A majority of senior executives think that diversity is good for business but that hasn’t translated into noticeably more diverse workforces around the world. In Silicon Valley, where a scarcity of “talent” is keenly felt, employers sometimes blame slow progress toward greater diversity in the tech sector on the “pipeline problem”. The tech giants would like to hire more women and minorities, they say, but there just aren’t enough candidates from diverse backgrounds pursuing education in STEM fields and obtaining the skills they need to qualify for the jobs these companies are looking to fill.
But big tech companies and others are starting to realize that this “pipeline problem” isn’t going to solve itself. Some tech firms are trying to build bigger and more diverse pipelines by partnering with universities, coding bootcamps, and other educational institutions to create more opportunities for students from underrepresented communities.
Cisco and EY
Cisco, one of the world’s largest makers of networking gear, and EY, one of the big four accounting firms, and formerly known as Ernst & Young, have both made investments in filling their respective pipelines recently, and HRE profiled both of them.
The piece quotes Kelly Jones, director of talent acquisition and global university relations at Cisco, as explaining how the firm used its, “‘Diverse Representation Framework,’ an internally created data-analytics tool, to help it identify schools that would be good potential sources of diverse talent. It also trained its campus recruiters to use data mining to identify top students in science, technology, engineering and math fields.” She adds that, “engineers constitute about 60% of Cisco’s annual hires.”
She explains how the company focuses on STEM students at the beginning of their university careers, “We go a bit deeper, focusing on students who are freshman [first years] and sophomores [second years], because juniors and seniors have already decided on their major — but sophomores and freshmen are often still exploring.
EY goes further and looks to high school students. The company sponsors an annual summer camp at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business called “Discover Yourself in Accounting Majors and Careers.” The program sees, “high-achieving high-school juniors and seniors from first-generation, minority and low-income families live in the dorms, visit classrooms and a local EY office, conduct case studies, and participate in fun activities such as laser tag and tours of the football stadium.”
Retain as Well as Recruit
These initiatives reflect what CEOs and heads of diversity and inclusion (D&I) are most focused on in their D&I efforts today. In an annual survey from PwC, 90% of CEOs identified attracting the best talent as a way to improve their D&I strategy. And, according to CEB data, about two-thirds of D&I leaders have identified influencing the diversity of talent acquisition as a top priority for this year.
One thing that isn’t addressed in the HRE article is how these companies plan to maintain their diverse pipelines once they have established them. This is important, because one of the main challenges companies face in recruiting diverse candidates comes from retaining the people they attract. Intel, for example, made diversity retention a priority after realizing that many of its diverse new hires did not remain at the company for very long. Companies are increasingly aware of the importance of developing a more diverse leadership bench: two-thirds of heads of D&I also say that leadership development was among their priorities for 2017, according to CEB data.
So when employers talk about extending the diversity pipeline, they should think about extending it forward as well as backward, to not only catch the interest of a diverse workforce at an early age but also to ensure that these people are nurtured and make their way into the company’s leadership pipeline.