Unconscious bias is one of the most daunting challenges facing proponents of diversity and inclusion. We’ve come a long way from the days of blatant stereotypes permeating the recruitment process, let alone the days of intentional and outright policies against hiring people based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. And while it’s certainly not the case that conscious discriminatory stereotypes don’t exist, the bigger problem is often the subconscious views recruiters have that can prevent qualified candidates getting hired.
That’s why millennial entrepreneur Stephanie Lampkin created Blendoor. “Blendoor is an app that aims to circumvent any unconscious bias in the hiring process by hiding data—like names and photos—that might point to a candidate’s gender, race, or background,” writes Claire Zellman in an article for Fortune. Lampkin says she was inspired to launch Blendoor after applying for a job in software engineering and being told her background wasn’t technical enough (she has an engineering degree from Stanford as well as an MBA from MIT). She wondered whether the fact that she is a young, African-American woman had anything to do with not getting the job.
In an article for Forbes, Alexandra Dickinson explains that, “[w]hen job seekers submit their information to Blendoor, they are presented to companies without their name, photo, age or university information.” Instead, Blendoor focuses attention more on skills, experiences and behaviors. The app uses information on online behavior and organizations and activities the applicant is involved in outside of work. The app then uses algorithms similar to those used by Netflix and Amazon to make movie, tv show and music recommendations to try to match candidates to companies. “Lampkin wants to eliminate the human bias factors around determining who gets paid what by collecting as much relevant data as possible.”
There are a number of training programs and techniques aimed at reducing or eliminating unconscious bias, but it’s a sticky problem. So if it’s difficult for humans to shed their unconscious bias, Blendoor offers a great alternative: eliminate some of the human element.