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How to level the gender playing field in tech (and other industries)

(BUSINESS NEWS) One job search site has a reasonable answer to solving the gender gap problem in today’s workforce, and others should take note.

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As an employer, you should be screening employees based on qualifications and preferences, not a candidate’s gender. This seems obvious, but even the most well-meaning employers and recruiters are subject to the curse of implicit bias.

Implicit bias comes into play when unconscious attitudes or stereotypes about someone’s gender, sex, race, ethnicity, age, religion or other identifying features are used to judge that individual’s competency. This is different from known biases, where a person is aware of any stereotypes they may believe, but may choose to not disclose their views.

Major universities including Harvard and Yale teamed up to create Project Implicit, a series of implicit-association tests (IAT) to detect implicit bias through a series of quick associations. Their popular Gender-Career IAT “often reveals a relative link between family and females and between career and males.”

The test has users pair pre-established names of men and women with family and career words. Test takers are prompted in one round to quickly match pre-categorized masculine names with words typically associated with family, while the next may have users pair feminine names with career words.

Based on hesitation and accuracy, users get an interpretation of their potential implicit biases. This comes into play with employee screening, where something as simple as seeing a name on a resume can influence an employer, even in the absence of known biases.

In a Skidmore University study, social psychologist Corrine Moss-Racusin created two identical, fictitious resumes for a lab manager position. The resumes only differed in name, with one fake applicant named Jennifer, the other John.

Different versions were sent out to STEM professors across the country for evaluation. Overall, the “Jennifer” resume received less interest, and was recommended a salary that was on average $4000 less than the identical “John” resume.

Implicit gendered bias was even present in women scientists who participated in reviewing the resumes. In the STEM field, women are underrepresented. Especially in tech, men are disproportionally hired over women.

So what can be done to level the playing field for gender when even a name could make employers think women candidates are less qualified?

Stop looking at names when initially researching a candidate. Okay, I know this is easier said than done and isn’t feasible if you’re screening through normal process of resume submission and in-person hiring events.

But if you use an online source, more platforms are offering solutions for fairer hiring practices that allow you to blind screen employees during initial rounds.

For example, job search site Woo offers anonymity for prospective employees, only revealing a candidate’s name and profile with their permission. During the initial pairing process, skills and background are shared, but other details are not available.

When setting up a talent profile, potential employees fill out a wish list, telling Woo about ideal opportunities, like higher salary, company culture, or desire to work with new technology. Likewise, employers set up their profile to reflect what their different positions can offer.

Using an AI algorithm, Woo calibrates employer with employee preferences to make relevant offers. During this step, user’s identities are hidden until they find an opportunity that matches preferences and actively choose to share their expanded profile with that company.

Woo even adjusts education and work history “so that it’s completely generic and less personal” to provide further identity cloaking. (Bonus: if you’re job hunting on the DL, Woo won’t pair you with current or past employers.)

This means employers can’t apply implicit or explicit bias based on name or profile information that may reveal personal details like gender or race.

Once a user chooses to share this information, employers are free to Google and social media hunt the prospective employee to their heart’s content.

Until then, talent benefits from being seen solely for their skills and experience. This can help level the playing field, especially in the tech industry, which is notoriously skewed towards hiring men.

Major companies like Lyft, Wix, and Microsft are already using Woo, and the service is available to employees in the United States and Israel.

Other job sites should consider scrubbing personal details like gender and name for initial searches and matches when showing results to employers. This can help eliminate bias based on gender and other personal factors.

If you’re seeking a job, you can use Woo for free. Employers can submit info to get contacted by Woo about joining up and staring a better, bias free recruitment process.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Business News

Bay Area co-living startup strands hundreds of renters at dire time

(BUSINESS NEWS) They’re blaming COVID for failing as a co-living space, but it looks like trouble was well established even before now.

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Person packed a bag and walking away from co-living space.

Over the last few years, “co-living” startups have become increasingly common in tech-rich cities like San Francisco. These companies lease large houses, then rent individual bedrooms for as much as $2,000 per month in hopes of attracting the young professionals who make up the tech industry. Many offer food, cleaning services, group activities, and hotel-quality accommodations to do so.

But the true value in co-living companies lies in their role as a third party: Smoothing over relations, providing hassle free income to homeowners and improved accountability to tenants… in theory, anyway. The reality has proved the opposite can just as easily be true.

In a September company email, Bay Area co-living startup HubHaus released a statement that claimed they were “unable to pay October rent” on their leased properties. Hubhaus also claimed to have “no funds available to pay any amounts that may be owed landlords, tenants, trade creditors, or contractors.”

This left hundreds of SF Bay Area renters scrambling to arrange shelter with little notice, with the start of a second major COVID-19 outbreak on the horizon.

HubHaus exhibited plenty of red flags leading up to this revelation. Employees complained of insufficient or late payment. The company stopped paying utilities during the spring, and they quietly discontinued cleaning services while tenants continued to pay for them.

