Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Mistakes That Are Holding You Back


Imagine it’s pre-COVID. You’re going to a conference, but you’re running late. You find a parking spot, jog into a building you’ve never been to before, and you see a janitor cleaning up. You stop to ask where the front of the meeting hall is, and you’re directed to a nearby hallway on the left. As you head that direction, you see a couple taking wedding photos in front of a beautiful fountain. You enter the meeting hall and get there just in time to see that the keynote speaker from one of the hottest tech startups just took the stage.

Close your eyes, and try to visualize this scenario.

What do you see? Was the janitor a white woman? Were the newlyweds two men? Was the keynote speaker a 40-something bald Black woman?

This is what Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion expert Jackye Clayton asked attendees at her HR Tech keynote to demonstrate implicit bias. We all have a tendency to visualize what’s familiar, but this is holding us back from building diverse workforces and inclusive company cultures that will retain them.

If we want to make progress toward diversity, equity, and inclusion, we need to challenge the way we think, and the way we do things. With that, here are six common mistakes that may be holding you back.

1. Only sourcing Black candidates from HBCUs

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a tremendous resource for sourcing Black candidates, but should not be the only source.

Out of the top 10 colleges and universities for enrollment of Black and African American students, only three are HBCUs. Based on current enrollment, you would be leaving over 50,000 candidates on the table if your recruiting plan for Black talent stops at HBCUs. In fact, only 20 percent of Black students who complete a bachelor’s degree go to an HBCU.

Make sure your diversity recruiting strategy is able to reach the other 80 percent of Black college graduates—as well as those without a college degree.

2. Using unnecessary job requirements to screen candidates

Job requirements often contain a minimum amount of experience with continuous responsibility or growing leadership responsibilities. Candidates with job gaps or lack of career progression are often disqualified right away.

This can disproportionately affect people from marginalized groups, who are more likely to be treated poorly at work—and may have shorter tenures as a result. For instance, 90 percent of transgendered workers have directly experienced harassment or mistreatment at work. This includes inappropriate questions, missed promotions, and physical violence. Because of this, people from marginalized groups could be more likely to have job gaps or lack of career progression—and shouldn’t be punished for it.

Before you judge someone because they seem to move around a lot, consider that they may be a victim of discrimination.

3. Overlooking candidates with disabilities

Companies often think about diversity in terms of gender and race, but overlook other forms of diversity—including disability.

Approximately 11 percent of all postsecondary undergraduates report having some form of disability. And there are many educational institutions that specifically assist students with disabilities:

  • Gallaudet University supports students that are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Landmark College supports students with learning disabilities.
  • Perkins School for the Blind supports students with blindness, deaf blindness, and multiple disabilities.
  • The University of Houston has a center for students with disabilities that supports mobility impairment, psychological disabilities, and learning disabilities.
  • The University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration supports those with developmental disabilities.

When you are recruiting, don’t overlook the often overlooked.

4. Only hiring for diversity in entry-level roles

True diversity and inclusion isn’t an easy fix, like hiring young women out of college to join your sales team. It requires change across your entire organization.

Make sure that you have diverse leaders on your team to hold others accountable to the company’s diversity goals and create a safe environment. If one of your new team members from an underrepresented group feels discriminated against, your program isn’t going to work. Accountability is critical.

5. Expecting technology to solve a problem that a lack of technology did not create

Innovations in modern technology have made finding diverse talent easier than ever before. With an AI-powered Talent 360 platform like SeekOut, you can find the right talent, engage with them through automated, personalized messages, and boost the candidate experience at every stage of the hiring process.

But technology alone cannot solve all your diversity and inclusion challenges—because it’s not causing them. For instance, technology alone can’t reduce biases. That’s because bias doesn’t start when organizations buy technology. The problem starts when you hire people who are unaware of their own biases. While technology may be able to help with things like blind resume reviews, that won’t matter once your team members meet candidates and new hires face-to-face.

6. Retaining team members who contribute to a toxic culture

Some people are so afraid of losing their power and their comfort that they would rather not take action to create a more diverse, inclusive workplace. Allowing those people to stay at your organization is holding you back from reaching your goals, because it creates a toxic work culture.

If you want to employ a diverse workforce, you need to break or change your culture to help those people feel that they belong. You may have practices and policies in place that have disadvantaged people for years, and it’s going to take hard work, self-reflection, and some discomfort to change them. You may need to shatter the way you are used to doing things, and you may need to let people go if they are holding you back.

Final thoughts

The world has changed in the past 20 years, but many of us are recruiting based on information we received 20 years ago. We have so much more technology and ways to connect with people than ever before, yet we haven’t learned how to connect with people just across the street that are different than us. It’s time we challenge what we think we know, and how we do things.

Next time you recruit for an open role, do an exercise to visualize the different types of people you’d like to see on your team. When you encounter the unexpected, ask yourself how you would handle the interaction if the person looked like you, and whether your behavior would be different if they did. And make a conscious effort to expose yourself, your family, and your friends to as many different kinds of people as you can.

Hire those that don’t fit your culture. Vote for candidates who have earned the position. Challenge the norms. When you change the expected to the unexpected you can have long-lasting consequences that make companies and communities change for the better. It’s time to level-up on diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Ready to build a more talented, diverse team? Get a demo to see how SeekOut provides you the needed diversity talent insights to get a competitive edge in recruiting hard-to-find and diverse talent.

SeekOut is the #1 rated diversity recruiting software on G2 Crowd.

Request a Demo

Ready to take your talent acquisition strategy to the next level? Request a demo to learn how SeekOut can help you recruit hard-to-find and diverse talent.

Request a Demo

Ready to take your talent acquisition strategy to the next level? Request a demo to learn how SeekOut can help you recruit hard-to-find and diverse talent.

Request a Demo

Ready to take your talent acquisition strategy to the next level? Request a demo to learn how SeekOut can help you recruit hard-to-find and diverse talent.