It’s no secret that bias—conscious or unconscious—takes a large toll on our workplaces. Executives at manufacturing company Markforged say recognizing that we, as individuals and institutions, have unconscious biases is the first step in lessening its role as a barrier to cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture. Most of us have heard the stats on how diverse workplaces perform better by now, so eliminating bias should be a top priority for companies seeking to reap the myriad benefits of a diverse workplace.
March 8 is International Women’s Day, and in collaboration with the global theme of #BreaktheBias, we’re showcasing ways companies are working to identify and eliminate bias and how their efforts have impacted company culture.
For example, internet company Boats Group acknowledges that building awareness of bias among employees is a critical first step, since it can be easy to think, “I’m not biased. I don’t discriminate.” We all have to be honest with ourselves and reflect on our actions and thinking patterns. Ask yourself, “Am I actively contributing to the greater wellbeing of my organization?”
Another example? Computer security company Expel continuously adds important language into their vocabulary, including words like fragility, cultural dexterity, oppression, and anti-racism. Discussing these terms helps their team see that even small steps can be critical to creating lasting positive change.
Here are six more big ways companies are working to identify and eliminate bias from their workplaces and why women should look out for these signs.
1. Eliminating bias in the recruitment process
Expanding the reach of recruiting efforts
Eliminating bias begins way before day one of the job. To ensure a diverse talent pipeline, computer software company Pendo has expanded the reach of their recruiting efforts. By hosting early career events across North Carolina in conjunction with local HBCUs and community colleges, they’ve created—and expanded—recruiting pipeline partnerships and have even hired a new role to ensure a more inclusive hiring process.
Buzzer, an internet startup on our Best Companies to Work For list, is working to build a blueprint for future tech companies who want to foster a people-first, inclusive organization. They’ve sourced and built relationships with diverse recruiters and recruitment platforms, provided interview training around limiting bias, and remain committed to building a welcoming and empathetic culture for all by providing inclusive benefits—like 20 weeks of parental leave to primary caregivers, secondary caregivers, and birthing, non-birthing, adoptive, and foster parents—to employees, a great sign to women job seekers.
Monitoring coded language in job descriptions
The more inclusive a job description, the larger and more diverse the talent pool will be. When writing a job description for the first time, make sure to avoid gendered, racial, ableist, and ageist language. For example, words like “fearless,” “ambitious,” and “decisive” are male-coded words that can subconsciously deter women from applying.
Both Alley and InfoTrust review their job descriptions for gender-biased or coded language that might signal an exclusive work environment. In addition, InfoTrust’s talent acquisition team specifically focuses on a core competency-based model in their job descriptions that outlines which skills and proficiencies are absolutely necessary for a job, and they only ask experience and competency-related interview questions that are directly related to the position at hand.
Gun.io is a developer-led online marketplace that connects companies and software engineers for both freelance and full-time engagements. One of the first features Gun.io added to their self-serve job posting function in order to eliminate bias was a gender decoder, which allows clients to quickly assess how their ideal candidate descriptions might resonate with women. Job seekers, take note of the language a company uses in their job posts and keep an eye out for Equal Employment Opportunity statements or DEI support statements.
2. Eliminating bias in the interview process
Agreeing on specific and objective candidate criteria
The interview process is rife with bias and discrimination. To help mitigate bias and stereotyping that often creep into the screening process, Alley’s team agrees on objective criteria for approving candidates by creating a hiring rubric that highlights specific and objective skills required to accept a candidate. Plus, to be more inclusive during the interview process, they offer candidates accessibility accommodations like audio captioning devices or interpreters, a huge diversity green flag for women job seekers.
As they improve and expand their company, computer software company Mediaocean also spells out distinct and required qualifications for all new and open positions. Hiring managers strictly focus on the necessary requirements to be successful in the role versus behavioral traits that often, when left to interpretation, lead to bias.
In an effort to combat discrimination and bolster fair evaluations, Mediaocean also redacts all identifying details that reveal the gender or ethnicity in their candidates’ applications, a signal to women that they’re actively seeking to increase diversity in the hiring process. It’s a practice called anonymous hiring, and it’s used to prevent potential bias in screening decisions. InHerSight, too, has this feature for employers and applicants—it’s called unbiased mode, and it hides information like an applicant’s name, LinkedIn profile, education history, and so on in hopes of avoiding bias created by unconscious signals like a lesser-known school name. In addition to removing identifying information, Mediaocean structures all interviews with only relevant, job-specific, and skill-based questions.
Offering multiple types of interviews and interview trainings
To give candidates a sense of what the company cares about, real estate operating system VTS offers “value interviews,” helping them identify new hires who would be great ambassadors of their values. It helps decrease bias during the interview process by preventing employees from making incorrect assumptions on what a “cultural fit” might mean. In a recent inclusion survey, results showed that 91 percent of VTS employees feel included and accepted.
Interview training is another bias-eliminating solution. In the past year, Pendo has provided company-wide interview training to educate employees on ways to reduce bias in the interview process, and they’ve created new transparent career frameworks and best practices for each individual department in order to encourage consistency in the internal promotion process. By implementing manager and interview trainings that explain the detrimental role of bias and how to have an inclusive and structured hiring process, insurance company INSHUR has also been able to educate their company about how bias manifests in the workplace.
Another simple signal to women that a company wants to eliminate bias? Offering initial candidate phone screening calls without video, like Boats Group does. Just because the pandemic has ushered in a new video meeting-heavy era doesn’t mean that everything has to be over video. A return to the phone can be good for everyone, since phone screenings allow hiring managers to get to know someone without the potential of visual bias.
