Whitney Benner is the Chief People Officer at Dataminr. Here she tells DiversityQ why overcoming unconscious biases has to become second nature for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to succeed.
Whitney, why is DEI so important to Dataminr?
Building a diverse and inclusive workforce should be a top priority for any organisation. Too often, our discussions on the need for diverse teams happen in a vacuum: completely unconnected from critical conversations about financial performance and shareholder value. However, developing a robust diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy that helps an organisation achieve its business objectives is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense.
Despite the increasing awareness that DEI is vital to business, companies still struggle to deliver on their DEI commitments. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap report, it will take at least 50 years to solve for gender pay parity in Europe and over 100 years in North America, at our current rate.
There have been many business and social cases made for diverse workforces, but how do we turn this into real and lasting action?
How do businesses build a diverse workforce in an age of unconscious biases ?
The Dataminr workforce should reflect the world in which we live. For us, it’s not just about race and gender, but also extends to diversity across culture, religion, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and disability, among others. In order to commit and follow through with building teams diverse in thought and experiences, the recruitment process must play a major role in getting the right results. In particular, hiring teams must tackle unconscious biases by weaving DEI into their ethos. At Dataminr, we’ve had success ensuring that job postings are written with neutral language that doesn’t inadvertently prevent qualified candidates from applying. Another method is focusing on factual information only when making hiring decisions.
Unconscious biases are learned stereotypes that are unintentional but deeply ingrained within our beliefs and affect our behaviour and practices. Accepting that we all have unconscious bias is the first step to lessening its impact on others. One way in which to reduce unconscious bias is through education and training.
Many companies provide both internal and external training and education on unconscious biases, with external facilitators allowing for greater objectivity and innovation. For lasting impact, companies should use these training sessions as opportunities for engagement and action. These sessions can also provide hiring teams with the tools to ensure that bias doesn’t insert itself into recruitment. The overarching goal for unconscious bias training should be the creation of a shared culture of respect.
How do you maintain a diverse workforce?
As much as training and education are important tools for recognising and eliminating bias, no organisation’s success is assured without a long-term commitment to diversity. To do this, it’s important to foster an environment in which employees feel accepted and comfortable bringing their whole selves to your organisation. They must feel seen and heard.
At Dataminr, we have accelerated our commitment to DEI through the launch of Together@Dataminr — an enhanced program of employee resource groups (ERGs) that supports, develops and celebrates our diverse employee base. This commitment is underscored through executive sponsorship for each of our ERGs. That said, the ERGs aren’t run by leadership; they are run by our employees. We have invested the necessary resources into the ERGs so they are empowered to organise educational or community-focused events to build stronger networks for all of us — both within Dataminr and also in the communities where we live.
Over the years, so many of us have been given the responsibility to lead DEI efforts in our organisations. But as I stated at the beginning of this article, there must be a clearly defined connection to these efforts and the successful achievement of strategic and business outcomes. DEI is often presented as a “nice to do” as opposed to what it really is: mission-critical to the success of any business.
Ultimately, a diverse workforce requires a steadfast commitment from all of us. It’s about listening without judgement and treating others as they want to be treated—not how you think they should be treated. In this way, you not only get the right people in the door, you cultivate an environment that encourages them to stay.