A few weeks ago, alongside the largest gathering of women technologists in the world at Grace Hopper, the Handshake and PwC teams partnered together to host a thoughtful discussion. Because many of us work in or near talent acquisition, we know events are the norm—whether you’re hosting or attending. But we really wanted to do something different. For us, it wasn’t about how many people or how many Fortune 500 company logos we could get in a room. For us, it was about starting a meaningful dialogue, gathering people who care and are committed to enacting change.

A dialogue about what you ask? Closing the inequality gap in our workforces. Focusing on more representation in your pipeline and programs to develop and nurture inclusive workplaces. And the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston, TX was the best place to do so.

“The most profound experience from Grace Hopper was seeing Houston taken over by women in tech everywhere—hotels, cabs, airplanes, the airport, the convention hall, restaurants, and on the street. It was so inspiring to see women (and men!) from all kinds of backgrounds converging to support and encourage each other.”

—Jordan Pedraza, Head of University Support at Handshake

Madeline Kolbe Saltzman (Handshake, VP of People & Talent), Garrett Lord (Handshake, CEO & Founder) and Rod Adams (PwC, US & Mexico Talent Acquisition Leader) kicked off the discussion by talking about how important it is to bring in diversity throughout the full hiring lifecycle.

“Hiring women isn’t some ‘feel good’ initiative, rather a business decision that has proven data and evidence to make a positive impact to the bottom line and business growth.”

—Madeline Kolbe Saltzman, VP of People & Talent at Handshake

Rod Adams also shared that at PwC, they’re looking to college and early talent as a key driver to being a more diverse and inclusive workplace, particularly by incorporating a virtual strategy in addition to their boots on the ground campus approach. This is really about bringing in diversity of all kinds – gender, race, ethnicity, alma mater, sexual orientation, perspective, and more.

The group then broke out into four groups to have more intimate, honest, open conversations about several areas that challenge so many individuals and companies today. The topics were:

  • How to raise this issue to priority amongst leadership—moderated by Bree Richardson (PwC Director of Talent Acquisition—Consulting) and Katie Patel (PwC Diversity Talent Acquisition Lead)
  • Battling unconscious bias—moderated by Jordan Pedraza (Handshake Head of University Support)
  • Combating the misconception of ‘lowering the bar’—hosted by Carmelina Lalley (PwC US Assurance Talent Acquisition Leader)
  • Imposter syndrome and how to support young female talent—hosted by Mallory Wheaton (Handshake Employer Customer Success)

Attendees discussed challenges and opportunities for improvement, but also shared some actionable ideas that are working at their own organizations as well. One company (names not disclosed) holds a summit for women leaders at the company. Another company says, “we’re looking for women who want to be moms and who know that being a mom is going to make them better at work.”

In her closing, Madeline shared a company and personal commitment to shortening this gap in representation in our own workplace. So, I encourage everyone reading this post to do the same. What one thing (big or small) can you do personally, within your team or your whole organization to reduce bias and increase representation? Write it down. And keep it close to you so you continually hold yourself accountable.

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Jordan Pedraza & Madeline Kolbe Saltzman,
Leadership at Handshake