3. Eliminating bias through training and workshops
Providing creative outlets to address and discuss bias
Employees need a safe space to offer feedback and ideas for improvement. Every company should strive to have an environment in which the entire team feels safe and comfortable contributing to discussions about minimizing bias in the workplace. Women who are job searching should inquire about how employees at prospective companies are encouraged to discuss the impacts of bias in their place of work.
Markforged has prioritized working with external speakers and partners like Paradigm to host workshops on unconscious bias that educate and engage employees and leaders in efforts to build an inclusive culture. Comparably, Expel has been working with a specialized human capital consultancy to offer conscious inclusion training and R.I.C.H. (race, identity, culture, and heritage) discussions for employees and managers. These sessions have helped employees learn how individual truths impact the work and culture at Expel—for better or worse—and how to adjust their behaviors to make improvements.
INSHUR employees discuss bias in book clubs (they recently read Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez and Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala) and Expel hosts employee lunches focused on “busting bias” to help their team become more aware of common, biased thought patterns and traps that are unknowingly ingrained in us. Outlets like these give employees the knowledge and tools they need in order to improve, while also offering a more fun, safe space to discuss whatever comes to mind.
Emphasizing the importance of bias education from the start
As soon as new team members are hired, Mediaocean requires them to complete a minimum of three hours of DEI training. One of the courses, the “Impact of Our Biases,” raises awareness of unconscious biases and delves into three categories of microaggressions: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations. The course teaches employees how to recognize, address, and prevent the occurrences in their day-to-day lives and in the workplace.
To educate both employees and customers, computer software company Intuit developed and publicly shared an anti-racist language guidebook to help others remove harmful and biased terminology from their products, supporting materials, communications, and marketing campaigns.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG), #4 on InHerSight’s Best Management Consulting Companies to Work For list, focuses their efforts on supporting women in technology. They invest heavily in increasing gender diversity and upskilling digital competencies for their women consultants. To help eliminate bias and close gender gaps in STEM, BCG has partnered with international nonprofit, Girls Who Code, to build a training program that helps young women prepare for technical interviews, with the goal of increasing the number of women who enter and advance in tech. When job hunting, women should keep an eye out for companies who provide concrete resources for bias discussions.
4. Eliminating bias by celebrating diversity and listening to concerns
Another part of eliminating bias is bringing more diverse views into the workplace. This means hiring and making efforts to retain employees with different backgrounds, identities, experiences, education levels, and perspectives.
Execs at InfoTrust understand that an office made up of people who think exactly alike wouldn’t only lower their ability to provide top-level work for their clients, but it would also be incredibly monotonous. Each day, their teams strive to be empathetic to each person’s viewpoint and to learn from others’ experiences by seeking feedback from managers, co-workers, and clients.
Born during a global pandemic and a time of great social and racial unrest, Buzzer recognizes the importance of celebrating unique backgrounds, lived experiences, and values so that each teammate feels a sense of belonging and can be their authentic selves at work. Their daily team huddles have helped build a strong remote culture and bring teammates across 19 states together. Their 91 percent retention rate since January 2020 is a testament to the culture they’ve built from the ground up.
Computer software company Databricks seeks to eliminate bias by listening to employees. Through routine auditing, they’ve created a workplace that’s psychologically safe, transparent, and self-critical. Employees know they have direct access to executives across Databricks and feel comfortable voicing their concerns and providing feedback on ways to approach fairness and equity. The strides they’ve achieved as a company wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the employees who are championing DEI efforts and holding management accountable.
5. Eliminating bias through pay equity
Compensation is another area where bias can—and should—be eliminated. Pay equity is a long-term commitment to eliminating bias that’s both measurable and incredibly meaningful. For example, InfoTrust is actively defining clear policies and guidelines to be applied consistently across their compensation decisions. Their goal? Employees should feel involved in the process and know when, how, and why compensation decisions are made. Another major green flag for women.
Databricks also understands that despite the utmost best intentions, everyone has biases that can result in unconscious bias. Because compensation can be very context-driven, they wanted to make a public commitment to creating an equitable and fair workplace. After starting their journey to achieve pay equity in 2019, they’re proud to be one of the first six organizations to receive a Fair Pay Workplace Certification through Fair Pay Workplace (FPW), a nonprofit with the mission of dismantling pay disparities based on gender, race, and ethnicity. They’re fully committed to ensuring equitable pay for all, especially women and historically excluded and marginalized groups, and underwent a rigorous evaluation of their pay data and practices by the FPW in order to get certified.
6. Eliminating bias through employee resource groups
Employee resource groups (ERGs) provide a safe space where employees can discuss and share ideas with a common goal of identifying how to raise awareness and overcome cultural, racial, ableist, and gendered biases in the workplace. Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work, and ERGs are one of the most popular methods to actively manage and drive employee engagement while also showing a commitment to DEI measures. So women, watch for companies that offer these types of groups when weighing your options.
For example, Mediaocean offers an affinity group, Women at Mediaocean, to promote connection, guidance, collaboration, and discussion regarding difficult topics in the workplace. The circle offers career advice and encourages women to grow personally and professionally.
Similarly, BCG’s largest diversity network, ‘Women at BCG,’ seeks to increase the number, success, and overall satisfaction of women at the firm. Specific goals include maintaining women’s representation of at least 40 percent, maintaining at least 40 percent women in entry-level associate and consultant positions worldwide, and maintaining equal promotion and retention rates for women and men. In 2021, they’re proud to report equal retention and promotion rates for men and women globally, at all career steps of the consulting team, since 2016, and their executive committee is 40 percent women.