For most people, landing Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Airbnb, and Netflix as customers would be good enough. Porter Braswell, who can already count those celebrated companies to his roster, may well say his latest client is his greatest so far: the NBA.

On Thursday, Jopwell, the New York City-based recruitment platform that connects minority job candidates with prominent employers across the country, announced that it has partnered with the National Basketball Association to connect job seekers of color to the league's offices. Teams including the Golden State Warriors, the Boston Celtics, and the L.A. Clippers have agreed to pay an undisclosed subscription fee for access to the startup's platform, where they can then tap a minority candidate for, say, a financial analyst or data scientist job.

"We are beyond excited to work with [the NBA]," Braswell tells Inc. "We see it as empowering our community. From an economic perspective, you are more likely to earn a higher income as a software engineer than as an athlete."

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The co-founders explained that they saw this as a logical extension of their brand, inasmuch as people of color often make up a large portion of the sports leagues themselves. The NBA is the industry leader in terms of racial hiring practices, according to the most recent available data. Though that does not mean there isn't room for improvement. Around 35 percent of all professional NBA employees are minorities, down 0.1 percent from 2015, according to a 2016 study from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. The NBA, it's worth pointing out, was the first professional sports league to have two owners of color leading its teams: Michael Jordan, with the Charlotte Hornets, and Vivek Ranadive, of the Sacramento Kings.

"We are thrilled to partner with Jopwell to help the league office and NBA teams broaden their reach," says Oris Stuart, the chief diversity and inclusion officer with the association. "Jopwell, like the NBA, believes that diversity and inclusion are good for business, and that engaging with a diverse group of candidates--at various levels in their careers--is essential to our success and the growth of our game globally."

Jopwell's business model isn't perfect, however. For a candidate to be accepted on the platform, they must be attending (or have graduated from) a four-year college, for instance. Corporate partners such as the NBA could be missing out on talent from lower-income neighborhoods, or those who can't afford to attend a traditional four-year institution. (The N.B.A. has said it works with multiple partners in its diversity recruiting efforts, some of which reach lower-income communities.)

The numbers would seem to bear this critique out. In 2014, businesses including Google, Facebook, and Pinterest began to disclose their diversity numbers and committed to improving them over time. Three years later, very little has changed: Black and Latino workers still make up only 5 percent of U.S. technical roles, despite comprising around 18 percent of computer science graduates each year. In a blog post last summer, Facebook revealed that Hispanics and African Americans represented just 4 percent and 2 percent respectively of its U.S. work force--numbers unchanged from the initial report.

Even so, Jopwell says it has succeeded in giving companies a much needed dose of diversity. Although the company refused to disclose the number of graduates currently using the platform, it claims to have facilitated more than 30,000 "connections" between companies and job seekers to date.

"In general, tech companies have this mantra that they can build their way out of it," Braswell explains. "So long as tech companies are trying to solve it themselves, they're missing the point. If you keep relying on a homogeneous work force to diversify itself, you're not going to succeed."

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Published on: Jun 8, 2017