Rachel Lindsay made history being the first Black Bachelorette contestant in the ABC television franchise. And while that was cause to celebrate, she earned this bit of history in the 13th season of The Bachelorette. It would be twelve seasons before the first Black Bachelorette was selected. Seems odd for that to have been the case, right? Recruiting biases could be the culprit.
Historically, the franchise would promote new Bachelors and Bachelorettes from the previous seasons’ contestants. And yet, therein was the rub. If we don’t have diversity from the onset, how can representation ever happen in this progression of talent?
This “Like Me” phenomenon is part of the issue. Hiring (“Casting” for the TV show world) can be thrown to the current staff to help bring people in. Word-of-mouth recruiting then occurs. Current employees refer candidates, usually from a friend/acquaintance relationship. With this type of referral, employers may pass on the preliminary screening process by the linking a potential candidate to his/her friend’s reputation at work. And while this type of recruiting is easier and less costly, it can lead to a practice of disparate impact and recruiting biases.
By having such a uniform-type of candidate/employee, the workforce would likely lean heavily towards having too many people of one race, one gender, one socioeconomic background…one “type.” This “Like Me” truth can take hold without much effort. Stop and look around at your organization (yes, you can do this virtually, too). Is there a “type” in place? And if you can’t see anything amiss, are there a couple of people you could ask to do the same surveying of the landscape? Just because you may not see recruiting biases does not mean they aren't there.
While this may not be an intentional practice, as would be required to show disparate treatment, it can still be discriminatory because the results of hiring would show inequality in recruiting practices. And with the impact of social media and employee-centric sites, your organization can be called out for any and all of this. Employees are more willing to give the lowdown on what really goes on at an organization – the good, the bad and the systemic. Employer brands have been decimated by these reports, not merely by the accusation, but by the clear facts.
It should have been apparent for The ABC Network (parent company – Disney) to notice that there were no visibly diverse contestants on their show, but it was not. They functioned for years. And lest you think that one leading Black contestant means the problem has been fixed, it should be noted that the first Black Bachelor leading contestant was announced for Season 25. Yes, 25. The twenty-four previous Bachelors fit a “type.”
This work requires vigilance and honesty. So, start with the hiring practices at your company. How are we finding candidates? Do we need to be more deliberate (or deliberate, period) in sourcing for those outside of our perceived type? Likely, there are some avenues of proactivity that can be explored. Whether its internal process change or external expertise, make the additions/changes necessary. Do the work. It’s no longer okay to let things go on as they have been; actually, it never was okay.
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