achieve it is to create a hiring process that is equitable for all candidates. 

As a result of the differing perspectives and backgrounds diverse senior leadership offers, decision-makers are better able to relate to and understand the people who will be directly affected by the choices that they make.  

Equity Starts at the Top 

Companies around the world are working to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into every aspect of their business. However, senior leadership teams remain essentially unchanged. Crist Kolder Associates’ Volatility Report found that in 2021, about 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs were Latinx while only 1% were Black—showing that both groups are underrepresented in executive leadership. 

Creating a company where all employees feel like they belong requires leadership that understands them and represents the diversity inherent in the community. Diversity equips leaders to make better decisions for the companies they serve.  

However, equity starts at the top. A hiring process that centers on equity will empower companies to make unbiased and systematic decisions that strengthen them and move them toward their goals. 

Evaluate Your Senior Team and Set Goals 

Changing your hiring process to prioritize equity should start with recognizing where your company currently stands.  

Lever, a California-based applicant tracking system software company, suggests determining the current makeup of your company’s senior leadership; then, comparing it against local census data. This will allow you to see whether your company’s leadership reflects the community’s demographics. This data is also beneficial when you are launching new DE&I initiatives. Additionally, it can be used for data comparison, as a snapshot of where you started to keep track of your progress. 

Using this insight, you should set goals for what you want your senior team to look like. Goals should go beyond quotas, combining short-term and long-term goals to contribute to your company’s overall success. 

It is also essential to make your goals known. Loren Margolis, Founder and CEO of Training & Leadership Success LLC, told Forbes, “Set business goals so that everyone knows that removing unconscious bias and building diversity is key to the bottom line. Then, define what diversity means in your company. What ethnicities, ages, genders, and sexual preference groups are underrepresented? Next, set metrics to achieve at each step in your candidate pipeline: applicant funnels, interview conversion rates, and acceptances. Communicate successes.” 

Introducing goals and metrics to measure progress provides companies with a clear sense of direction and empowers them to implement tailored strategies to create an unbiased hiring process that centers on equity. 

Examine and Assess Your Hiring Process 

Bias can appear at any point in the hiring process. For this reason, companies should analyze each step of it and collect data to learn where there are built-in biases. 

One way to do this is by comparing conversion rates against EEO data. Lever reported that by doing this, “you might find that underrepresented candidates are passing phone screens but falling off after on-site panels at a disproportionately high rate. This tells you there is likely some sort of bias in a particular stage. With this information, you can identify the problem.” 

Keeping track of where underrepresented candidates drop off disproportionately will give you the insight needed to alter those steps, so it is fair to all qualified candidates. This is essential to create an unbiased hiring process that centers on equity. 

Adopt a Blind Review Process 

Companies can adopt a blind review process to ensure decisions are based on qualifications, skills, and overall fitness for the job. To implement a blind review process, you should remove names and faces from candidates when possible. This will ensure hiring decisions are based on candidates’ qualifications and skills rather than race, sex, or any other identity.  

Francesca Gino, a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, told HBR, “A blind, systematic process for reviewing applications and résumés will help you improve your chances of including the most relevant candidates in your interview pool, including uncovering some hidden gems.” Additionally, there is application tracking software available that can help implement a blind review process. 

Trial and Error 

It’s important to remember that no company is the same, and centering equity in senior leadership will be a learning experience. Consequently, it is essential to commit to the learning process and to try different strategies until something works.  

Also, document and keep track of the progress being made. Note which strategies have worked and which have not. Companies need to understand that building a fair hiring process takes time, and that results may not be immediate. It is crucial to give the process time. 

Yewande Ige, the Global Recruitment Strategist for ThoughtWorks, told LinkedIn, “The key is being willing to try, monitoring your results, and trying again when things don’t work out the way you hope.” 

Summary 

Shaping an equitable hiring process for senior leadership will transform companies, empowering them to reach new heights. The key to achieving this is reflecting on your current senior leadership and hiring process, setting clear goals, and finding new strategies to identify and reduce bias—such as adopting a blind review process. 

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