Tip 6: Know and improve your own “ratio”: Expanding your contact list

The situation:

Do you or your organization rely heavily on referrals or “word-of-mouth” recruiting efforts? While convenient, this practice greatly exacerbates the tendency to reproduce the status quo since people tend to recommend others much like themselves. Rick Klau, partner at Google Ventures, describes an interesting personal exercise he conducted: taking stock of the gender breakdown in his address book. He found that his ratio was 80% men to 20% women and observed, “If the majority of leaders at most companies are men and if the majority of their networks are men (as mine are), then this is a self-perpetuating problem…It really is who you know.”

What you can do:

  • First, know your own ratio. Take inventory of your own contact list and networks and encourage others to do so as well. Make it okay to talk about and begin expanding those networks.
  • Actively seek out and ask for referrals from people not “like you.” As with any network building, these connections will soon multiply into more referrals.
  • Encourage those doing the recruiting to partner with “return to work” programs and other programs or organizations serving diverse populations. See NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC) and NCWIT Affinity Group Alliance.
  • If you have responsibility for hiring, ensure that diverse candidates are included in every hiring pool and explain that you are doing so in order to reap the benefits of diverse teams.
  • Be ready to address misperceptions and questions about “lowering the bar.” Here’s a very helpful article for doing so.

More resources for active recruiting are available here.


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