Summer Jackson (MIT)


Wednesday, October 7, 2020, 4:00pm to 5:30pm



Understanding Organizational Inequality at ‘Well Intentioned’ Companies: The Case of ShopCo’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policies and Practices

Hiring platforms promise to aggregate qualified racial minorities and use algorithms to match available candidates with employer vacancies—thereby giving organizations racial minority “talent on demand.” As such, they are often highly sought out by organizations looking to diversify their workforce—the current market research indicates a quarter of companies use AI-based hiring tools for recruitment. In a 20-month ethnographic study, I examine how a technology firm, “ShopCo” (a pseudonym), considered 13 different hiring platforms to attract minority engineering talent. I find that when choosing to adopt hiring platforms focused on racial minority candidates, but not when choosing to adopt hiring platforms where the modal candidate on the platform is white, ShopCo decision-makers expressed distaste with the perceived (a) objectification and (b) exploitation of racial minorities; as well as (c) the specter of affirmative action that these platforms seemed to offer. These repugnant market concerns influenced which types of platforms ShopCo adopted to hire racial minorities. Specifically, for racial minority candidates, ShopCo eschewed hiring platforms that emphasized time, quantity, efficiency, opportunity, and compensation as benefits to candidates (market-exchange platforms—those typically used for white candidates) in favor of platforms that emphasized individuality, ethics, equity, authenticity, and commitment as benefits for candidates (developmental-exchange platforms). In doing so, ShopCo decision-makers produced the unintended consequence of concentrating racial minorities at the lower levels of the organizational hierarchy. Thus, while hiring platforms may indeed provide a path for organizational entry for racial minorities, the types of platforms most likely to benefit racial minorities are those least likely to be implemented. I consider the implications of my findings—specifically, this new demand-side constraint of repugnant market concerns—for organizations looking to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces.


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