Job Seekers Want Honesty, Why Companies Should Share Their Diversity Numbers on Their Career Page

CurtainsOne of the greatest lessons I have learned working as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley is the value of transparency.

Silicon Valley is the only place in the world where entrepreneurs (and Venture firms) are celebrated for talking about their failures. Where touting “Vanity Metrics” is seen as criminal and where companies like Netflix take openness to a new level by posting their corporate strategies on public slideshows.  It is understood in the valley that seemingly impossible problems are solved not by wishful thinking but a brutally honest acceptance of the facts.

 It’s for these reasons that I find CNN Money’s recent report on the lack of transparency from the nation’s leading tech companies about diversity in the workplace so alarming.

It is clear that diversity and inclusion remains to be one of the biggest challenges the tech sector faces.  Studies from leading organizations like the Anita Borg Foundation point to a dismal state of affairs with underrepresented minorities making-up just 6.8% of total technical employees and the number of women engineers declining rather than increasing.

But, I think these companies are wrong to assume that hiding their internal numbers is the best path forward.

An increasing body of knowledge from organizations like Washington STEM and the Level Playing Field Institute, show that diversity in the tech field is dramatically affected by students dropping out of STEM fields before they reach college. Certainly other factors exist both internally and externally, but we need data not educated guesses to understand those large and complex issues.

In addition this lack of openness seems to suggest that the public prefers a sugarcoated message to an honest assessment.  That potential candidates prefer an aspirational career page over a clear strategy for change.   In the thousands of conversations I have had with students, the one point that always comes up is that young people want to work at companies who treat them with respect and honesty.

Ultimately this call for action needs to come from the CEOs not the HR departments.  500 Startups founder Dave McClure is famous for being vocal about his interest in investing in female founders as a business advantage.  As a result 500 Startups is now an incredible case study for success with recent portfolios being 20-25% female led, well over the 4% industry average of female founders.

A top down and transparent message helps empower internal advocates and it helps send a message to applicants that your company is not just a place for growth but a place where someone can be a part of changing one of the most critical issues in tech.

I know that these companies are all working hard to try and lead the technology industry to a more diverse future.  And I understand that putting numbers out to the public means giving up some control of this message, which is scary. But, if the history of Silicon Valley teaches us anything it is that the public rewards those who are transparent, and that this is key when trying to tackle, large systemic issues.

Does your company have a clear diversity message?  If so I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  Also, feel free to check out our diversity careers page here.

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Nathan Parcells

Nathan Parcells is VP of Marketing and co-founder of Looksharp. He has spent the past decade helping students launch their career, researching best practices for hiring millennials (including running Looksharp's annual "State of College Hiring") and sharing these insights with employers. Nathan's work has been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, Business Insider and more. Outside of work, Nathan is an avid rock climber, back packer and Bob Dylan fan.