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Addressing Bias

5 Min Read

Joelle Emerson on Diversity

 Diversity in the Workplace

“We hire people we like to work with”.

Such is the mantra of many companies today. They value culture fit over professionals skills. owing to the long hours people spend together during the week. Their thinking is, if you have to work with people you don’t like, it won’t work out well.

Not only that, but hiring for cultural fit goes against the mantra of hiring for diversity. According to Joelle Emerson, an expert on topics related to diversity in the workplace, when companies say they hire for culture fit, it turns out that the people they hire are similar in terms of looks, dress, backgrounds, and cultural experiences. When companies end up going that route for hiring, they lose out on the opportunities a diverse hiring effort provides for innovation.

After quitting her job practicing women’s rights law, Emerson started an organization called Paradigm, which is a company that has partnered with Silicon Valley upstarts like Airbnb, Slack and Pinterest to help those organizations with their hiring She works with these three companies, as well as ten others, on recruitment issues like attraction, selection, development, and retainment, and helps them determine where they can create better diversity and inclusion outcomes within their companies.


One of the biggest parts of Emerson’s job when working with these companies is helping them to understand and combat unconscious bias. At Pinterest and Slack, she hosted unconscious bias training for employees. Her goal with these trainings is less about “fixing” the problem of unconscious bias, and more to help make employees more aware of it in the workplace.

Bias isn’t only a hiring issue- it also deals with how employees communicate with each other in the workplace. Emerson found that in meetings, men interrupt women the majority of the time, and women are more likely to interrupt other women as well. Interruptions aren’t just disrespectful, they prevent ideas from being shared and result in a loss of productivity in the company.

Emerson noted bias also was prevalent when men and women filled out job descriptions. Women would only fill out an application when they met 100% of the qualifications in the job description, while men would fill one out when they matched 60 percent. Companies should look at how they word their descriptions, as a simple sentence change or synonym could lead to a more diverse applicant pool.

What can companies do to mitigate bias in hiring? They could mask the names of job applicants, or as Emerson suggests, set up “nudges” or calendar invites, to remind you that you make a decision about hiring someone within 10 seconds of meeting them and you use the rest of the interview to justify that decision.

The FairWords Difference

FairWords understands how important diversity is for creating an innovative workplace. As the leader in corporate communications, we understand that your organization needs an effective way to combat bias and create effective diversity practices. How is unconscious bias combated within your company? Have you ever been the victim of unconscious bias? How did you react to it, and were any steps taken to help the offending employee understand what they did?

Contact us for a free demo today.

Topics:   Addressing Bias