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Time for change

Time for change

It’s been six years since Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft first released diversity reports, revealing the companies’ workforces were overwhelmingly white or Asian men. Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote his employees a letter promising the company would be “as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing products.” 

It’s been 30 years since a study by researchers at Northwestern University and Harvard in the US and the Institute for Social Research in Norway looked at the results of every available field experiment on hiring discrimination in the US from 1989 to 2015 – 24 studies in total, it said anti-black racism in hiring was unchanged since at least 1989.

Other research such as this  Oxford University study shows that shocking bias in CV’s and résumé is unchanged in 50 years! 

You get the picture, the writing is on the wall. The old ways are not working. There has been no change. It has not gotten better. 

It’s like watching a Netflix documentary. Everything you thought you knew is in fact false. Free Willy did not love to entertain, cows are bad for the environment and plastic is, in fact, bad, very bad. Like taking antibiotics for a virus, we have been wasting time. 

New HR technology is not a panacea, and people should ask questions about data and how we and others calculate role-based suitability. That said the results – Headstart’s technology was able to increase female hiring by 5% and ethnic minority hiring by 2.5% – speak for themselves. Plus it is right that machines are held to a higher standard than people, which is why large-scale, and public adverse impact assessments are critical.

Making the case for this has not always been easy. Many, many prospective investors turned us down because we focused on the good that our technology delivers more than the money it saves. We were wrong they said, people won’t change their Applicant Tracking System because of bias. Well, as Warren Buffet once said, only when the tide goes out to do you discover who’s been swimming naked. And the tide is turning.

Big thanks to Accenture for being the first believers and to our investors, as today we announced their $7mn investment in our vision to level the playing field and to remove bias from the hiring process. We might not be curing cancer but the future looks just a little fairer than it did yesterday. 

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