Developing a more diverse, inclusive and representative economy is a top priority of President Joe Biden’s administration. The U.S. Department of Labor is working to deliver on this promise by creating partnerships with some of the country’s largest employers to ensure that diversity is prioritized during both corporate hiring and management.
According to Jenny Yang, Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Department of Labor is looking to create and utilize new technologies in the hiring process that make diversity and equity a priority. Instead of punitive measures, these bilateral relationships center government leaders as helpful aides in a collective mission of equity.
Yang and her team are also helping these partner companies determine which processes might inadvertently advance discrimination in hiring. For example, Amazon reportedly abandoned its own artificial intelligence screening program when it discovered that the system had taught itself to prefer male candidates to women based on the company’s past hires. In covering the project, Isobel Asher Hamilton at Business Insider wrote that AI bias has long been a problem as humans try to automate the hiring process. “In 2016, ProPublica found that risk-assessment software used to forecast which criminals were most likely to reoffend exhibited racial bias against black people. Overreliance on AI for things like recruitment, credit-scoring, and parole judgments have also created issues in the past.” The remedy seems to be making sure human eyes are able to keep a close watch over hiring that is automated, so that human-made systems do not duplicate human biases.
The Case for Boosting Corporate Diversity
A 2020 McKinsey report found that the relationship between increased corporate diversity on executive teams and financial strong performance has strengthened in recent years. Analyzing more than 1,000 large companies across 15 countries, McKinsey’s findings reaffirmed the strong business case for ethnic, gender and racial diversity in corporate leadership.
Corporations are recognizing the impact of increased diversity leadership and are adapting new strategies in hiring and HR management to foster open, inclusive workplaces. And this August, the Securities and Exchange Commission also approved a new plan from Nasdaq that will require companies that list shares on its exchanges to meet certain race and gender targets. The rules will ensure company boards meet diversity requirements or force firms to explain in writing why they have failed to meet the requirements.
Robert F. Smith’s Work to Increase Diverse, Inclusive Workplaces
Philanthropist Robert F. Smith has sponsored a variety of initiatives to support a more diverse workforce in corporate America.
For example, the internX program, which matches leading Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) employers with diverse internship candidates, was created by the Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is founding director and President. The initiative matches talented young people with paid internships, networking opportunities and professional skills. Focusing on students of color, the program has set up students of color with prestigious internships at AT&T, Vertafore, EAB and PowerSchool.
Innovative projects like internX help morph a talented, accomplished slate of young people of color at America’s most powerful corporations, setting them up to be the CEOs of tomorrow.
Alongside CEOs like Mary Barra and Jamie Dimon, Smith serves on the Business Roundtable’s new Special Committee for Racial Equity and Justice. There, he helps build on Business Roundtable’s work to promote broad economic opportunity, focusing on issues like health care and workforce diversity. In May 2020, Smith joined his colleagues in signing the Roundtable’s statement against racial injustice.
Learn more about Smith’s other work to create a diverse, inclusive future for corporate America.