Entelo is a pretty interesting recruitment tool: it aggregates and analyzes data from a variety of social networking platforms to create a searchable database of over 20 million tech-industry candidates. Entelo’s search capabilities include some pretty nuanced filters, too: aside from the standard job-title and location screening, users can also search according to criteria like years of experience in a field or the likelihood that a candidate is open to a new job opportunity.
Recently, Entelo released a new feature: Entelo Diversity, which filters candidates according to their gender, race, or military experience. The demographics of the U.S. tech industry do not reflect the demographics of the nation: while women account for 47 percent of the total U.S. labor force, they only hold 25 percent of IT jobs. Similarly, Hispanic people make up 16 percent of the overall labor force, but only 7 percent of tech workers, and African Americans make up 12 percent of the labor force and 6 percent of tech workers.
I should also mention that veterans who served since 9/11 have a staggering unemployment rate of almost 10 percent, resulting in underrepresentation in a swath of industries.
Meanwhile, Asian people and white people are overrepresented in the technology sector: Asian people make up 5 percent of the labor force and 15 percent of tech workers; white people make up 64 percent of the labor force and 71 percent of tech workers.
(Note: None of this is meant to vilify the tech industry. It’s not the only proession facing these skewed statistics, and gender and racial inequality manifest themselves in most aspects of American society.)
With Entelo Diversity, Entelo is looking to help the tech industry foster a diverse workforce that’s more reflective of the American population at large, a goal that falls very much in line with the company’s past efforts.
Unsurprisingly, Entelo Diversity has made a few people unhappy. Whenever we talk of gender or race (less so with veterans —though discrimination against them does occur), people get uncomfortable. Tensions run high. And I think the reason for these negative reactions is a misunderstanding of how inequality works — what it is, what causes it, and how it spreads.
We have a tendency to think of racism and sexism as characteristics of individual people. The woman who uses racial slurs? She’s a racist. The male manager who refuses to hire women? He’s a sexist. If we don’t do these things, we aren’t racist or sexist.
What we don’t realize is that, while individual people can commit racist or sexist acts, racism and sexism themselves are larger patterns that exist in society. Racism doesn’t just mean a white person who hates people of color — it means a society that largely privileges white people over people of color. Similarly, sexism doesn’t just mean a man who mistreats women — it means a society that treats men better than women overall. You yourself may try actively to not be racist or sexist, but you yourself are only one small part of society. It takes all of us working together to fix the entire culture.
Some will argue that American society is not racist or sexist, that we’re past all that. But I disagree thoroughly: racism and sexism still exist. As the National Association of Social Workers points out, people of color do not have the same level of access to quality education, employment, housing, health care, public welfare, social services, or political activity that white people have. The Huffington post has some revealing facts and figures about sexism, and even pop-culture websites like Buzzfeed work to raise awareness about the issue.
Still, we persist: “Well, even if racism and sexism exist, I’m not racist or sexist.” The trouble is — when you live in a culture where racism and sexism pervade your daily life, you are influenced in subtle, not-necessarily-recognizable ways. Our unconscious brains pick up on these signals, and we develop unconscious biases. These biases may predispose us to to think less of people of color and women when sourcing talent — and we may not even realize it. Yes, unconscious biases can be powerful enough to do that.
Entelo Diversity isn’t about creating “reverse racism” or “reverse sexism” — and many would argue, quite plausibly, that those things don’t even exist [Note: The linked article, while enlightening, contains frank discussion of offensive language. Proceed with caution]. It’s about making women candidates and candidates of color more visible to us, to combat the unconscious biases we may have.
Is it a perfect solution? Not at all. But it’s a start. If you’re not happy with it, you should help find a better way — not pretend racism and sexism aren’t problems.