April 8, 2021 5 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.
In the face of nationwide race accounting, companies are showing an increased interest in diversifying their workforce. While McKinsey data supports the value of diversity with revenue and earnings growth in different companies outperforming less diverse companies, strong commitments to finding, hiring, and retaining black talent have become a moral imperative. Much of the chatter in the business world is rightly centered on the lack of black CEOs. Since the Fortune 500 list was published in 1955, there have been only 19 black CEOs out of 1,800 bosses. However, there is no quick fix to these discrepancies. It takes years to nurse someone for a position in the C-suite. Let’s go back to point one.
One solution to diversity problems lies in the creation of the supply chain: companies need to diversify their recruitment pools.
Businesses can find the best and brightest from different communities by taking the following three steps.
1. Expose young blacks to your industry at an early stage
Students choose a major based on their career goals, and career paths are chosen based on involvement in an industry. A student who is particularly strong in science, technology, engineering, and math will be interested in an industry they know, like medicine. Every high school student is familiar with the medical field because he comes into contact with it personally. They don’t look at an industry like investment banking or fintech right away just because they may not know what the industry is, that such professions even exist in that industry, or that a career in that sector is achievable.
This lack of awareness is one of the reasons I founded First Workings, a NYC-based nonprofit that trains and places various students from underrepresented communities in paid internships with dominant companies in their respective industries. Our interns become known through an internship or mentorship with companies in areas such as finance to medicine with companies such as Morgan Stanley, PJT Partners, the Mount Sinai Health System and TradeWeb Markets. Exceptionally bright, diverse teens learn the ins and outs of an industry and learn about the variety of careers they can pursue.
Once an aspiring high school senior is exposed to worlds they didn’t know much about, be it advertising, private equity, or technology, they are far more likely to choose subjects that better suit their career goals and knock on your door for a position college degree.
Related: We’ve been talking about the technical skill gap for 10 years. Why didn’t the conversation become more productive?
2. Start the talent pipeline in high school
Countless companies are starting the talent pipeline way too late when they want a more diverse workforce. Start earlier. Offer a high school internship program or reach out to a third party to do the legwork for you. Internships and mentoring at a young age play a vital role in attracting diverse talent and providing social capital to youth from underrepresented communities. My own career in finance began with a high school internship as a runner with the Chicago Board of Trade. The connections I made there were important to my decades-long run on Wall Street.
Starting the talent pipeline in high school benefits both the company and the teenager. The organization is able to develop relationships with diverse talents before other companies. The variety of thoughts that a young, diverse intern brings with them is priceless. The company can maintain a relationship, offer college internships, and stay ahead of the curve when choosing a career. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly popular for companies to seek talent early and not even need a college degree. Apple, Google, Netflix and Tesla consider candidates who do not have a four-year degree. For the various teenagers on an internship program, they have the opportunity to build social capital, build strong connections, and network where they might otherwise not have had an opportunity. Start earlier and find different talent before other companies get the chance.
Related Topics: How to Build an Inclusive Digital Economy and Why We Have to
3. Look for talent by and large
There is no doubt that announced elite universities will produce talent that will easily integrate into your company and perform well. But don’t dismiss recruiting from other universities or programs. If you do, your selective hiring process will result in you missing out on high quality, underutilized talent pools. Also, only 8 percent of the students in the Ivy League and other highly selective colleges and universities are black. By prioritizing this narrow selection of graduates as your hiring pool, you are already limiting the number of black candidates you will see.
Of all black students who earn a bachelor’s degree, 22 percent come from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Prioritize HBCU recruitment and resist (again) the temptation to limit yourself to the best known. Expand the network. There are more than 100 HBCUs in the United States that produce graduates in all industries that lack diversity.
Expand your pools even further. Look for graduates from technical programs and community colleges, as well as those with certificates in industry-specific skills. Incredible, diverse talent may be a good fit for your company, even if they don’t have a college degree.
To really make progress in the diversity endeavor, companies need to rethink where to look for talent. Look for opportunities to introduce young black talent to your industry early on so they know this is a viable option for them. Start the pipeline to diverse talent in high school (way earlier than the status quo) and defy hiring from the typical tight pool.
Related: When you say there is a limited pool of black talent, you reveal this about yourself