DWEEBS STORIES

Blind Hiring Can Work

And how to hire a diverse team.

I don’t write as often as I’d like to about Dweebs Global, but it is by far the most interesting and rewarding thing in my life. It is also one of the most diverse workplaces I’ve ever seen, let alone worked at.

We haven’t tried to achieve this incredible diversity by force — or even by targeted recruiting. The websites we use to find volunteers are unfortunately biased toward privileged Americans. And as a volunteer-run organization, we face the challenge that volunteers inherently come from places where people have the time and ability to work for free.

Yet, here we are: more women than men. More minorities than white people. Leads from around the world. Volunteers who own fourth homes and volunteers from some of the poorest areas in the world.

Every week, I have at least a dozen calls that are at odd hours because we have to accommodate people from the Pacific Coast of the United States to Australia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and every time zone in between.

So far, we’ve achieved this diversity by bringing on the best people for each position. And…that’s it.

If you want to do that too, here’s how.

There is no tradeoff between quality talent and diversity.

Don’t limit your search to the United States.

Let me be clear. Dweebs Global’s America contingent is independently diverse, with people from across the country and from every race.

But, also, the world is a very diverse place. It’s both inequitable and anti-capitalist to assume Americans are going to be better for every job, especially in this online post-pandemic world.

For example, we recently hired fundraisers. One woman said in her first interview that she was impressed we were considering her because she is based in Tanzania. But we hadn’t even thought to limit our search to the U.S. We ended up bringing her on, not because we needed international diversity, but because she is bloody incredible.

You will find Asians from Asia and Africans from Africa who are insanely talented and willing to work remotely for American companies. They’re diverse in a whole new way from the diaspora because they come from different cultural backgrounds, speak different languages, and come with ideas that are outside the box you’re used to. (Note, though: pay them fair wages. This isn’t an excuse to exploit workers.)

Don’t assume white people or men are better.

I know what you’re probably thinking. Me? I’d never be like that. But hear me out.

In my experience, well-meaning liberals subconsciously assume white people are better just as much as conservatives do. Think about all the “we need to protect cute little minorities” that’s going on right now. I’ll never forget one of the most conservative, right-wing Republicans I know asked me how I knew the only other Indian woman in the room, while all my liberal friends jumped to the conclusion we were related. Never underestimate the power of subconscious racism to really, really hurt.

I think what’s going on inside people’s heads with hiring is this: we know a queer, disabled, brown, Black, or Muslim woman isn’t going to be as good as this straight white man, but we need that diversity to look good. So we’ll take the hit and uplift a poor community.

That, frankly, is bullshit.

I worked at a place once where most teams said they deeply cared about diverse hiring, but ran almost all white teams that refused to have tough conversations. One director said he didn’t believe in affirmative action. (I used to debate him on it.) His team was majority Black and majority female. He genuinely thought they were the best for the job and there was something very heartening about that.

Don’t go into blind hiring assuming you’re only going to get qualified white men. You’re not. There is no tradeoff between quality talent and diversity.

Understand there is no such thing as the best.

When I say we’ve recruited the best and created a diverse team, it’s because it’s the truth: we have brought on talented people and they come from everywhere. But the best is a bar. There’s a whole tier of “the best,” people who are all able to do the job equally well.

If the only people who clear that bar in your opinion are white/male/etc., open your mind to the possibility that you might be biased. At Dweebs Global, we bring on volunteers to lead everything from script-writing mental health videos to creating machine learning algorithms and there isn’t a single field which I think is justifiably dominated by one race or gender.

Don’t ask about things you don’t need to know, like age, religion, disability, or sexuality.

There are many queer people at Dweebs Global (obviously, including me). But I don’t really talk about it at work. And neither does anyone else.

When you ask about religion or sexuality, you are making the implicit assumption that they will be in the minority, that they will need “focus groups,” and that it will matter. We run an international org. I don’t assume any holidays are being observed unless I’m told, and then people can observe what they want. We have Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and people from every other major world religion — and lack thereof. We’re queer-run (though we’re not focused on LGBTQ+ issues). It just doesn’t matter.

Disability and age are slightly different: sometimes they do matter. We work with high school volunteers who need their parents to sign disclosure forms and people who have chronic illnesses that need accommodations. But we work it out. After we bring them on. Most disabilities are not as debilitating as Hollywood makes them out to be, most people with disabilities prefer to be treated as people first, and many disabilities are invisible. Don’t be weird and definitely don’t treat anyone as less than anyone else.

Tell people from the initial interview that this is a workplace with no tolerance for discrimination.

There are lots of conversations on hiring minorities, but far fewer on retaining them. We don’t have this problem as a majority-minority workplace, but we’ve also fought hard to make sure it will never be a problem.

From the very first interview, we let everyone know we are an international org with people from different countries, sexualities, religions, and races. We ask all interviewees if they’re comfortable with that and understand what that means. We require pronouns in signatures, respect for “unusual” beliefs and holidays, and make it clear where we stand on issues like gay marriage. We have volunteers from India and Pakistan, atheists and extremely religious observers. We deal with complaints immediately and have a zero-tolerance policy. If you don’t like it, leave.

Don’t hire minorities only for “minority work”.

Finally, I understand that sometimes, you’ll very much look for a specific type of person for a specific role. (For example, we want a woman to lead our Women in STEM team.)

But if your only minorities are working on diversity, inclusion, criminal justice reform, and female equality you’ve done something wrong. Minorities are good at everything, not only representing their race. It continues to boggle my mind (and be very painful) when I have to explain to people that Dweebs Global doesn’t focus on minority issues, just because we’re minority run. Like white people, we are capable of running massive orgs that work with everyone.

One of the most freeing things of having a diverse org is when you don’t need to try for diversity anymore, you can afford to blind hire. And then you’ll see how diverse “the best” actually is.

Today, I look at other nonprofit and company websites and I’m always shocked at how white and male they are. My first thought is no longer “you should try harder to hire diversely,” but “how the heck are you trying so hard to be homogeneous?” Because, trust me, if we wanted to be all female, all Indian, or all young, it would be impossible.

How are companies succeeding at being so racist they keep out that many qualified minorities? How do they not realize that the best engineers, press specialists, or website designers are frequently women? Do they achieve such wallpaper-level uniformity in their hires by just ignoring half the population?

So here is my grand suggestion to fix this problem: just recruit the best.

It’s not a perfect fix. There will still be bias in how the best is defined and there will always be fields which are so white or male-dominated that women/minorities are in high demand. Even at Dweebs Global, we always keep an eye on where we need to expand next and how to more closely match the population of the world. But blind hiring is a heck of a lot better than whatever it is most people are doing right now.

I hope that by sharing my experiences, you will realize that diversity and inclusion are not as hard as people make them out to be. Organizations should look quite different in 2021. And minorities are actually qualified enough to be competitive based on our merits, not on the color of our skin.

Author, attorney, dachshund human. President of Dweebs Global.

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