Equity in Recruiting: What we’ve learned so far

By Lindsay Stuiber, Senior Director of Talent at Change.org

Recently, Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf stated that the lack of diversity at Wells Fargo could be blamed on a “limited pool of Black talent.” Once his statements went viral, he quickly apologized. But since then, Black women have left the company in droves.

To combat this happening at their organizations, executives across the board have made promises to “do better.” Starting this summer, the trend of companies publicly committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion has exploded. But without a clear commitment to action, these pledges mean nothing. The numbers remain devastatingly poor across the board and yet organizations consistently get away with simply saying that they’re trying.

As a woman of mixed race, I have experienced hiring discrimination both explicitly and implicitly. I’ve been in the talent space for 7 years and spent 10 years in the education space leading and building teams. I’ve heard the coded language during roundtable discussions about candidates and I know this translates to the following:

  • people in power default to hiring those with whom they have chemistry and are comfortable with.
  • If teams are relying on the systems of hiring that aren’t rooted squarely in equity, then naturally that system is going to default to results that are homogenous.

Simply put, if your hiring system is not built to root out bias, inequity, and white supremacy, you need to tear down and rebuild your system from scratch.

It’s not that complicated: if you want to hire people of color, commit to developing an equity-based talent system. Like many companies, Change.org is on a journey to increase representation, and after committing to it we’re seeing real results: in 2019 alone, 70% of our hires across Engineering, Executive, Product, Campaigns, and Operations were women and people of color.

Developing a more equitable hiring system doesn’t occur in a week. In order to radically shift our results at Change.org we needed to shift the way we think about talent.

As the organization grew over the years, we faced the typical problem of unintentional homogeneity at tech companies and advocacy organizations across the globe. Like many, we are reckoning with the fact that representation of historically marginalized communities is severely lacking on our team. The first step to changing this was simple: recognizing, as a group, in a real way, that this is unacceptable.

As the head of the talent team, I focused on the data. What I saw is that we consistently focused on front-of-the pipeline goals with limited attention on how we were evaluating candidates. We often kicked-off roles that were poorly defined. The research shows that when hiring managers and teams lack clarity or alignment we all tend to gravitate towards comfort and familiarity. More often than not, comfort and familiarity means White male. What the data revealed at Change is that if there is only one “other” (a person of color or woman, for example) in the final stage with candidates from the dominant group (male or white), the “other” had an extremely low chance of getting the offer.

So my focus turned towards creating a shared language and standards for evaluation that were firmly rooted in equity. This meant experimenting, iterating, and breaking the interview process down into component parts. The hiring system we now employ is one that was developed with intention and embedded with equity principles. As a result, we’ve seen a steady increase in candidates of color reaching the onsite stage and receiving offers.

We also worked with hiring teams to ensure that interview questions always have a DEI lens. Even with limited resources, this simple implementation started moving the needle.

To date in 2020, 80% of our new hires so far have been women and people of color, and we have doubled representation of Black identified staff in the past 12 months. And this is just the beginning.

Achieving diversity is not complicated once a leadership team genuinely commits to it. Solve your DEI problem like you would any other business problem: articulate ambitious goals, interrogate the data, commit your time to making it happen, and just do it. If you truly value diversity, equity, and inclusion, you can move the needle and make progress. This is what trying can actually accomplish.

Great leaders are great because of their ability to achieve great results. If we all actually genuinely committed to diversity with the same level of seriousness as we do to any other business outcome we genuinely want, we’d figure it out. It’s a question of commitment, not the pipeline.

Lindsay Stuiber is the Senior Director of Talent for Change.org, where she builds key DEI initiatives to grow representation across the organization. With over 7 years in recruitment and development, Lindsay is passionate about partnering with company leaders to develop thoughtful and efficient practices that attract diverse talent.



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Change.org is the world’s largest civic action platform, using technology to empower more than 450 million users to create the change they want to see.