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How recruiting software firms help close the diversity gap

Sharon Florentine | March 24, 2015
Gamergate and the Ellen Pao trial are two of the most recent examples of the IT industry's ugly side, not to mention some of the most widely publicized instances of discrimination. But IT isn't all harassment and misogyny. The same incubator environment that's spawned some horrific examples of bias also has given rise to firms that are using technology to actively increase diversity in IT.

"For female students in STEM courses, we know they often feel incredibly self-conscious in these classes. They're often in the minority; they have to speak up much more loudly and even repeat themselves two or three times before they're heard. Even if they are heard, there's the very real chance they'll face discrimination and harassment -- so many drop out of computer science courses because they don't want to deal with the 'boys club,'" Gilmartin says. Because Piazza allows students to ask and answer questions and collaborate anonymously, it removes much of these challenges, especially for women.

The solution has been incredibly successful, according to Gilmartin. "We currently have one million student enrollments each year, 30,000 professors, 1,000 schools in 68 countries," she says. Top computer science schools like Stanford, Harvard and Cornell, among others, use Piazza to help students collaborate and communicate and to do so anonymously, if they choose.

In 2013, Piazza opened its platform to recruiters looking to fill IT roles and to help women working toward STEM degrees land positions in the field.

"Just as we had helped students learn, we wanted to help students find jobs. Last year we opened it up to recruiters, and we've been oversubscribed both years. Piazza Careers is specifically targeted at helping proactive, progressive and innovative companies target female tech talent," Gilmartin says.

The Careers platform is optional for students, but those who choose to use it in their job search can upload resumes, work samples and show off their coding skills to potential employers.

"We are excited to work with companies that are specifically reaching out to female students. We believe much of the 'skills gap' companies are facing is a pipeline issue, and we can help address that -- there are approximately 60,000 female [computer science] students using the platform. Men tend to start coding much earlier than women, but with mentorship and guidance starting as early as their freshman year, we can help women catch up and encourage them to stick with [computer science] as a major and as a career path," says Gilmartin.

In addition to gaining a recruiting and retention edge, says Gilmartin, diverse and inclusive workplaces result in better products that appeal to a much broader range of potential customers.

"Customer bases for any product are diverse. If you have very similar product teams building products aimed only at one demographic, they won't be able to reach all markets or appeal to all potential customers. You need a diverse range of perspectives to match your customer base," Gilmartin says.

"Diversity has a positive effect on a corporation's performance and bottom line. Racial diversity within an organization or team leads to a wider selection of perspectives, experience and approaches, affecting everything from innovation to operations," say Porter Braswell and Ryan Williams, founders of Jopwell, a recruiting platform that matches leading companies with top minority talent. "Diversity is key to building a world class workforce. And organizations seeking global market relevancy must embrace the diversity of the consumers they are trying to reach in order to connect authentically with them," say Braswell and Williams.


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