Last Wednesday we kicked off our first Talking Talent event: Wake, Meditate and Diversity Rates. We asked people to come as early as 7:30 am to discuss a topic which is vital to scaling companies: Diversity in Hiring.
Talking Talent is an event series powered by ACELR8, which will aim to further help and educate startups, founders, and HR leaders about obstacles and topics they may encounter during scaling. As a company, we at ACELR8 have a diverse wealth of knowledge and experience about scaling and talent.
We aimed to offer something different to those who arrived bright and early and so attendees were greeted with breakfast and a meditation session. Peter Dobbinin led a calming yet invigorating session and highlighted the importance of meditation and mindfulness during hectic work schedules.
Wake, Meditate and Diversity Rates, focused on the topic of diversity in hiring and aimed to answer the question of what diversity in hiring means for high-growth startups. During the event, we had two exciting speakers, who are actively targeting the problems around diversity in hiring. Our first speaker Stefano Zanella, an Engineering Manager from solarisBank, who has worked directly with ACELR8 to hire for his team, made it clear that building diverse teams means bringing awareness to your colleagues and putting in the work. He highlighted that diversity can be anything from gender to skills, to culture and minority groups and this can impact the team by creating new collaborations, leading to greater innovation and a broader impact on the team. The second speaker Sarah Cordivano is the Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Zalando and focused on how to build an inclusive culture and hiring process by setting clear goals and KPIs for all people involved.
Both of them also joined our discussion panel alongside Alexa McWilliams, Global Recruitment Manager at Contentful, and Dr. Anne Seebach, Head of People & Culture at Architrave. They discussed bias within bias, which included focusing only on gender bias in the workplace. Alexa and Anne suggested that this focus could be due to a basic response to the fact that gender is the biggest natural divide in humanity, but we must be careful not to lose sight of other forms of diversity and resulting bias. Alexa raised that Contentful makes sure that the language they use in job postings is inclusive and Architrave plays around with different initiatives to get diversity rates ups, such as slack channels, use of agencies and an equality statement in the company. The last topic of the panel was the ‘dark side of diversity’, in terms of positive discrimination or quotas that need to be reached. The panel acknowledged the more negative side but said it would not be a problem if you bring awareness to the topic and act on it in every layer of the company, including leadership.
In a whiteboard exercise with participation from all attendees, we tried to answer two how-might-we questions. The first one, “How might we empower our recruiters to find diverse talent?”, resulted in training recruiters on having the right sourcing methods (meetup groups, Boolean search strings). The second part of the group focussed on another question, “How might we remove biases during our interviews?”, that showed that removing bias must start in the early stages of the interview and one way to do that is to work with blind CV’s to prevent this from happening. After the exercise, our team recorded all the answers and send this to the attendees along with a one-pager.
This event taught us that diversity is an ongoing battle and by no means a clear one. However, what was reassuring and exciting was noting the changes already taking place. Sarah highlighted that her role of Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Zalando is among the first of its kind in Germany. Stefano emphasised that diversity starts before and ends far after the hiring process. It is a topic that should live throughout the company and where leadership plays a big part. An exciting and paradoxically optimistic topic to kick start Talking Talent with, and we will be delivering more such current and necessary topics at our events in the future — keep your eyes peeled!
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