Hopefully, we are past the point of explaining why diversity is important in STEM. But even though there has been progress made in recent years, there’s still a long way to go to make the field truly inclusive. According to the Pew Research Center, while 50 percent of STEM jobs are filled by women and 13 percent are occupied by Asian workers, Blacks and Hispanics only fill 9 and 8 percent of STEM positions respectively.
Does your organization have fair representation of talent from underserved communities? Or do you still have disparities to address? Even if you haven't reached your DEIB goals, that doesn't mean you can't create a work culture that attracts and retains talent from underrepresented backgrounds. Here are some practices on how to increase diversity in STEM and how your recruiting team can make the process much more inclusive.
1. Forget About the "Perfect" Candidate
One inclusive practice for recruiting STEM roles is to consider the job qualifications that are a must-have versus those that are a nice to have. Instead of a laundry list of qualifications—many of which may not be directly related to the position you're recruiting for—consider scaling those requirements down and hiring for potential over experience. Many candidates may have the desirable traits you want for a STEM employee, such as critical thinking and problem solving skills, but they don't have the pedigree you may be used to. Maybe they didn’t graduate from a specific school. Maybe they didn't go to college at all. Maybe they don't have the job history you usually expect from candidates. That doesn't mean these job seekers don't have the relevant skills needed for a specific position or that they're not eager to learn new ones to fill in any gaps.
Instead of recruiting in the same places and universities that you have previously recruited, change it up. Partner with organizations that promote diversity and work with underrepresented talent. There is some amazing talent out there that has yet to be found — you just need to find them.
2. Change Your Approach to Job Descriptions
Since job descriptions are often the first exposure a potential candidate has to your organization, to ensure you cast a wide net when recruiting STEM employees, change your approach to job descriptions so they’re as inclusive as possible. One thing you can do is create less detailed job descriptions, only focusing on the qualifications that are essential for a position. This will help you attract more female applicants because women tend to only apply to jobs that they feel they’re 100 percent qualified for—meaning a long list of expectations may work against you.
Similarly, your job descriptions should limit the use of industry jargon as much as possible. Too many professional buzzwords can alienate the candidates you want to attract when recruiting STEM workers because people from underrepresented communities may experience imposter syndrome that causes them to believe they aren’t qualified for a position. As a result, even though they may have the skills you’re looking for, a job description littered with jargon will turn them away.
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3. Rethink Assessments
When hiring STEM talent, assessments can be a great way to determine how qualified applicants are, over and above what they've presented in their resumes. However, to have an inclusive hiring process, you need to be sure the assessments aren’t actually excluding qualified candidates. Are the skills being tested related to the job at hand? Does the assessment predict what you want it to predict about a candidate? Do the candidates taking the assessment understand what they're being tested on? Unless an assessment does all these things, the playing field may not be as level as you think it is.
4. Develop Talent
When recruiting STEM talent, the employee you want may be right under your nose. Have you considered that some Gen Z talent in non-STEM positions can acquire the skills you need if you commit to developing them? Upskilling current employees and creating a work culture that prioritizes professional development is a great way to ensure that talent from underrepresented communities get opportunities to work in STEM roles. In addition, you can develop talent through mentorship, so employees can act as role models for early career talent to help them gain the important skills they'll need for a STEM position.
If you're recruiting STEM candidates, and you're not getting enough representation of different diverse groups of talent, these inclusive recruiting practices can help you expand your reach. Whether you need to fill a position right now or you want to create a strong talent pipeline for future openings, these tips can help you make the applicant pool much more inclusive.
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