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Open Opportunities Through Diversity and Inclusion

Each week at Embarc Collective, we bring in a local or out-of-market expert to talk about a specific pain point or skill that is being voiced by the startup community we support.

We are lucky in Tampa Bay to have startups that are focused on building diverse and inclusive teams from Day 1, and from that feedback we brought in Alex Rose, CEO of ResumeRx. Prior to launching her own company, Alex has been on teams of Series A - Series D companies, including Clarifai, Cockroach Labs, and Datadog, and helped them to incorporate a mindset towards diversity and inclusion into their recruiting and hiring practices.

It's one thing to talk about diversity and inclusion on your team. Bringing it to fruition within an organization is what really matters. Here are some of the takeaways from Alex's work session on how to build diverse and inclusive recruiting and hiring practices:


1) Understand Your Why and Communicate It

It's important for you as a leader to have a reason for why building a diverse and inclusive team is specifically important to your organization's success. It needs to be aligned with your long-term vision for the organization and authentic to your team's perspective. Candidates can see right through you if you're just giving this topic lip service. If you're a work in progress and earlier in the journey towards building a diverse and inclusive organizational culture, be honest and tell that to a candidate.

An Aside on Values
At Embarc Collective, we built this why into our organizational values:

Open Opportunities: We believe entrepreneurship is a great equalizer. We strive to open doors for our entrepreneurs by fostering an inclusive and collaborative community where founders with high-impact ideas, discipline, and drive are supported in transforming their visions into reality.

If you have your why, share it. It's never to early to start working on your own employer branding to support recruiting efforts. On your Careers page, talk about your mission, your vision and your people. Use words, pictures, and video to bring your why to life. The goal of employer branding is for a candidate to see themselves on your team. That's going to attract more people to want to join your mission.

Some good examples of companies that have found their why and are communicating it to support recruiting:

2) Uncover Your Blind Spots

Alex talked about common blind spots she sees in the recruiting and hiring process. Here are a few she called out:

  • Know Your Unconscious or Implicit Biases: Many times we limit ourselves to defining diversity by what is outlined by the Equal Employment Opportunity policy: age, race, color, creed, sex, religion, and disability. Alex noted that there are additional ways to consider diversity, and we each have implicit or unconscious biases that can impact how we see each other.
    Here is a tool you can use to help you become more self-aware of your biases:

  • Job Descriptions: We all write with unconscious biases that may turn off a high potential candidate or make someone feel like they aren't the right person for the job, when in fact, they could be. Luckily, there are some easy to use tools to help, including:
  • The Accessibility of Your Site: Make sure that a website is easy to navigate given the different ways that people want and need to navigate your information. The ADA accessibility is a start, but there are more ways to increase the inclusivity of your website experience.
  • Where You Recruit: Startup job boards are not always reaching a broad and inclusive audience. Alex recommends asking the job board for a breakdown of the demographics they reach and partnering with other organizations that reach underrepresented people in technology to ensure that your job opportunities are far reaching. One approach is to find national organizations with a focus on inclusivity and reach out to their local chapters. A few examples:

3) Consistency is Key

We react to different people in different ways. With that variability, how can you fairly assess diverse candidates for a job? Alex recommends creating a structure for the interview process and commit to being consistent with that structure. Write out the exact questions that every candidate will be asked and ask those questions in the same order for each interview. By doing that, you can fairly assess how each candidate does against these two filters:

  • Can they do the job?
  • Are they aligned with our values?
    • Bonus Tool: Use Key Values to match engineering talent with your organization

How do you know if you're achieving success when building a diverse and inclusive organization, especially when the work is never done? The key is seeing progress. As you begin to build diverse and inclusive practices in your hiring and recruiting process, develop a metrics system to keep track of your progress.

Shout-out to our friends at the Tampa Bay Wave who are similarly aligned with a focus on increasing the diversity of technology leaders in startups through their TechDiversity program.

Many thanks to Alex for spending time with the startups at Embarc Collective.



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Embarc Collective
Embarc Collective helps Tampa Bay’s startup talent build bold, scalable, thriving companies. Our staff of executive advisors and function-specific experts deliver individualized support to startups inside of Embarc Collective’s state-of-the-art 32,000 square foot hub.