How diverse, really, is the American workforce? We’ve seen brands left and right join the call for social justice and equality through ads on YouTube and TV supporting the cause. The question remains, though – have these brands put their money where their mouth is? Are American employers as diverse and inclusive as they claim to be?
Ilit Raz, co-founder and CEO of Joonko, a diversity recruiting tech company, says that organizations are taking important steps to diversify their hiring processes, but there’s more than can, and should, be done.
Joonko connects companies to a “live” pool of job seekers from underrepresented sectors, such as ethnic and racial minorities, female candidates and army veterans. The idea is to transfer the responsibility from the candidates themselves to the companies, to enable them to be more proactive in their efforts to hire a diverse workforce.
Raz shares her take on the state of diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) in corporate America.
Ilit Raz, Co-Founder & CEO of Joonko
It’s been well over a year since the George Floyd protests thrust social justice back to the top of the national agenda in the US. When it comes to DE&I in the workplace, what progress have you seen American corporate culture as a whole making since then, and what do you think are the biggest next steps that American corporate culture needs to take?
I believe that progress has been made – however, it is very much baby steps. Companies are still struggling with transforming their pledges to action items and designing impactful plans around DE&I.
When companies understand that an inclusive culture is about every aspect of the business, it will become easier for them to attract underrepresented talent. Companies need to rethink the wording of their job postings, their outreach and nurturing strategies, their own visibility to underrepresented talent. Additionally, they should make sure that their career page holds supportive evidence of their investment in DE&I; placing a stock image of shiny happy underrepresented people is not sufficient evidence.
A company’s investment in DE&I for recruiting underrepresented talent will resonate in a great employer brand, and should significantly impact the volume of women applying for open roles, for example.
You’ve said that you’re seeing spiking demand for diverse talent among business recruiters. Do you think this is a result of rising scrutiny from the general public to do the right thing, or do you think there’s also a business case for DE&I?
It’s probably the right mix of both.
On the one hand, you see candidates who, as part of their job searches, are more active and involved in the DE&I activities that companies are promoting and make their decisions whether to join a company or not based on the information they get. So the pressure is definitely coming ”from the bottom-up.”
But even more so, there is an imperative business case for DE&I and an executive notion that cultivating a diverse workforce is mission critical for an organization’s bottom line. Numerous studies have shown that a truly diverse workforce is more creative, innovative and productive. It also creates opportunities such as penetration to new markets and has less employee churn.
Neurodiversity brings to the table unparalleled insights that help companies with complex challenges.
HR tech is a hot space right now. What is different about Joonko’s approach, that hasn’t been done already by other startups?
Joonko stands out as a SaaS solution to help solve diversity recruiting. We champion “silver medalists,” who are essentially great candidates (from underrepresented sectors, of course) with vast experience, already vetted by other partnering companies in our ecosystem.
I believe that it’s in the interest of all parties involved to join hands in this challenge and together solve the talent gap.
All parties involved in the process benefit from this collaboration: the company that regretfully has to release good talent back to the market; the candidate who wasn’t ultimately offered the prior role but at the same time joins this unique talent pool; and the companies that receive this talent who has already gone through a recruiting process and has been validated by other leading companies.
Our technology identifies and matches the right candidates to the right jobs, providing companies with highly qualified talent, at all seniority and experience levels.
Larger companies have been reporting to the public on the diversity of their workforces for several years now, but many critics say that these reports don’t include enough of the metrics that matter. What kinds of DE&I KPIs would you like to see every company include in their reports?
Yes, companies are revealing the breakdowns of their internal workforce, which is indeed a giant step towards transparency around their inclusivity.
But the really crucial part of the puzzle is less revealed publicly. Companies are not sharing enough around their recruiting plans and goals, how they plan to obtain and retain underrepresented professionals and the progress these plans have made.
You’re based in Israel, which has its own very complex social justice conundrums. What made you want to tackle DE&I in the US specifically, and to what extent does your perspective as an outsider enable you to tackle these issues differently?
In my search for potential solutions for DE&I locally, I found myself intrigued by the DE&I discourse in the US, and have been following it ever since, following influencers and their thoughts on this complex topic.
Although Israel might have a different socioeconomic makeup, essentially, the issues of inclusion and belonging, and how to adopt best practices that help companies improve, all stem from the same motivation to work towards a more inclusive workforce, both in Israel and in the US. It’s very important for us to have two feet on the ground, and with the help of our employees in our Atlanta office we are working to establish connections with the local business community there, as well as DE&I leaders.
My own perspective as a senior product leader, and as a woman in the local tech scene, has provided me with many insights on what companies are missing when it comes to inclusion and belonging.
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