Silicon Valley has a bad reputation when it comes to diversity, but they certainly aren't the only ones with a problem. If you want your startup to be a place where everyone, regardless of heritage, wants to work and thrive, there are a lot of great and easy ideas out there. Here are 5 of them.

 

1. Offer internships to your nanny’s children.

This idea comes from Laura I. Gomez, the daughter of a nanny and current CEO of Atipica, which makes recruiting software. She writes in USA Today,

My ask for all of is: skip the tweet activism about diversity. It does no good. Instead, ask your building security guard, office janitor, gardener, nanny and/or housecleaner if their kids need a job, internship or a scholarship.

This is a great suggestion. The CEO's kids already have connections, and Mommy or Daddy can pull strings. The cleaning crew? Not nearly as much. Nor do they have experience themselves in navigating the world of internships, like the parents who themselves had internships as teens and young college students. Make an internship or summer program for students who are first-generation college students and open doors to people who don't have a lot of connections.

2. End employee referral programs.

This idea comes from Andy Newman, a filmmaker and writer. He points out that many companies offer referral bonuses to current employees. Companies love these because you get a new employee who comes recommended by an already trusted employee. It’s a win-win situation for companies and employees. But the problem with it is that people tend to know people just like themselves. Which means your employees refer people who tend to be the same race and gender, and from the same backgrounds. Say goodbye to diversity.

Instead, Newman recommends funneling the money you would use for referral bonuses into relocation costs or performance bonuses. Widening your search can open up new possibilities for increasing your company's diversity.

3. Ask if that college degree is really necessary.

We already know that minorities are less likely to have a bachelor's degree. Sometimes degrees are absolutely necessary. Sometimes they are not. Are you asking that candidates have degrees and automatically rejecting anyone who doesn't, regardless of experience? Why?

Seriously, ask yourself why. I worked for an organization that required a degree for every exempt position, regardless of experience. A brilliant--and non-degreed--colleague left and is now a VP at another organization. This company recognized her experience was more important than what she did between the ages of 18 and 22.

4. Widen your entry-level recruiting.

It's a heck of a lot cheaper to recruit at schools that are local to you. No relocation costs! And it's tempting to recruit only at high-profile schools. After all, anyone who got into Stanford is guaranteed to be smart. But when you consistently recruit from the same schools, you're consistently going to be hiring the same types of people. Yes, universities work hard to increase their diversity levels as well, but you're really limiting yourself.

If you're worried about relocation costs, keep in mind that most college students really need something along the lines of gas money and motel stays on their drive. Not many new grads have houses to sell and houses full of furniture. Many new grads are willing to move for a great new job. So consider looking at top students from a wide variety of colleges and universities.

5. Start really, really young.

Years ago, I worked for Wegmans Food Markets, a fabulous grocery-store chain based in Rochester, New York. One of my responsibilities was to meet regularly with the president, Robert Wegman, to go over the aggregate test scores of students in a scholarship program he funded. He wanted to make sure that the money he donated to numerous Catholic schools was money well spent.

I asked him why he was spending a literal fortune on elementary-school children from the inner city of Rochester. Well, for one, he was a truly compassionate man. But, he also told me that he wanted fantastic employees and if he wanted fantastic employees, and the public schools weren't producing them, then he would.

Students who don't get solid educations in elementary school aren't going to get solid educations in college, either, because they won’t make it that far. This admittedly is a long-term plan, but consider supporting programs that encourage the youngest students to succeed.

Published on: Jul 16, 2015