SAN FRANCISCO: Blendoor has released a mobile app to help technology firms recruit more diverse candidates and tackle the gender and minority imbalance across the industry.
Stephanie Lampkin, CEO and founder of Blendoor, said that the app is "like Tinder for jobs". It is designed to tackle ‘unconscious bias' in technology recruitment in two ways.
Female and minority candidates can search for relevant jobs, but the apps will also use their behaviour to recommend certain career development opportunities, for example suggesting a course in general assembly or coding, or a particular conference to attend to better align the user for jobs they are going for.
For recruiters, the app takes the sensible and novel approach of hiding the applicant's name and photo during the early stages of the recruitment process, meaning that hiring managers can avoid taking biased decisions against certain candidates.
The Blendoor app links with Facebook and LinkedIn so that users and firms can integrate the tool with their current recruitment processes.
Lampkin explained at the Dreamforce user event hosted by Salesforce in San Francisco that she developed the app in response to problems she has faced working in the IT industry, as well as diversity reports highlighting the scale of the problem.
Lampkin noted that 91 percent of workers across the tech sector are white or Asian, while 75 percent are male. She added that there are only 12 African American female engineers among Google's 55,000-strong workforce.
The idea behind the Blendoor app is to foster a blind evaluation process, to move firms away from knowing the school, orientation or gender of job applicants.
"Firms shouldn't get caught up in an idea of a culture fit, hiring people who look or act or do the sorts of things they like to do," Lampkin said. "This is my solution for solving the unconscious bias problem in tech. I'm targeting the top of the funnel, how people get into job interviews."
Lampkin has the kind of technology background that should open the door to satisfying and challenging roles at the top of the IT profession. She started coding in 1999 at the age of 13, and went on to earn an engineering degree from Stanford on a scholarship programme, followed by an MBA from MIT.
This was all against a background of being brought up by a single mother with drink and drugs problems, and never knowing her father. Her IT career included roles at several technology companies, including Microsoft.
Lampkin disputes the notion that the white and Asian male bias in the IT industry is down to a lack of available candidates outside these groups.
"The argument goes that there aren't enough women with engineering degrees, so there's not a big enough pipeline to hire more women. But lots of male engineers in tech don't have engineering degrees," she pointed out. Lampkin herself went through 10 rounds of interviews for a job at Google, only to be eventually turned down with the explanation that she was not technical enough.
"People hiring for these jobs want people to join the firm who sound like them," she said.
Lampkin is also working to encourage change in the wording of vacancies, as she noted that certain phrases such as ‘senior level' or ‘salary negotiable' tend to put off certain people when applying for jobs. She added that it would be helpful to have a broader set of people involved in crafting technology courses that are more appealing to minorities and females.
Firms making use of hiring tools like the Blendoor app could find themselves richly rewarded. Lampkin said that 51 percent of the US population will be black and brown by 2040, while women's purchasing power will soon be dominant.
"There's a strong user base of women for tech products. It doesn't make sense to create a product for a demographic not represented in your teams," she said. "There's also the social issue of pay and equality. We're not in these industries or roles that pay pretty well compared to other sectors."
Lampkin's appearance at the Dreamforce event is one of many sessions this week focused on diversity in the IT workforce. Salesforce has many internal programmes aimed at improving its own statistics for female and minority staff and ensuring parity in pay, but the SaaS vendor is also dedicating an entire day at Dreamforce to women in technology for the first time.
This will see CEO Marc Benioff and founder Parker Harris discussing Salesforce's diversity efforts, along with talks from speakers as diverse as YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and actress and business owner Jessica Alba.
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