Businesses like HubHaus charge prices that could rent a private home in most of the rest of the country, in exchange for a room in a house of 10 or more people. PodShare is a similar example: Another Bay Area-based co-living startup, whose offerings include “$1,200 bunk beds” in a shared, hostel-like environment.

As a former Bay Area resident, it’s hard not to be angry about these stories. But they have been the unfortunate reality since long before the pandemic. Many urbanites across the country cannot afford to opt out of a shared living situation, and these business models only exacerbate the race to the bottom of city living standards.

HubHaus capitalized on this situation and took advantage of their tenants, who were simply looking for an affordable place to live in a market where that’s increasingly hard to find.

They’ve tried to place the blame for their failure on COVID-19 — but all signs seem to indicate that they had it coming.

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Business News

Las Vegas’ largest dispensary gets massive Infinity Wall expansion

(BUSINESS NEWS) Las Vegas’s largest dispensary is getting a big, expensive makeover, thriving while other brick-and-mortar shops are struggling.

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Planet 13, Las Vegas's largest dispensary, set to get a huge expansion.

Have you ever heard of an Infinity Wall? If I were you, I’d check it out right now because it’s utterly mesmerizing.

An 80-foot version of this wall is just one of the new features that Planet 13 (or The Company) announced it will be implementing in Las Vegas’ largest dispensary, The SuperStore, this past Monday. In addition to the futuristic entertainment feature (I honestly can’t get over that thing), they will be doubling the sales floor and expanding the dispensary to ~23,000 sq. ft. For reference, the entire Planet 13 SuperStore complex is 112,000 sq.ft.

Why expand an already massive dispensary during a pandemic, when most brick and mortar stores are suffering? Well, according to Larry Scheffler, Co-CEO of Planet 13, The Superstore is actually thriving beyond belief.

“We are achieving record sales even with Las Vegas at ~50% tourist occupancy. As Las Vegas returns to normal and this industry continues to grow, we anticipate that this will be first of many expansions we will undertake to keep up with demand.”

The expansion adds 40 points of sale to uphold the outstanding customer service reputation Planet 13 has. If you do have to wait, you have a state-of-the-art entertainment system to enjoy. It’s win-win for any and all visitors.

The CapEx cost of the expansion between is $1.5 – $2.5 million. The project is expected come to completion by the end of Q1 2021.

Las Vegas has become a sort of cannabis mecca. After all, it’s home to MJBizCon, the industry’s largest networking event attended by thousands from around the world. And the popularity and overall acceptance makes it an easy choice for any cannabis aficionados. The SuperStore, like most things in Las Vegas, is huge, glamorous, and caters to tourists.

I have no doubt that when the city bounces back from the pandemic, this new-and-improved dispensary will be a must-visit destination.

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Business News

The future of work from home will be a hybrid, says Google CEO

(BUSINESS NEWS) Google is looking to adapt a more flexible, long-term hybrid work model for their employees, which includes partially working from home and partially being on-site.

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Work from home woman at a laptop.

Google, the world’s largest search engine company (yes I know they do other things), is positing that the corporate office will look completely different post-COVID-19.

In September Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai said that the organization was making changes to its offices that would better support employees in the future. This includes “reconfiguring” office spaces to accommodate “on-sites”, days when employees who regularly work from home will come into the workplace. The move comes after Google was one of the first major tech companies to announce that employees could possibly work from home through next summer.

“I see the future as definitely being more flexible,” Pichai said during a video interview for Time 100, “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new,” he said. “So we don’t see that changing, so we don’t think the future is just 100% remote or something.”

It was reported that Google’s decision to work remotely into mid-2021 was originally in part to help employees whose children might be learning remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Pichai said that several factors went into the decision, stating that improving productivity was a major concern.

“Early on as this started, I realized it was going to be a period of tremendous uncertainty, so we wanted to lean in and give certainty where we could,” Pichai said. “The reason we made the decision to do work from home until mid of next year is we realized people were trying hard to plan… and it was affecting productivity.”

Pichai also mentioned that the decision would help the firm embrace the reality that remote working wasn’t going anywhere once things returned to normal. A recent survey at Google found that 62% of employees felt they only need to be in the office on occasion, while 20% felt they didn’t need to be in the office whatsoever. While the work from home trend had already been growing over the past several years, the pandemic accelerated that movement greatly.

With housing costs surging in the San Francisco area, where Google headquarters resides, many employees have been forced to move outside of the city to afford a mortgage. This caused many to commute long hours into the office, something Pichai realized was a problem.

“It’s always made me wonder, when I see people commuting two hours and away from their families and friends, on a Friday, you realize they can’t have plans,” Pichai said. “So I think we can do better.”

It’s too early to tell whether or not Pichai’s vision of a “hybrid model” will be adopted by other companies when the pandemic ends. One thing is for certain though—work will never be what is pre-COVID-19.

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