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Diversity and inclusion hiring enhances an organization-and its performance

By Victoria Waye

Over the past several years, diversity and inclusion have come to the forefront of conversations surrounding hiring for all industries. It's a global hot topic now, and many organizations have put additional resources into growing this area of their hiring strategies.

Many companies have struggled to find balance between unbiased, openly inclusive hiring strategies and leaning too far into diversity and inclusion policies that alienate existing employees. According to a study by McKinsey, Diversity Matters, "companies with racial and ethnical diversity are 35 percent more likely to perform at a higher level".

Implementing a strong policy surrounding diversity and inclusion will enhance an organization. However, an organization needs to have buy-in from the entire staff regarding hiring policy, cultural equity, and strong anti-racism policies to not only attract, but also retain, talent.

The first step is to put a plan in place, but navigating this can be a challenging and sometimes confusing process. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association's (SEIA) Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019, "a small but growing percentage of solar companies have strategies in place to make the workforce more diverse. The percentage of firms reporting a strategy to increase the representation of women increased from 14 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in the latest survey. The percentage of firms reporting a strategy in place to increase the representation of people of color is up from 7 percent in 2017 to 22 percent in the latest survey."

For organizations conducting hiring, we recommend using a gender decoder when posting job descriptions. This is often the first stumbling block in attracting diverse applicants. Without realizing it, we all use language that is subtly 'gender-coded' and can create bias before a candidate ever engages with your organization. Words like leader, competitive, and individual tend to be more masculine while responsible, collaborative, and empathy tend to be more feminine and attract more females to a job posting.

Many companies do not realize that unconscious bias is evident just from the vocabulary used in their job posts.

As part of our recruitment process, we proactively converse, and share jobs with, a network of organizations, universities, and social media groups that encourage and work towards the advancement of women and ethnic groups. This not only attracts a more diversified candidate pool, but allows us to build strong relationships with a diverse group of individuals making measurable impact.

Additionally, this gives a voice to the underserved highly educated groups in our industry to help us better understand how we can forge a positive path forward with them at the helm. According to Womenintheworkplace.com, "only 23 percent of C-suites are made up of women (less than a quarter of all CEOs), and of that 23 percent, only 4 percent are women of color." The importance of starting a conversation surrounding inclusiveness is evident in this statistic.

Another important tool for an organization to consider is blind applicants. This is the practice of removing any gender or ethnicity specific details in a resume prior to the hiring manager ever seeing it. This would include names, pronouns, universities that indicated a specific ethnicity, dates that reveal age, etc. Researchers from Harvard and Princeton found "blind auditions increased the likelihood that a woman would be hired by between 25 and 46 percent." An additional step is to include blind hiring in an organization's initial interview process. A blind hiring process involves stripping away identifiable characteristics from a resume that are not related to the job or experiences needed for success.

This practice would include providing candidates with a technical skills test, essay, or questionnaire. In the age of technology, an organization could also set up an online chat to have the initial interview with a candidate, where they can freely ask questions and have the candidate expand upon responses. From here, the Hiring Manager can shortlist the top applicants.

Overall, our strongest recommendation is to start taking steps to make diversity and inclusion ingrained in your company culture and part of the formal process for every position you fill. Closing the gap for all ethnicities and genders has to start with a conversation and end with process improvement.

Victoria Waye is a seasoned recruiter with over seven years of experience. She has worked in Canada and Australia as a renewable energy recruiter and has an unabated passion for the industry. She enjoys helping clients and candidates build long-lasting and productive relationships.

EnergeiaWorks is North America's most specialized executive recruiting firm focused on the clean energy sector. Its clients represent a cross-section of the cleantech industry from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, including hardware manufacturers, construction companies, engineering consulting firms, energy utilities, software developers, service providers, and government organizations.