Last month, I wrote about how impressed I was with Micron’s ability to reach unprecedented diversity levels in the industry far faster than anyone else. I got feedback that white male engineers, the dominant demographic in the tech market, thought Micron’s program somehow displaced existing male employees to get to their strong diversity results. That wasn’t the case, but it points to a unique situation that significantly assisted Micron’s effort and aggressive use of a policy other companies are also using to increase company diversity.
Let’s talk about both the unique situation that enables a company to force higher diversity and the method Micron is using to offset the fact that the hiring pool every tech firm is pulling from isn’t diverse.
Industry Growth as Catalyst
Many tech segment companies are experiencing unusually high growth this year as the world attempts (with mixed results) to recover from the challenges of 2020. The industry is also experiencing extended job openings across every company that can’t be filled from the existing pool of available employees. This growth, coupled with the shortage of employees, has created the perfect storm for increasing diversity.
First, if the job has to be filled, the company is forced to rethink the requisition and remove required elements that aren’t related to the job they need to be filled. Past Google studies have shown that non-engineers (mainly women) make better managers, but hiring practices in tech companies at any level favor engineers to exclude other skill sets.
However, with the severe shortage of candidates, firms like Micron are reconsidering job requirements to get the open requisitions filled, thus making eligible minorities and women who were once considered uncompetitive due to these non-job requirements.
Micron’s significant growth has allowed them to retain current employees who perform regardless of their minority status, but focus on bringing minorities and women in to fill the open requisitions — allowing the company to become more diverse over time.
Making a Non-Diverse Labor Pool Diverse
The labor pool that tech companies currently pull from, which significant schools like MIT populate, are predominantly white males. If you are given a diverse list of candidates, diversity requirements don’t allow for you to discriminate. However, if the candidates you are getting are all white males, you have little choice but to hire one. However, some groups focus on helping diverse students advance in these schools, and some schools only serve minorities and women.
By assisting these schools with curricula and putting them on a higher priority list concerning candidate selection, the tech firms are diversifying their pool of available candidates. Then when they hire from the new diverse pool, they can hire on merit rather than diversity status. But there is an issue with scale to this approach, and as more and more companies do this, they will consume the diverse, qualified candidates from these schools.
To fix this problem definitively, we need the public school system to step up STEM classes for minorities. Higher education does a better job of accepting qualified women and minorities into their programs to make the labor pool permanently diverse.
Following Micron’s Example
Rapid industry growth is creating a huge opportunity to increase diversity by forcing companies to rethink their job requirements to get more diverse candidates while retaining existing engineers. Micron’s efforts to increase diversity and inequity, making the firm far more attractive to minorities, coupled with altering their candidate pool to include universities, colleges, and organizations focusing on minorities, has significantly improved their diversity efforts.
Micron continues to emerge as the gold standard, largely thanks to Sharawn Conners, who built on the foundation of trust created by Micron’s CEO Sanjay Mehrotra, whose early focus on this problem resulted in an impressively high level of trust that he would do what he said concerning diversity, inequity, and inclusion.
Rather than complaining about how hard and impossible diversity is, Micron just got it done and serves as an example to others that there is not only a benefit to diversity but that the goal of diversity can be achieved in a surprisingly short period and not the years in the future that others seem to be requiring.
Read next: Micron Showcases How to Create Pay Equity