Tuesday 17 October 2017

'I'm gay but I'm a white gay man... there's a lot more to understand about workplace inclusion' - Indeed's HR SVP is in town for Dublin Pride

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

There's a struggle to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce in the tech industry in Ireland - but just recognising the issue isn't enough.

According to Paul Wolfe, Indeed's Senior Vice President of Human Resources, employers have a responsibility to make sure there's a supportive culture that’s committed to educating employees about inclusion and investing in strategies to put realistic policies in place.

Wolfe - who oversees all human resource functions, including talent acquisition, employee retention, compensation, benefits and employee development at Indeed - is in town for Dublin Pride for the very first time.

"I have not yet had the privilege of attending a Dublin Pride although Indeed have participated for the last three years. I was asked if I would be available for the festival back in January and I made sure that my travel plans tied in with this weekend," he told independent.ie.

"The Irish people have really positive energy - you guys really know how to celebrate. I'm really excited. For the first time I'll get to compare Dublin Pride with New York Pride, which I'm flying back for the next day." 

With 15 years of experience as a human resources executive, having served as a Vice President and Senior Vice President at number of companies, including Match.com, Orbitz, Conde Nast and Ticketmaster, we took the opportunity to grill Wolfe on how the diversity tide is changing in the tech space.

 

Are tech firms introducing more appropriate measures to embrace diversity in the workplace? Or is it still very much in progress?

I think it is absolutely still a work in progress. Inclusion is a hot topic in the tech place right now but it applies for every industry. There isn't a silver bullet to solve the underrepresented issue in a company. So we're still trying to figure it out.

It's an entire culture change. We are looking at building relationships with other groups that work for us and the organisation. If you're underrepresented in a company you want to be able to see and meet someone like yourself you want to be able to talk to a person that has experienced similar things to yourself. In the recruitment process, helping people know what inclusion is is important.

At Indeed, it's important that we incorporate an inclusion policy that is in keeping with our culture and gets it into our pattern to become part of our DNA. We see signs that it's getting better, we've created the Director of Inclusion role some 15-16 months ago.

In the tech industry, gender, age and sexual orientation have - and can - cause roadblocks. What inclusion barrier do you think is the most difficult to overcome?

Inclusion is about much more than sexual orientation or ethnicity or nationality. I'm gay but I'm a white gay man. People do make assumptions based on visual identity but it's also about socio economic backgrounds, the rural homestead v growing up in a larger city. It's about what college or university I went to and how I was raised; all of those things shape how we view the world and how we interpret information.

We've started to talk to employers about why people's perspectives are different; we're all born with biases, there's nothing wrong with that but it's important that we're aware of that. We don't have to agree but understanding someone else's perspectives is the important bit.

Different perspectives make great companies - but understanding each other's viewpoint would make the world a better place.

 

How have you worked to create an environment that embraces diversity at Indeed itself?

Our inclusion roadmap is education, an unconscious biased training - and helping employees understand what that means. I think there's a lot of other factors at play here that we're still figuring out. We need to keep asking questions. 

There are some trans gender employees at Indeed and one in particular opened up as we got to know each other. She said she gave me a lot of credit as I was actually asking her questions about her experience and how she felt; I thought I might have been being rude but she said she appreciated it because no-one asks her questions, everyone makes assumptions. 

So it's about creating an environment where it's ok to ask these questions, it's part of our education process. If we're trying to increase our underrepresented population. In general, let's build relationships that are symbiotic.

 

So what's your opinion on filling the underrepresented quota? Do talented individuals suffer due to this focus?

If you give a hiring manager for a job a quota, they could just maintain on fulfilling that quota. I still believe that we need to hire the right person for the job. If it is a white man that gets the job in the end, we just need to be transparent about that. With the right understanding, we can both look at creating a balance between quota and the best talent. I know as a organisation we are not quite there yet; a number of leading tech firms aren't there yet either.

Online Editors

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