Creating Gender Equity in the Hiring Process With Dorothy Dalton

Featuring: Dorothy Dalton

Creating a diverse workplace starts with having an inclusive hiring process, and while more and more employers are making diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority, their hiring practices stall. Bias lurks at every corner of the hiring process, which leads to hiring managers and recruiters excluding the diverse talent that they were looking for in the first place. 

My guest on this episode knows a thing or two about how to de-bias hiring processes. Dorothy Dalton, executive search consultant, certified coach, and the founder of 3Plus International, has spent her career de-biasing hiring processes for many companies.   

Dorothy initially specialized in bringing women and gender balance into the hiring process in organizations, but she has expanded to cover a broader scope of diversity and inclusion. The work that she is currently focused on is de-biasing hiring processes in organizations. Dorothy explains that while complete de-biasing might not be possible, the effort is essential to “at least make people more aware so that they can manage the systems better.” 

In this episode, we discuss Dorothy’s philosophy toward work, how organizations can practice equity today and how organizations can create a mechanism of change by improving their hiring processes.

Listen to “Creating Gender Equity in the Hiring Process With Dorothy Dalton” on Spreaker.

Dorothy’s Philosophy

Dorothy has done many things on the front lines of diversity, equity and inclusion, and not just from one company. She has worked with various organizations, which has given her a holistic perspective regarding DE&I in the workforce.

“My overall goal, along with a number of people, is to increase the number of women in senior roles and to strengthen the female talent pipeline,” Dorothy shares. As we know, there are inadequate levels of women in most senior roles. So even with reports of a recent rise in women CEOs of global companies, that’s still a minimal rise compared to what it can be if more companies were making diversity a priority. 

“I think what we need to do is to change the way we hire,  change the way we promote, and to make sure that workplaces are safe and secure and equitable for everybody,” Dorothy says. “And that means we have to change a lot of systems, which, as you know, there’s usually quite a lot of resistance.”

Practicing Equity In Organizations Today

To achieve DE&I in the workplace, companies must see it as a transformative process. It won’t happen overnight, but there are three components that companies need to keep in mind when executing the change.

The first is to ensure that your leadership is committed to the overall process. The second is evaluating and dedicating a budget to the systemic changes in the organization. Third, advocate for changes in the individual behaviors of people within the organization. These three components are essential to the successful execution of this transformative process. However, not all companies are doing this.

Unfortunately, what we see in companies now is “gender-washing” when establishing DE&I plans. “So companies will say that they have a policy, they’re committed to it, but nothing happens. And the reason it doesn’t happen is that they don’t usually allocate money and people,” Dorothy says. This has been proven correct, as SmartRecruiters recently reported that D&I budgets haven’t changed in 10 years. 

More information has revealed that companies who do not prioritize D&I in their values are less likely to attract the top candidates they want. With the Great Resignation, we have seen that candidates are more than willing to leave a company that does not make an effort to prioritize diversity, and that turnover affects company success. Dorothy explains that “unless organizations step up and create a really strong employee brand or employee value proposition and a candidate of value proposition, they are going to lose the best talent.”

Creating a Mechanism for Change

Allocating a budget to diversity efforts is a step in the right direction for companies, but there is still more to be done. It’s about making big concepts tangible for your organization.

That starts with being better educated about DE&I as a whole and about the current biases in your hiring processes. “So first of all, everyone has to have unconscious bias training. And I’ve tried to do some research on that, and I estimate that probably less than 50% of recruiters have had unconscious bias training,” Dorothy explains. 

Organizations should also emphasize better sourcing practices when looking for candidates. Dorothy advises on less emphasis on referrals, as they can often be biased based on how the individuals associate with one another. “Quite often, we just fish in the same place, where the usual suspects are, but there are fewer of them. And it really means radicalizing the way that you approach things,” she says. Dorothy shares that employee resource groups can assist recruiters and hiring managers to build partnerships and source different candidates. 

Although these hiring practices can improve the process, recruiters still face challenges in the tight market. “I think one of the things that came out of the end of last year is that because recruiters are having such a hard time finding candidates, there’s a greater emphasis on referrals, but referrals [can be biased] against people of color and women,” Dorothy shares.

