How to increase your team’s diversity

Claire Lebarz

Data Science Manager at Airbnb



"I was leading a great team of engineers, but wanted to bring in new profiles to the group. They were mostly French, with similar backgrounds and mostly male. It's difficult once you have a team of a certain demographic to attract different talents. Diverse candidates are much less likely to be interested in joining your team if they don't feel like they can belong. We asked for feedback as to why the candidates to whom we extended offers were choosing to join a certain team or company, and found that they didn't feel as comfortable joining non-diverse teams as they did not think they would be successful."

Actions taken

"10 months ago, we put a diversity slate system in place, inspired by the Rooney Rule, that required us to interview the same number of women as men for a role. Under this system, we couldn't make an offer until we had interviewed at least four women. This was especially important for Senior Engineer and Managerial roles. We also ensured that one or two women were a part of the interview panel, even if the candidate was a man. This was actually quite useful, as we were then able to identify a few male candidates uncomfortable with women in the room. Had we hired these candidates, they would have further hurt our ability to recruit women. Even if you have a great candidate and it's the second person you interview, you have to force yourself to interview at least four women before you make an offer. Five months ago, we extended the system to minorities, and interview at least two minority candidates before we can make an offer. In addition, we started reaching out to minority groups, through conferences and partners, organizing team events, even when we aren't actively recruiting. We provided these minorities with sponsorships to attend conferences, and started building relationship with associations related to these groups."

Lessons learned

"It's much harder to make a team diverse after harm is done. You can't lie about who is in your team, and it can be very tough to convince diverse candidates they can be successful working in your team. Be very mindful of who you hire when first setting up a team, as it pays off in the long run.
In addition, although the system we used was challenging, it paid off, as we were able to increase diversity, and despite not having a quota of how many women we needed to recruit, fifty five percent of our recruits are now women."

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Claire Lebarz

Data Science Manager at Airbnb

Diversity and Inclusion InitiativesDiversity ImpactDiversity HiringOvercoming BiasIndividual Contributor RolesStaff EngineerPrincipal EngineerTech LeadLeadership RolesEngineering Manager

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