Can Big Data Boost the Paltry Number of Female and Minority Tech Workers?

Black Girls Code workshop volunteers work with students during an app building session at Google.

Black Girls Code workshop volunteers work with students during an app building session at Google. Bebeto Matthews/AP

One start-up is using public, online information to find more women, minority workers.

Say you're a recruiter at a tech company in Silicon Valley, Boston, or New York City, and you need to hire a new engineer quickly. You don't want to hire another white dude (your company employs so many of them already!). Yet all of the potential referrals you receive are just that: white, male, graduate of a top-10 computer science or engineering university. This makes it terribly hard to break out of the rut of hiring the same people who already dominate the high-tech space.

One San Francisco company is trying to solve this problem by helping recruiters and companies do a better job of identifying a richer, more diverse pool of candidates. The start-up Entelo deploys an algorithm that sorts information already available online to find experienced tech workers for engineering, sales, and marketing positions that pay, on average, $125,000 a year. The service costs anywhere from $10,000 a year up to $100,000. This spring, Entelo rolled out a more detailed feature to allow its clients to search specifically for women, military veterans, Hispanics, or African-Americans. The goal is to help companies "correct the imbalances on their teams," says Jon Bischke, Entelo's founder.

The need for more diversity in the high-tech sector took on renewed urgency recently when Google voluntarily released the diversity stats of its workforce. Among the startling data points: Just 2 percent of the company's workers are African-American and just 3 percent are Hispanic. Whites comprise 61 percent of Google's employees, and 70 percent are men. "Our industry has an issue, and the only way to have an honest conversation about this is to start by actually sharing the facts," Laszlo Bock, Google's senior vice president of people operations said on the PBS NewsHour the same day Google released its internal data.

This lack of diversity is not news to those already embedded in Silicon Valley. Amy Shapiro runs the fellows program at CODE2040, a not-for-profit that places high-performing African-American and Latino software-engineering students in internships at top tech companies such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Nest. Shapiro blames the tech industry's homogeneity on Silicon Valley culture and on the small number of women and minorities who graduate from high-level computer science programs. "There is a pipeline problem that spans from elementary school through the established profession," she says about the lack of diversity in STEM education. "But, in addition, companies also need to do a better job of attracting and retaining diverse talent and creating inclusive environments."

CODE2040 has tried to build up its own pipeline of future computer science stars by recruiting at more than 30 colleges, not just the top 10 engineering schools. (The University of Maryland (Baltimore) is a place where CODE2040 has found a strong tech program and a number of talented minority students.) The group also tries to establish relationships with minority student groups such as the National Society for Black Engineers. The hope is to expand the breadth of the engineering network beyond the usual white, male Silicon Valley suspects. Groups like the Anita Borg Institute and Women Who Code work on the similar goal of expanding the number of women in tech.

Using big data to broaden the pool of job candidates is another potential strategy for creating a more diverse workforce, nonprofit leaders say. "It helps to identify people who may not be top of mind," says Alaina Percival, CEO and board chair of Women Who Code. Silicon Valley's old-school way of recruiting is to build relationships, she says, and then identify people for new jobs through referrals from existing contacts. "Women and minorities cannot make connections if they're not a part of that," she adds. "It's easy to be overlooked and not know about the opportunities out there."

Changing that status quo is the goal of Entelo's founder Bischke, as he shows off the site's diversity feature and its current database of roughly 23 million prospective employees. A cursory search for java engineers and veterans turns up more than 170 new matches: people who may or may not be on the radar screen of Silicon Valley's recruiters, regardless of their qualifications.

For recruiters like Lars Schmidt, founder of the Virginia-based Amplify Talent, Entelo offers a nice complement to the traditional recruiting methods that he says can be time-consuming, not to mention hit-or-miss. "It can help you efficiently identify talent, especially if you do not have a dedicated tech recruiter," says Schmidt, who used Entelo in his past job as senior director of talent acquisition and innovation at NPR. "Any tool that leverages big data and advanced analytics is a good thing, even with all of the kinds of complexities around that."

Entelo, in its current form, does present two potential complications: First, job candidates don't sign up to be featured on the site because the information comes through public, online records. This means that job candidates do not have control over the type of information presented; Bischke says that people are free to opt out at any time and ask Entelo to remove their profiles.

Second, and perhaps more important, any tool that identifies a more diverse pool of job candidates can just as easily become a way to discriminate. "It can be used for good or evil," as Schmidt says. 

Even with its new, big-data approach to diversity hiring, Entelo still remains in start-up mode. The 21-person, San Francisco-based company launched in late 2012 and is not yet profitable; its funding comes from about $4 million in venture capital and in money it earns from its roughly 130 clients. By 2015, Bischke hopes to include more than 100 million people in the Entelo database: men, women, minorities, and veterans alike. One day, he thinks Entelo may even try to incorporate disabled workers into the mix. "Lots of money spent on diversity recruiting is just hand-waving," Bischke says. Here's to hoping it becomes better spent in the coming years, as the tech industry continues to become a lucrative, dominant sector of the economy.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.