Embracing Inclusion: Why Diversity Hiring is Necessary

Ashikka Gupta
7 min readJan 10, 2023

Last summer, I secured an internship through a diversity hiring program. When I told my friends about this opportunity, they were happy for me. Still, some thought being hired through a diversity program was less prestigious than being hired through a traditional hiring process. Initially, I brushed off their comments because I didn’t fully understand the implications. However, as I’ve had more time to think about it, I’ve realized that there are some valid points to be made about the value of diversity programs and their role in the hiring process.

At the time, I found myself questioning the validity of my achievement. Did I genuinely earn this opportunity, or was I being hired to fulfill a diversity quota? And most disturbingly, was it even appropriate for me to feel proud of this accomplishment? These were some of the doubts that lingered in my mind.

What is diversity hiring?

Diversity hiring is a practice that aims to eliminate unconscious bias in the recruitment process to represent better candidates of various ages, nationalities, races, sexual orientations, gender, physical ability, or religion. It’s a step to promote equal access to job opportunities. A simple analogy for this is: diversity is being invited to the party without having to chase the invite. We invite people to our home who we see as worthy and similar. Having visibility in a room full of people is the minimum.

Over the years, diversity hiring has become a trend as companies make more effort to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. For example, a 2021 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 77% of companies have diversity and inclusion initiatives in place, and nearly two-thirds of companies report that they have made progress in increasing diversity in the workplace over the past year.

Do we need it?

To illustrate this point, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario where a company visits a university during placement season and interviews all the students. The students are all asked similar questions and must pass through three rounds of interviews to be selected. If the company were to release a final list of selected candidates that consisted only of males, there would likely be little or no criticism. However, the list consisted only of females. In that case, people would likely raise questions about whether the female candidates had the required skills for the job or whether the recruitment process was biased.

The fact that there was a selection process in place that resulted in the selection of female candidates would be overlooked, and people would assume that the company was engaging in gender-biased hiring practices. The candidates’ hard work and skills would be dismissed in favor of the assumption of bias. The stark contrast of how the general reaction of the public to the two scenarios should be enough to answer the question. As long as this bias exists, diversity hiring must exist.

According to a study that sent more than 83,000 fictitious job applications to large employers in the United States, black applicants were 2.1% less likely to receive an interview callback than white applicants. This racial gap in contact rates varied significantly among different companies, with some firms exhibiting a preference for male applicants while others favored female applicants. The study also found that companies with higher rates of discrimination against black applicants were less profitable, less likely to be federal contractors, and less centralized in their recruiting practices. Approximately 23 individual companies were identified as discriminating against black applicants when controlling for false discovery rates at the 5% level. Overall, the findings suggest that discrimination against black job applicants is concentrated among a small number of large employers.

Why do we think the way we do?

This bias can be conscious/unconscious, but we must agree that it is a part of human nature. We tend to think a certain way, like few things more than others, because it is deeply rooted in our psyches. We have consumed content in which some genders or races were portrayed more favorably than others. So it is only natural for us to perceive the world the way we do. Bias will always be universal and ubiquitous.

It is generally accepted that not all people have had equal access to education, opportunities, and fundamental rights over the years. While the situation may have improved in recent times, the effects of this long-standing discrimination can still be seen in how people think and approach their lives.

This is also known as the Stereotype Threat and is a widely researched topic in social psychology.

According to Wikipedia, Stereotype threat is a situation in which people are or feel at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group. It is theorized to contribute to long-standing racial and gender gaps in academic performance.”

Research has shown that simply being in the presence of other people can trigger Stereotype Threat. In one experiment, women who took a math exam with two other women answered 70% of the questions correctly, while women who took the same exam in the presence of two men scored an average of 55%.

For example, I pursued a Bachelor’s in Computer Science, and there were only ten girls in a class of 70 people. With a significantly smaller percentage, I felt stifled in the learning environment and could not participate or contribute to activities freely. This underrepresentation is one of the significant challenges I felt during college. Even after having the same academic opportunity and cognitive abilities as others, there was always this fear of not being taken seriously due to gender perception.

The root cause of this issue should be addressed by increasing access to education and opportunities for people to improve their qualifications. While this is undoubtedly an important step, it is not enough to fully compensate for the years of persecution and discrimination some people have faced. These experiences can profoundly impact individuals and how they perceive the world; it will take time to heal these wounds. Simply providing access to education and opportunities is an excellent first step, but there are more complete solutions.

Is it any good?

We have discussed diversity hiring and the reasons for its importance. Now let’s examine whether it is contributing to organizational growth.

  • Companies with more diverse leadership teams are more profitable. According to a 2021 McKinsey study, companies in the top 25% for gender diversity earned 25% more than companies in the bottom 25%. The top ethnically and culturally diverse companies out-earned the least diverse varied companies by 36%.
  • Diversity leads to increased innovation. A 2020 study found that companies with more diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues. This is likely because diverse leadership teams can bring new ideas to the table faster through brainstorming sessions and exchanges of differing perspectives.
  • Diverse teams are more effective. Research has shown that various teams are more likely to develop creative solutions to problems, perform better on tasks requiring insight and creativity, and make better decisions.
  • Diversity is good for the bottom line. Companies with diverse workforces tend to have higher stock price growth and market share and are more likely to attract top talent.

Final Thoughts

Many people believe that diversity in the workforce means taking jobs away from those who are “more deserving,” This can lead to resentment and invalidation of the talents and contributions of marginalized individuals who may not have had access to the same opportunities as others. This resentment has sometimes caused me to shy away from promoting my achievements out of fear of confrontation or conflict when I should advocate for my unique perspective and skills. While there may be times when I feel guilt or discomfort over being a “diversity hire,” the thought of not being given a chance at all is even more distressing. I am thankful for the opportunity as it provided me with valuable knowledge and experiences that have helped me develop my skill set.

Despite the potential drawbacks, I am grateful for the opportunities that affirmative action has provided me, and I have worked hard to make the most of them. If you have ever doubted your worth or abilities, it’s time to let go of that doubt. You are just as qualified and capable as any other candidate. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, try to embrace the opportunity and make the most of it. Don’t let insecurities or self-doubt stop you from achieving your full potential. Remember that you were chosen for a reason and have the skills and talents to succeed.