Rocki Howard – Diversity Can Not Exist In A Vacuum!

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May 4, 2021
This article is part of a series called SourceCon Digital Conference.

Day 3 at SourceCon, yet the energy was just the same as Day 1. Rocki Howard, Chief Diversity Officer, Smart Recruiters, began her keynote by discussing how vital Diversity is for any company or organization that employs people in today’s time.

She started with laying context around the topic by talking about Power, Privilege, and Pledges at first. In literal meaning, Power is the capacity or ability to direct or influence others’ behavior or the course of events. To relate it with the topic, she explained how ‘white’ men have enjoyed this Power for a long time and have also been enjoyed by certain groups but not by LGBTQA+ groups, many under-represented groups, etc. In short Power = Influence.

Power and Privilege go hand in hand. It is a form of ‘exception’ or ‘Immunity’ you get and enjoy being from a particular group or community. You can have (or lack) Privilege because of your race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, wealth, class, among many other characteristics.

Rocki continued to discuss the stark difference between ‘Intention‘ vs ‘Impact.’ today, many companies, especially the senior leadership, intend to act upon Diversity and Inclusion in their companies. Intent means to plan, take any action, and do or perform what has been planned to achieve an actual outcome. To make an impact, it is crucial at first to take a ‘Pledge.’ In simple words, a Pledge is a Solemn promise or undertaking TO DO or perform something. She quoted the Pledge of allegiance as a perfect example, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”

Followed by this quote, she questioned the reality and, at the same time, asked for a show of hands who feel that their companies/organizations are making an impact vs just adding D&I as performance goals for their employees without providing proper resources or guidelines on how actually to achieve and track those D&I goals? It was not shocking to see that most people felt that the companies they are working at are just adding these as goals vs actually doing it.

It signified a disconnect between what organizations pledge vs what actions they take to make an impact.

If there were an actual impact taking place in society, we would not have witnessed what led to George Floyd’s death in the US. He became the face of the movement, which not only united the black community but many other under-represented groups to stand up and be a part of the change that we all deserve and have yearned to see over the last decades.

According to the Human rights campaign, last year, 65% of the general public said they agree that companies should respond to George Floyd’s death and support the ongoing Black lives Matter movement.

According to JustCapital, 89% of Americans believe that 2020 was that moment in history that represents an opportunity for companies to hit the “reset” button. It was the time to Call for an “Action,” and it was the time to change the landscape regarding the unemployment rates for various under-represented groups.

Rocki shared some interesting stats that in 2020, the unemployment rate for:

  • Veterans were 11.7% (Source)
  • People with disabilities was 12.6%
  • Asian workers were 13.8%
  • Latinx workers were 14.5%
  • Black workers were 15.4%

As compared to the 7.3% unemployment rate for ‘White’ workers.

Rocki switched gears from here and spoke directly to what actions the industry should take according to its employees vs what steps they took. According to Glassdoor research, 78 percent of employees expect their employers to be inclusive and treat everyone equally at the workplace. Companies needed to change their strategy and focus more on Diversity as we advance. She shared how Over 1600 CEOs and presidents signed the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion pledge.

Adding some humor here, I hope that these CEOs didn’t have their fingers crossed at the back while signing these pledges.

Questioning the Pledge’s authenticity, Rocki shared the following stats that displayed the existing disconnect yet again, and Diversity and equity are still existing issues:

  • Men are twice as likely to get hired, regardless of the hiring manager’s gender.
  • Black candidates are 50% less likely to receive callbacks as compared to white candidates.
  • In the US, there are more CEOs called John or David than there are female CEOs
  • 7.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women
  • <1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black/African-American1
  • In the top executive ranks, 85% of positions are held by whites
  • 22% of LBGTQ Americans have not been paid or promoted at the same rate as their peers
  • 45% of American workers experienced discrimination and/or harassment in the workplace in the past year.

Those are the Facts!

Contrasting stats show how Companies with

  • Racial and ethnic Diversity are 35% more likely to perform at a higher level and have increased ROI.
  • Diverse teams are 87% better decision-makers than individual decision making
  • An equal number of men and women employees manage to produce up to 41% higher revenue.
  • Highly inclusive companies are more likely to hit their financial target goals by up to 120%.

Witnessing these high growth metrics, senior leaders are now turning to ‘You’ for solutions! How?

They signed you up to pledge! Where? In your performance goals.

Rocki laid these invaluable facts and context and jumped in to discuss how Sourcing in a vacuum is a challenge that we need to tackle as a recruiter or sourcer. Hiring managers try to solve the diversity issues relying primarily on guidance from their Recruiters or Talent partners. She shared that our work is sabotaged most of the time by some external factors, but no matter if you are a sourcer or recruiter, you have the Power & Privilege to connect diverse people to jobs. You can minimize the prevailing rhetoric worldwide that diverse talent doesn’t exist.

She also emphasized how crucial Support is for Recruiters or Sourcers to hire Diverse talent for companies successfully.

First and foremost is Organizational Support. Organizations need to establish an accountability framework related to specific Diversity hiring goals, training at all levels, and holding leadership accountable. The organization should chart out the way to support those pledges made and also clarify specific hiring purposes.

At second place is Diversity brand equity, which means the ability to allow under-represented candidates to see themselves working for you through various brand interactions. How you achieve it?

  • Commitment to Diversity
  • Neutral job descriptions
  • Accesible hiring process
  • Making sure company collateral is a mirror image of your diversity and inclusion strategy and goals

The third is having fair and equitable hiring practices. Ensuring that the candidate pipelines are designed in a way to eliminate any bias. Delivering a consistent perspective and structure to the hiring process ensures that all hiring touchpoints are bias-free. Additional items:

  • Diversified hiring teams that are part of the interview process for all candidates
  • No bias screening (Example- Blind resume reviews)
  • Structured interview process which is standard across the organization and role types

It can improve your chances to impact diverse hiring when all candidates are treated equally.

The fourth point Rocki discussed was Sourcing strategically, and she referred to the 5C’s (Culture, Community, Colleges, Companies, and Candidates) from Teddy Dimitrova’s talk here. There has been a lot of information shared by the speakers at SourceCon on how to source for Diversity especially when it comes to various tools. She stressed the importance of hiring talent at scale, on time, and within budget by proactively and strategically building a diverse talent pipeline. Key points:

  • Tailored sourcing approach
  • Diverse talent community
  • Fair and competitive internal hiring

To wrap the keynote, Rocki emphasized that it is your Time to Honour the Pledge. She shared various diversity articles (Links below) and a Diversity Hiring Toolkit (Free access), which will provide organizations with the opportunity to evaluate their current hiring competency and develop a definitive, actionable plan to improve Diversity hiring outcomes.


8 Examples of Unconscious Bias In Job Descriptions (2020 Update)

12 Diversity Statistics That Will Make You Rethink Your Hiring Decisions

20 Diversity in the Workplace Statistics to Know for 2021

25 Examples of Biased Language

80+ Diversity In The Workplace Statistics You Should Know

Companies Are Making Bold Promises About Greater Diversity, But There is a Long Way to Go

Diversity and Inclusion: 4 Powerful Stats HR Leaders Should Know

Gap in US Black and White Unemployment Rates Is Widest in 5 Years

Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans are on the Rise

How the Black Lives Matter Movement Has Quickly Shaped Consumer Expectations on Corporate Activism

New FBI Hate Crimes Reports Shows Increase in Anti LGBTQ Attacks

The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace – 20 Key Statistics

This article is part of a series called SourceCon Digital Conference.