Talking #BlackLinkedIn and DEI with Patricia Gatlin
Hire IQ by HackerEarth is a new initiative in which we speak with recruiters, talent acquisition managers, and hiring managers from across the globe, and ask them pertinent questions on the issues that ail the tech recruiting world.
Next up in this edition is Patricia Gatlin, Diversity Lead/Talent Sourcing Specialist, at Johns Hopkins. She is also the curator of #BlackLinkedin ✊🏾 where she mentions how biased the LinkedIn algorithm is due to which her DEI posts were not getting the same exposure as everyone else.
We keep saying the tech world needs to break out of its “boys only” mode and become more inclusive when the tech we use on an everyday basis could be the very reason that relevant voices like hers are not getting seen, or heard.
All the more reason for this conversation with Patricia—to learn about her journey and understand inclusivity and diversity in the tech world, at a micro level.
Settle in, and let’s get to it!
P.S. If you missed the previous edition of HireIQ where we sat down with Colet Coelho from Recruit CRM, you can read it here 🙂
HackerEarth: You mention on your site that #BlackLinkedin was born out of shared knowledge of how Black and brown voices are discriminated against by the AI on LinkedIn. Have you seen this discrimination on other social sites, too? Could you share a few examples of this discrimination and how it has affected your work in the DEI space?
Patricia: Yes, I have seen it on other sites such as Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube, Facebook, etc.
Algorithmic bias is systemic and it creates unfair circumstances for particular users and promotes access to privilege.
At the root of it all, are the rules – the platforms’ IFTTT framework gets coupled with messages from a certain section of society who may be classist, racist, or phobic.
Let’s be honest, not everyone had a computer when they first came out but guess who did? White affluent males, and therefore they were the first ones in the race while everyone else was catching up. We fail to acknowledge that white males have the most disposable incomes because they are getting paid more. So, if you started with a UX being focused on your target audience being white and having white privilege then of course you’re going to see AI issues.
Every mainstream social media platform has discrimination built into it. For example, TikTok is a Chinese-based company in a society that is monoethnic, and consequently, they don’t have to live in a polyethnic society like America, and the platform too, isn’t built to accommodate the nuances of a polyethnic American society. In fact, most countries aren’t polyethnic. Most societies don’t deal with the same racial and cultural constructs that America does. If a society deems whiteness as the most virtuous then a video platform will be biased toward that. We live in a global world that centers privilege and access around whiteness.
There is a strong need to be proactive in my quest to support black and brown content over people who are not of color. When I’m building out a talent pipeline I can already assume that if I’m doing a Boolean or X-ray search of Google I will see white candidates first because most likely the algorithm is based on social constructs that don’t support black professionals. Even if you are using YouTube and you search for a video data engineer you will most likely see men, mostly white, and a few men of color.
Why? Because white men most likely had privileged access either to education, the job interview, or to have the camera gear to shoot content about their job. As a DEI specialist, it’s my job to find the problem, address it, and correct it with whatever tools I can find. First, I must admit there’s a systemic or institutionalized issue for POC in Tech, and only then can I begin to deconstruct what that looks like for them.
Also, read: 10-Step Diversity Hiring Handbook
HackerEarth: Post creating #BlackLinkedIn, have you seen a change in the way your posts are being received online? Could you detail some of the wins of the movement for us?
Patricia: I have seen a change because the hashtag exists, and people know where to find mine and others’ content on the platform. I think the biggest win of the movement is BIPOCs’ finding each other on the platform, creating safe spaces, and connecting more; which is leading to more people landing opportunities through referrals or getting mentorship.
The hashtag has become a watercooler for us to hang out and tell our truths about what it means to a professional in and outside of the workplace.
We have a long way to go with growing support around it. In addition, I have put up an informative site and added a quarterly virtual event called, The Digital Cookout, where we get to gather and discuss hot topics from the watercooler (hashtag). Our last event was about over employment and how to navigate that as a black or brown professional.
HackerEarth: How do you think the DEI space has evolved since George Floyd and Black Lives Matter? In your opinion, is there an added emphasis on POCs in tech recruiting, or was it just a phase?
Patricia: The DEI space has dramatically changed, there are more activists now than before when everyone was just a human resource professional or community or social justice advocate. DEI has allowed activists, like me, to be considered ‘professionals’ and get paid for the emotional labor we do. Unfortunately, George Floyd had to die for people to really see how racism affects the black community in America. With his death, we saw Fortune 500 companies, and especially tech companies, pledge to become the change we so desperately need.
For some companies, it was just performative because they never put any action behind it or they simply just put money into it and left black and brown people to solve an issue they didn’t create.