People in This Episode

Read the Transcript

Announcer:

Welcome to Science 4-Hire with your host, Dr. Charles Handler. Hiring is hard. Pre-hire talent assessments can help you ease the pain. Whether you don’t know where to start, or you just want to stay on top of the trends, Science for Hire provides 30 minutes of enlightenment on best practices and news from the front lines of the employment testing universe. So get ready to learn as Dr. Charles Handler and his all-star guests lend old school knowledge with new wave technology to educate and inform you about all things talent assessment.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of Science 4-Hire. We have another international guest today, which I always love, to give some perspective globally on what’s going on in the other part of the world and the US, and my guest today is Dorothy Dalton, the founder of 3Plus International. And Dorothy, I always let my guests introduce themselves. They do a much better job than me. So Dorothy, love to let our listeners learn a little bit about your background, your company, and what you’re up to.

Dorothy Dalton:

Thank you. Well, thank you for having me, and Happy New Year, everybody. Well, as you’ve heard, my name is Dorothy Dalton. I’m the founder of a company called 3Plus International. Originally, I specialized in bringing women and gender balance into the hiring process in organizations, but over time, this has become much wider into general diversity and inclusion. So I’m an executive search consultant. I’m a certified coach and trainer. And I’m currently focused on doing a number of projects in de-biasing hiring processes. So I actually don’t think it’s possible to de-bias them totally, but at least make people more aware so that they can manage the systems better.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Fantastic. So I think you’re in the right place. I think you’re in the right place for a great conversation. I’ve had a lot of DEI conversations with folks like yourself lately, and they’re always very enriching, and there’s always new perspectives, which is great. That’s why we love diversity so much to come. And it seems like you’re doing a lot on the front lines of this, but not from within one company, which is really cool because it gives you a more holistic perspective, I think, and an opportunity to impact more people ultimately, because you’re not just within one company. So when we speak a little bit about the DE&I and gender focus that you have, talk a little bit about what the philosophy is behind what you’re doing — and even some examples of how you’re feeling you’re having an impact in this area.

Dorothy Dalton:

Well, I think my overall goal, along with a number of people, is to increase the number of women in senior roles and to strengthen the female talent pipeline. And as you probably know, at a senior level, it is woefully inadequate. And I think I saw an article just before the holidays saying let’s celebrate, we’ve hit a high point of women CEOs. Well, actually, it was like 41, I think, an increase, or maybe even less. It was very, very minimal. I think, in Europe, we’re doing a little bit better because some countries have quotas, which is something that a lot of countries don’t go along with. But I think what we need to do is to change the way we hire, [change the way] we promote and to make sure that workplaces are safe and secure and equitable for everybody. And that means we have to change a lot of systems, which as you know there’s usually quite a lot of resistance.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah. I mean, the thing that comes to mind for me is just the long tail of something of this nature, right? So if you think about, especially the senior-level positions, it typically takes people time through their careers to work their way into those roles. So do you think there’s going to be kind of a delay? So, 10 years from now, seven years from now, 20 years from now, all the efforts that we’re putting in now will start to pay off, or do you see it that there’s a more because it takes time for people? Although, I guess there’s people that are at mid-level management positions, things like that, that would get passed over typically. We want to really make sure that we’re removing those barriers. So talk to me a little bit about a sense of timing. Is this something that we should feel, there could be an immediate impact in a year or two years, or is it going to take longer to move the needle? I guess that’s what I’m asking.

Dorothy Dalton:

I’m not overly optimistic. And all the indications suggest that it’s going to take two generations. And I have a granddaughter, with another one on the way. And honestly, it makes me want to cry to think that my grandkids will have the same battles that I did way back in the ’80s. So I thought when we saw equal opportunity legislation, equal pay legislation, that it was a done deal, it was all over. And I was completely wrong. So I think what I have is that it’s something that is ongoing. And there are situations like we’ve seen in the pandemic, with women leaving the workforce for different reasons, that it’s something that we just have to keep our foot on the pedal, make sure that we’re on it all the time. Because if we don’t, we backtrack.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah. I’m just making notes always when I talk to … And ongoing, I think it’s a fight, right? If you look at basic social justice movements, human rights movements, it takes a long time. Look at what happened with civil rights really in the ’50s and the ’60s. And we’re still fighting those battles. It’s better, but we’re still fighting those battles. So it is a long-term perspective, and I think that’s what really impresses me about people such as yourselves, who really dedicate their careers to that fight, knowing that they may not see … I like immediate outcomes sometimes. Right?

Dorothy Dalton:

Right. You wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah. But I like to try and do my part from where I’m at, of course. What does a company have to do then, right? So we’re talking about this long-term perspective. We’re talking about what needs to be done in the here and now. If I’m running, hiring at an organization, what do I need to be doing to help make sure that equity, but gender equity in your experience and practice, is a priority that we can actually execute on? What do you advise people to do?

