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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

List of Austin tech companies recalling staff to the office (or not)

(BUSINESS NEWS) Many Austin tech companies were reluctant to send people home when COVID-19 hit – will they be equally reluctant to put employees back in desks?

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The masks are coming off in America and agree with that practice or not, many employers are in an ongoing series of meetings regarding bringing staff back into the office.

Large companies are quickly playing commercial real estate hot potato – we recently broke the story that Dell had not only sold some of their massive campus near Austin, but rented out the third floor of their building to the Army Futures Command (AFC). As the dust settles on these contractions, the next step is bringing humans back into said buildings.

The spectrum of individuals’ emotions regarding this return varies from enthusiasm, to trepidatious, to complete refusal to return.

As the global pandemic hit and employers were responding so differently to sending folks home, our list of Austin tech companies sending folks home (or NOT sending employees home) went viral.

At the time, we noted that keeping humans in the office makes sense for some sectors (service, hospitality, medical, even financial), called it an “impossible situation” for business leaders, but some employers were stupidly insensitive…

One executive told workers as they were allowed to work from home to not expect it to be a “corona vacation” (which did NOT go over well).

Our question is: Will employers handle a return to the office more gracefully than when they sent folks home?

Just as protocols were untested sending employees home, as some employers get the itch to call them back into the office, a whole new set of unchartered protocols will be implemented.

What follows are quotes from employees telling us about their companies’ statuses. We will update this list over time as we learn more. If there are updates to your company’s status, let us know here.

– Cognite AS

“As of June 1, remote/on-site as we wish. Fridays in-office preferred for team lunch/team building days. Must be vaccinated with shot record proof uploaded to our HR system to attend in-person events.”

– EpisodeSix

“Devs and project related roles remote. HR in office. C level occasionally in office.”

– FEMA/DHS

“Currently 100% Telework. Plan to start coming back to office August 31, however, it has not yet been decided that everyone will return to office. Some may continue some % telework.”

– Indeed

“Currently remote – working on hybrid and fully remote scheduling when offices reopen.”

– NFP

“One week on, one week off since May 1 until they bring everyone back full time. No announcement yet but it can’t be far away. No masks if you’re vaccinated. Verify health status every day with an app.”

– PayPal

“Continuing with remote work until at least September. Expecting more details on the return to office plan in the next few weeks. Likely it will be a hybrid model depending on the team/business unit.”

– StitchFix

“Fully remote CX based in Austin (90 mile radius).”

– T3

“Going back to the office September 13 with a hybrid wfh/in-office blend we are currently working on team by team. With this (and the most exciting part) we’re also figuring out meetings days or times vs no fly zones so we can all focus on working time more. Not sure about masks – I think you’d only come in office if you’ve been vaccinated. We’ve also hired a lot of people not in Austin recently, so T3 is very open to remote workers.”

– Verb

“Currently, the office is open for those who want to use it, but not required. We’re told we’ll be hybrid but we’re still waiting to hear what the stipulations of that are.”


Click here to add your company to the list or to update the information listed above.


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Business News

Go with the Floww: A company matching startups, venture capitalists on merit

(BUSINESS NEWS) Floww has created an effective, modern way to raise millions of dollars for many startups and venture capitalists virtually.

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A tablet open to stocks and investments numbers venture capitalists use

As data-driven decision-making continues to become the standard across multiple industries, one company is bringing the philosophy to venture capitalists.

Floww, a marketplace designed to allow founders to pitch to investors based on merit, announced that it has raised a staggering $6.7 million to date in seed funding from angel investors and family offices. Current investors include Google’s head of FinTech in the United Kingdom Pip Baker, Angus Davidson, Ramon Mendes De Leon, and more. According to Floww, the money will be used to build out the platform and give startups access to over 500 VCs, accelerators, and angel networks.

“In an age of virtual meetings and connections, the need for coffee meetings on Sand Hill Road or Mayfair is gone,” said founder and CEO of Floww Marijn De Wever. “What we need now are global connections, allowing VCs to engage in merit-based investing using data and metrics.”

Floww charges a monthly fee to venture capitalists, accelerators, and other private equity firms to use their platform. Startups, on the other hand, have the option of using Floww’s services for free or enrolling in a premium model that allows their deal to be sent to multiple VCs. Floww then provides the startups with a suite of tools and materials to create a digital profile, with dynamic charts and tables that highlight a business’s potential to VCs. Floww also claims to handle deal-sourcing, CRM, and reporting for investors.

Floww’s claim is a bold one, especially considering that many VCs handle deal-sourcing and CRM in-house. The company also doesn’t explicitly say what constitutes “merit” in matching VCs with startups. Other than it clearly being a data-driven pairing, there aren’t any specifics as to what thresholds a startup will need to meet in order to match with a VC. The closest existing competitor to Floww is AngeList, a website also aimed at matching investors with various startups.

Whether or not Floww’s merit-based matching system will take off is still under review, but VCs willing to pay the monthly fee for Floww’s service will expect, at a minimum, that founders will have thought through these obstacles before looking for an investment.

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Business News

Missing office culture while working remotely? This tool tries to recreate it

(BUSINESS NEWS) This startup just released new software to help you reproduce the best parts of in-person office interactions while you work from home.

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Loop Team product page, trying to create an office culture experience remotely.

Are you over working from home? Feeling disconnected from your co-workers? Well look no further: The startup Loop Team just released a tool that reproduces the office culture experience virtually.

“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter,” said Loop Team’s founder and CEO Raj Singh in an interview with TechCrunch. “[W]e built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form.”

Singh’s company, founded pre-COVID, is posed as a solution to feeling “out of the loop” while working remotely. During the pandemic, where virtually all of us are working from home, this technology is needed more than ever.

How it works is by essentially recreating an office experience on a virtual platform. Somewhere between Zoom and Slack with some added features, Loop Team lets you know who’s free to chat, who’s in meetings, and allows you to have private discussions using audio, video, and screen share. It’s ideal for working on projects together.

Loop’s layout is unique in the sense that it is designed to show you conversations in a clear, direct way – exposing relevant items and hiding the rest. Also, employees who miss meetings have the ability to review what they missed, making it perfect for companies that hire across time zones.

The platform was made available December 1st free of charge, but Singh is hoping to introduce a paid version next year. Pricing will likely reflect team size and should remain free for teams of 10 or less.

I’m a big fan of software that allows you to feel closer and more connected to your co-workers. Do I think anything will ever compare to a true, in-person office experience? Definitely not. That being said, I value this kind of progress, especially since I don’t think office culture en mass will make a return any time soon, regardless of vaccinations.

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