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Newsletter Week 30

September 4, 2019

There’s a passion for passion at work. But is our perception of passion biased? Also, sisterhood only goes so far. Women of color report being uncomfortable taking some kinds of emotional risks with white women at work, even at “inclusive” workplaces. AI for HR? Not quite yet. Key problems still block the way, including limited data and how to explain “black-box” decisions to the humans in the process. Finally, an inspiring story about one man’s journey from a life sentence to a hot tech startup.

Original Content Is Back!

We’re excited to be back with new, original content on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace! First up: the latest academic research on passion as a hiring criterion, and how “passion” can end up as a proxy for “just like me.”

Is Passion About Fit? Or Just Sameness? (D&I In Practice Original)

The passion for passion at work is everywhere. Industry luminaries promote passion as a key to business success. Career coaches offer to help you find yours, for a fee.

So, passion is in. But how do you recognize passion when you see it in a candidate? Megan Tobias Neely, Ph.D., discusses academic research on how we perceive passion differently if a person’s passions are similar to ours—a tendency that can lead people to inadvertently hire “mini-mes.” Dr. Neely also points out how race, class and even gender can affect “passion,” and how hiring managers can make smarter decisions about people’s determination, grit and ultimate success in a job.

For more on why “find your passion” is not always the best career advice, check out these articles:

This Week in News and Research

1. Even at ‘Inclusive’ Companies, Women of Color Don’t Feel Supported (Harvard Business Review)

Based on a survey of HBR readers, this research suggests that women of color-—specifically black and Hispanic women in the US—do not feel safe taking some kinds of emotional risks with white women at work. From the article:

While organizations seem to have devoted more time, attention, and resources to creating inclusive climates at work — and that women report benefitting overall — this is likely not enough to support shared sisterhood. You can’t build meaningful connections between women of different races and ethnicities, let alone ask them to advocate for their collective advancement, if black and Hispanic women report being excluded from the relationships required to make an organization run.

A couple of implications here for D&I professionals. First, it’s important to think about the specific experiences of women of color in your organization, even when the numbers are small. As HR initiatives are increasingly guided by data, it can be tempting to focus on what look like the largest problems, which are often related to gender.

But a single-minded focus on “low-hanging fruit” can obscure the unique problems faced by women of color at work. Specific data-gathering techniques, like focus groups and interviews, can uncover these challenges, and it’s worth the extra time and energy to do so.

Second, for white women in leadership roles, especially HR and D&I, it’s critical to put extra effort into becoming an informed and effective ally. Here are some tips on how.

2. Can Artificial Intelligence Help Answer HR’s Toughest Questions (Knowledge@Wharton)

In this podcast, researchers discuss how AI for HR is still more promise than reality. Key challenges include “limited data, the complexity of HR tasks, fairness and accountability.”

Not surprisingly, some of the main barriers to AI adoption revolve around how the actual humans in the system react to decisions handed down by an impersonal process that is so complex that no one can explain how the decision was reached. One key role for HR going forward? Figuring out how to retool the role of managers in an environment where more and more decision-making is being centralized and optimized.

For more on how humans respond to being managed by machines, check out this article on how Uber drivers are hacking the ride sharing service’s algorithms.

3. This Tech Worker’s Transition from a Life Sentence to a Career is a Lesson for the Whole Industry(Fast Company )

Some tech companies are beginning to include formerly incarcerated people in their thinking about D&I. This piece showcases one man’s journey from a life sentence to a fast-growing tech startup.

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.

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