For anyone who’s tuned into the domestic news for the past several months, the discourse on race relations within American social and economic systems is emphasized now more than ever as corporations and employers are coming together to stand in solidarity with victims of our law enforcement and criminal justice system.
Historically speaking, the issue disproportionately affects minority groups, predominantly from undeserved communities with little government funding for community services. According to a 2016 paper published in Landscape and Urban Planning, Vol. 148, the upward mobility rate of predominantly black and brown residencies in inner cities is largely less than 15%.
At its core, the issue lies within a system that fails to support these communities. As the above statistic demonstrates, individuals with limited opportunities to improve their current living conditions are forced to maintain those conditions with increasing difficulty for generation. Therefore, the most promising solution for underserved communities is opportunity. This is where the job market comes in.
24% of the US population is made up of African Americans and Hispanics, but these communities, on average, have the lowest annual household income. Higher education institutions and large-scale firms have made great strides over the past few decades to recruit and admit students from underprivileged communities, but what can be done beyond hiring a couple employees from different backgrounds?
A 2019 article published on D!gital Magazine states that hiring a diverse workforce should come from a data-based process rather than a policy-based process. Too often, we see diversity hiring driven by meeting quotas or satiating brand reputation. Using consistent data analysis to address biases in hiring practices effectively retains employees from more backgrounds and allows prospective hires from underserved communities to stay involved farther along in the recruitment process.
Another effective way to support outreach to these communities is by casting a wider net from the beginning. In other words, it is more effective to actively seek out relationships and partnerships with entities who specifically focus on supporting undeserved communities than to organize isolated diversity hiring events.
Recently, the tech startup sector has made significant progress to provide opportunities for minorities from underserved communities, from building diverse management teams to tracking and removing subjective incentive practices for employees. Apps are being built to match students to internship opportunities based on location and interest (see Seedstages). These efforts move above
and beyond token diversity hiring and ensure long-term involvement from various
groups, making inclusion not just a value to these startups, but rather an integral asset to their success.
So, why is this important? Why should we strive to attract talent from underprivileged communities? The technical answer would be that it is inevitable—46% of all employers are reporting talent shortages nationwide, mostly due to the fact that the vast majority of our labor force work low-paying jobs because of their lack of skills to give them a competitive edge. Within the next few years, companies will have no choice but to look to these communities for new talent. In general, sourcing talent from traditionally overlooked pools leads to better brand image, enhanced performance, and increased revenue (around $400 billion annually in the IT industry alone, according to CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux). We can owe this to the innovation and untapped creativity that is catalyzed when people of various backgrounds and experiences put their heads together to solve a problem. As the saying goes, strength lies in differences, not in similarities, and this concept will always hold true for any industry.