Sherika Ekpo isn’t daunted by the diversity and inclusion challenges faced by tech organizations. These issues are common for the Director of People and Diversity at the United States Digital Service (USDS), a government team tasked with bringing 21st-century technology into the U.S government.
The leadership team of USDS also nicknamed the “government startup” is 60 percent female, and roughly 25 percent is a minority. Approximately 27 percent of its staff, which is comprised of around 170- 190 employees, is a minority.
It’s quite an image – a government agency, operating during the Trump administration, that has to hire talent willing to take a pay cut and move across the country, is doing better at hiring diverse candidates than many tech startups.
Ekpo’s advice to those startups is to keep it “old school” and do the work.
That means meeting the candidates in person, going to events that are hosted and attended by those that have been historically ignored, and asking to tap into networks.
USDS still has diversity issues, however. Ekpo explained that if one looks closely at their organization, “we are lacking in representation of women and people of color in the engineering (team).” They expose the issue by being open about diversity statistics.
An expanding tech company like Jellyvision, a benefits communications platform, says a hybrid of both technology and “old school” relationships works.
The Chicago company has grown from 65 to 400 employees in the past five years, and it maintains a 50-50 split in terms of gender diversity, from entry-level employees to the C-suite. However, the company doesn’t have any people of color in leadership roles in the C-suite currently according to Hibben Rothschild, an HR manager at the company.
Jellyvision added technology with an applicant tracking system to help automate the identity enactment process. It’s like blind hiring of new employees.
But what if it’s a big bay area tech company that has tens of thousands of people? These companies could probably use the advice of people who have been doing hiring right, especially under the strict standards of government agencies.
Ekpo was recently taken from USDS to help lead diversity efforts at Google. First up on her to-do list is to be open about diversity and inclusion statistics, both internally and externally. Her previous startup experiences prove it works.