Silicon Valley is often cited as one of the least-diverse job markets. At companies including Uber, Twitter, Google, and Facebook, fewer than 3% of tech workers identify as black. A survey on women in Silicon Valley found that 66% reported feeling excluded from social and networking activities due to their gender; and 90% had witnessed sexist behavior at conferences or company retreats. Silicon Valley may be the model for ground-breaking tech, but it’s far from earning any credibility as an inclusive place to work.

Diversity in hiring lags behind in nearly every industry, and Silicon Valley’s agile, innovative startups are well-positioned to lead the way in testing new ways to make hiring inclusive. While companies may recognize value of a diverse workforce – increased innovation, improved profits, better decision-making, and lower employee turnover, to name a few –  not many businesses are taking action to make hiring more inclusive.

Here are some practical ways Silicon Valley companies can lead the way in making hiring more inclusive.

Improve the candidate pipeline

Recruiters at Silicon Valley companies would be well-served to expand their candidate pipeline by looking outside LinkedIn and their careers site. Find candidates by partnering with a talent agency, collaborating with a university or affinity organization, and turning to your employees to expand your network beyond who your in-house recruiters know. Other ways to expand your pipeline to reach more diverse candidates include:

  • Recruit at a diversity-focused job fair
  • Use terms like ‘employee resource group’ and ‘ERG’ in your Boolean search strings, along with phrases related to different types of diversity-focused networks
  • Partner with nonprofits, such as the Urban League, to broaden your network
  • Add internships, rotational programs, and contract work opportunities to increase points of entry to your company
  • Examine your existing pipeline to discern where candidates are failing: do you need to add English language support to your careers page? Is there a field in your application form that prevents candidates from completing their submission?

Partnering with an outside organization can broaden your network. Start there, but be clear about what barriers or obstacles a candidate might face as they go through your hiring process. It’s not enough to reach people: you must empower every individual to showcase their talent to the best of their ability.

Make hiring about talent

For years, Silicon Valley and other organizations chased the elusive “culture fit.” Recruiters, often tasked with reviewing hundreds of resumes for one open position, would look for signals like a candidate’s alma mater, professional associations, and LinkedIn resumes to see if they were a good “fit.” The result? As CIO puts it, “a lot of startups and companies with straight, white, cis-gendered males wondering why diversity and inclusion is a problem.”

Culture is a somewhat nebulous term which hiring teams take as an indicator to find others like themselves. The resulting homogenous monoculture stifles innovation and discourages diverse candidates from applying to the company. Instead of hiring for culture, Silicon Valley must hire for talent. Resume screening can be replaced by skill assessments and job simulations. Skill assessments can screen candidates based on their capability, allowing candidates to showcase their abilities as they relate to a specific role. It’s a critical step in breaking down the “old boys club” mentality of Silicon Valley.

Provide the right benefits

Silicon Valley companies are legendary for the perks they offer employees. Everything from ping pong tables to free concerts to an on-site chiropractor has been offered to tech employees at some big-name companies. But, many companies lose sight of one of the key purposes of employee benefits: helping employees better their lives.

“Offer benefits such as onsite daycare, childcare subsidies and flexible schedules, and let new hires know that you are willing to accommodate cultural and religious holidays and diversity-friendly (but office-appropriate) apparel choices,” writes the Wall Street Journal. Diversity isn’t just about race, ethnicity, and gender: Silicon Valley has a responsibility to accommodate candidates with disabilities, different religious beliefs, or different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Need a little inspiration? Netflix is leading the way with its parental leave policy. New parents are offered unlimited parental leave the year after the birth or adoption of a child. “This is consistent with the company’s unlimited leave policy, and permits parents to return to work part-time, if desired, or to alternate between work and leave throughout the first year. New parents receive their normal pay and benefits,” writes The Guardian.

Institute unconscious bias training

Silicon Valley is unique in that the services and products created by these companies have a widespread impact on other areas of the job market. AI companies, for instance, develop products meant to replace human agents. “AI can help reduce bias, but it can also bake in and scale bias,” notes consulting firm McKinsey.

Silicon Valley companies have a responsibility to reduce human bias in their workplace, so other companies, industries, and parts of society aren’t adversely impacted. Luckily, some companies are taking a proactive approach to learning how unconscious bias impacts their products. “Pinterest set up Inclusion Labs to collect workforce research to better understand barriers to diversity and to test new strategies for addressing these barriers. In addition, it provides inclusive leadership and unconscious bias training to its employees,” reports CNBC.

Unconscious bias training can improve hiring practices as well as make the workplace more inclusive. And, when taken seriously and implemented regularly, unconscious bias training can improve the lives of people outside Silicon Valley – the customers.


Rick is the Senior Recruiting Manager at Elevate Talent, a recruiting agency that helps companies build their Go-To-Market and People Operations teams.

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