Not only that but, many companies secretly support the systematic injustice of black and brown people on the back end. If you donate to politicians or groups who actively support the phobia of blacks, LGBTQ+, women’s rights, etc. then you are canceling out your public displays of advocacy which makes it performative. There’s an added emphasis from those companies now to hire POCs and I’ve seen some great discussions, accelerators, and apprenticeships come out of it but I can’t speak for the results because it may be 2-3 years before we see it.
Also, read: Recruiters Versus Bias: Who’s Winning This War?
HackerEarth: With inflation and layoffs, do you think that the emphasis placed on creating diverse teams in the days right after COVID will be lost?
Patricia: No I don’t think the emphasis will be lost but I believe the reasons could be twisted. Let me explain, junior and mid-level professionals tend to make up the majority of BIPOC. In addition, departments and teams that are deemed unnecessary tend to house a majority of BIPOC for example talent acquisition, administrative, facilities, marketing, etc. When you look at who makes up those teams you will see women and people of color.
The issue with inflation is people are cutting their budgets, but this is the time for companies to start looking at their diversity pipelines and discover what they can do better. Instead, what I see companies doing is, hiring BIPOC in their mid-COVID pipelines for low salaries. They blame it on having a lean budget, but we all know the CEO isn’t getting furloughed. Some companies are targeting BIPOC because they know that inflation can make them desperate. Therefore, some are using diverse pipelines as a lure to keep their ships from sinking and not really because they believe in the mission.
HackerEarth: According to you – what are the top 3 global tech companies who are doing DEI right, and what can others learn from them?
Patricia: If I’m being honest, I don’t co-sign for companies I haven’t been hired to audit myself or been hired at because I have heard horror stories from employees at some of the best companies. We must stop seeing DEI as a badge of honor when it’s actually what should have always been done. You can have the trophy one day and the next it’s been taken away. Don’t incentivize DEI because people will start doing it for the wrong reasons. But if I had to give an answer, from what I’ve heard, Twilio, Microsoft, and Blend (no further comment than that).
HackerEarth: What is the on-ground reality among POCs applying for roles in tech? Is there more trust among the community, or are there vital issues that they think are not being addressed?
Patricia: Inflation is not going away or slowing down for another 2-3 years if that.
Hiring freezers are real if you want to get into big tech. Yes, you might be able to snag a contract role but that’s not FTE and people of color need full benefits.
The tech industry has gotten more competitive due to TikTok influencers marketing six-figure salaries and luxury lifestyles. Tech is making it even harder to get an interview or get an offer because tech companies are combating career influencers who give out elaborate narratives about the industry.
We’re also not discussing the Gen Zs who don’t want to work harder but smarter and how that will affect retention rates in the future. Luckily there is more trust amongst POCs who are sharing amazing IRL information about what it means to work in this industry. I love BlackTechTwitter and all the Facebook groups for POCs in different fields. Yet, a vital issue is that there are even more gatekeepers in tech now because of all that I previously mentioned.
HackerEarth: What are 3–5 pieces of advice you have for organizations looking to improve the impact of their D&I strategies?
Patricia: When DEI professionals are burned out they can’t solve problems.
Put your money where the problem is, don’t just say you want to work on DEI strategies and not pay DEI professionals well and then not give them a team to support those efforts.
BIPOCs are just as capable as anyone else but they also need support before, during, and after the interview phase. For every employee it’s going to look different, for example, one might need relocation assistance even if they aren’t a director or VP. The others might need a buddy system or mentorship to guide them through working at your corporation for the first 90 days. Another might simply need a roadmap on how to climb the ladder at your corporation. Have a collaborative plan with your BIPOC so they can become pillars at the job and not just metrics. These are retention methods you should be considering.
Promote black and brown people at the C-Suite level. It’s that simple. Black women are the most educated group in America and eventually the world. Create a seat at the table or be prepared to be sitting alone. The world is becoming more diverse (brown) by the minute and Gen Z will not put up with the same things previous generations have.
Stop taking weeks and months to interview candidates, especially BIPOC because most people are living paycheck to paycheck. The average cost for a company to interview a candidate is 4k and the cost for a candidate to interview with a company given they make it to the last round is half of that. People can’t afford to wait months to go without an answer. Candidates can’t afford to do 3-4 rounds of interviews and an assessment that’s just overkill.
About Patricia Gaitlin
My name is Patricia (Sonja Sky) Gatlin. I’m a New York Times featured activist, DEI Specialist, EdTechie, and Founder of Newbies in Tech. I live in the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas, Nevada. I’ve worked 10+ years in Higher Education and 3+ years in Tech. I’ve recently merged the two fields and currently work part-time as a Diversity Lead sourcing and recruiting STEM professionals to teach gifted students. In addition, I’m a full-time Coordinator flexing my project management, instructional design, and community engagement skills. My goal is to inspire people and become a Chief Diversity Officer and Tech influencer.
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