Subscribe to D&I In Practice

Join business leaders and entrepreneurs who are working to make their businesses more diverse and inclusive.

Newsletter Week 29

August 28, 2019

Members of under-represented groups can experience a sense of “linked fate”—the belief that what happens to one member of their group affects them personally. This presents both pitfalls and opportunities for recruiters trying to increase their pipeline of candidates from under-represented backgrounds. Also, in the "not really news" category, employees don’t like icebreakers. Some icebreaker questions can also be uncomfortable for people from diverse backgrounds, especially when they are too soon or too personal. My advice? Ditch icebreakers in favor of more meaningful ways to build team connections, like volunteering together. August 26 was Women’s Equality Day, so we revisit some readable yet research-based articles on how to promote gender equality in the workplace.

Original Content Starts Back Up Next Week!

I’m excited about our new lineup, which starts next week! You’ll be seeing more articles by leading academics sharing how to put their research findings into practice. We also have a number of interviews coming up with D&I practitioners around the globe, talking frankly about how they handle real-life D&I questions. 

In the meantime, sexual harassment and assault has unfortunately been in the news again lately: at Lyft, Riot Games, jeans factories in Lesotho, and the LA Opera, among others. So it’s a good time to revisit our interview with InChorus co-founder Rosie Turner about her UK-based app to identify problematic behavior and create interventions early.

This Week in News and Research

1. Does Sociology Hold the Key to Diversity Hiring? (ERE Recruiting Intelligence)

This interesting piece discusses the concept of “linked fate,” the extent to which people of similar races and ethnicities see what happens to one member of their group as affecting them personally. 

The article is admittedly superficial (and plays a little fast and loose with the underlying research concept). But it makes an important point. People from minority groups can tend to see what happens to one member of their group as a proxy for how they will be treated. There’s also evidence that different groups--especially those that have historically experienced discrimination--will see how you treat one group as a sign of how you will treat the other. For example, in the US, because of historic discrimination, many black and Hispanic people feel a sense of linked fate.

What does this mean for recruiting? First, you of course should be treating everyone fairly. But it pays to pay particular attention to the candidate experience for people from under-represented groups. A bad experience for one person can have an outsized chilling effect on other candidates from diverse backgrounds.

Second, think about what positive signals you can send about inclusiveness during recruiting. Having people from diverse backgrounds representing the company, talking about successful senior people at the company, and sharing company D&I programs can signal that people from all backgrounds are welcome. Even something as seemingly simple as offering inclusive bathrooms can signal that the company is serious about all kinds of diversity.

Note: I looked but couldn’t find research about linked fate outside of the US context. If you know of any, please drop me a line!

2. For Productive Team-Building, Forget the Icebreaker Questions (HRDive)

I absolutely dread icebreaker questions. So much that I sometimes take strategic bathroom breaks to avoid them. Turns out I am not alone. A recent poll showed that workers think group volunteer activities are the most effective and valuable way to build relationships on a team. Icebreakers are the least.

Unless carefully constructed, icebreakers can also put people from diverse backgrounds on the spot. At a recent conference, I heard this story:

A young Latinx woman attended her orientation for her new job at a high-powered management consulting firm. In a small-group icebreaker, she was asked: “describe your room when you were growing up.” This particular young woman came from a low-income family, so when she was growing up she shared a room with several siblings. As her peers described their rooms, though, it became clear she was the only one. All the other new hires had their own rooms growing up. Talking about sharing a room would make it clear that she came from a low-income family—a fact she was not only not ready to share but that she also worried would mark her as a “diversity hire” right at the beginning.

My personal preference: ditch the icebreaker altogether. But if you must, here is a list of slightly-less-objectionable icebreaker questions, which mostly avoid getting too personal, offensive or stressful.

3. What You Can Do Right Now to Help Advance Women’s Equality in the Workplace (Marketwatch)

To honor Women’s Equality Day on August 26, there was a surge in articles talking about how to promote women’s advancement at work. Some of them were good (like the Marketwatch one above), some were not. If you are looking for readable yet research-based tips for improving gender equality at work, check out the articles below:

We’re Also Reading...

These articles aren’t necessarily directly connected to the workplace, but have interesting insights about diversity and inclusion in society at large.

  • In case you need another reason to figure out how to diversity your recruiting pipeline: The Most Common Age Among Whites in U.S. is 58, More Than Double That of Racial and Ethnic Minorities 

  • Companies are eager to develop AI systems to identify hateful speech online, for many reasons. But an analysis of how Google’s AI system rated tweets shows that AI systems still have a long way to go to understand context and nuance in human communication. Google’s Algorithm for Detecting Hate Speech Looks Racially Biased 

  • As an opera fan, I’ve been following the Plácido Domingo case with great concern. #MeToo continues to raise important questions. Some that come up for me in this situation: Should we shun a person who is accused, but not convicted by any public process? Does the answer change based on how many allegations have been made? At least nine women have made allegations against Domingo so far. Most importantly, how do we get to a point where private investigations, like the one LA Opera is conducting into Domingo, are credible enough that people don’t feel they have to make public accusations to get justice?

We want to hear from you!

D&I In Practice wants your feedback so we can deliver the content you need to move the needle forward on diversity and inclusion. Please send comments, questions and ideas for stories you’d love to see to