Dorothy Dalton:

Well, I think achieving gender balance or any sort of diversity, it’s a workplace transformation like any other, right? So it just has to be treated the same. So it requires leadership commitment. It requires systemic change. And the final thing it requires and changes to individual behavior. So the three. So what we’re seeing currently is a lot of what we call gender-washing. So companies will say that they have a policy, they’re committed to it, but nothing happens. And the reason it doesn’t happen is that they don’t allocate, usually, money and people. So there was research from SmartRecruiters that came out in October that said D&I budgets have not changed for 10 years.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah.

Dorothy Dalton:

So a lot of information that came out just before the holiday suggests that diversity/inclusion is the top priority. And there’s also other research that’s saying that, unless companies are committed to diversity and inclusion, that they are not going to attract the top candidates, that candidates will walk. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is the systemic change. That is an ongoing struggle because people don’t want to change. And that’s related to budget. And the final thing is individual change. Those people don’t want to change, either. But one of the things that does hearten me is that — and it’s not a generation issue, because there are some generations, members of other generations that are equally resistant — but there are members of younger generations that are really outspoken and tough and making high demands.

And I think what we’re seeing in the Great Resignation, or the Great Reshuffle, or the Great Rethink or whatever you want to call it, is that unless organizations step up and create a really strong employee brand or employee value proposition and a candidate of value proposition, they are going to lose the best talent. I was on a call with Jason Averbook, I’m sure you know. And there were people on that call saying, it’s going to be another two years again. So we’re talking about a three-year cycle. So companies have really, really got to step back and examine what they’re doing.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah. Well, you say it’s a three-year cycle, and I agree. But what I do think is that all the labor dynamics and all the opportunity, in some sense, to shift power to the job-seeker, into the folks that are the talent essentially, is that at least it’s been an accelerator. Because I think we were headed in this direction of more humanistic point of view in the workplace already, but the pandemic has thrown some gas on that fire. And I agree. I was thinking back the other day. At the beginning of the pandemic, I did a benchmarking survey. This was back, March or April of 2020, to ask people how long, in corporate hiring, how long do you think this pandemic’s going to last? How long do you think it’s going to impact your processes and all that? And everyone was, I think we’re all very optimistic, right? Everyone in that survey was like, “Oh, well, it’s only going to be a year or less than a year. We’ll be back to normal soon,” even though the new normal, air quotes, is to understand there’s a lot of unknown.

I just don’t think we had the longer-term perspective, but I do agree that, unfortunately — and we’re all worn out and tired from the whole thing, but doing as humans do, navigating around it and making the best of it. And if it can promote some positive changes faster, to our point earlier, about how long this stuff takes, at least that’s one good outcome. So tell me a little bit about, you specifically work within hiring, as do I obviously, because that’s what this podcast is about. So what can companies do? Yeah, they commit money. They talk the talk. But if they’re going to walk the walk in the hiring process itself, what kind of things do you recommend or consult on in terms of creating a mechanism for change through hiring?

Dorothy Dalton:

Well, I think it’s about changing just that philosophy and practice. And I’m really focused on making big concepts tangible. So I think you’ve got to start at the very beginning. So first of all, everyone has to have unconscious bias training. And I’ve tried to do some research on that, and I estimate that probably less than 50% of recruiters have had unconscious bias training. I’m frequently on LinkedIn, and some of the things I see feel me with horror when it’s evident of [inaudible 00:12:19] and processes. So that’s the first thing, you have to educate people.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah. Yeah. For sure. What fills you with horror? Give me an example. Don’t name any names, but what’s an example of something you see there publicly that makes you cringe?

Dorothy Dalton:

Recruiters saying that they would cut someone if they didn’t send them a thank-you note.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Hmm. Really? Interesting. Wow. That’s scary.

Dorothy Dalton:

I mean, that sort of comment is not uncommon.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Right. Right.

Dorothy Dalton:

And it’s not something that is quite common for us culturally. And if it’s not related to competence, it shouldn’t be an issue. It shouldn’t be a factor. But that’s something that I see quite frequently, which is bias training. I mean, I call it the intake session or the scoping session, it’s about establishing needs with the hiring manager. And quite often, the hiring manager wants a mini-me. It’s a cloning system. It’s about making sure that the job profile is realistic and the must-haves are reduced. I mean, there’s lots of research to show that, for example, when language of a job profile is male-coded, that it puts female applicants off, but actually mutually coded or feminine-coded profiles don’t deter men.

Dorothy Dalton:

So forget the ninja, the guru, the run the extra mile, dynamic, aggressive, all of these things, and put in words around longer-term collaborative, collaboration, supportive all of these sort of softer words. So that’s just a small — they’re small things that make a difference. So then you’ve got the sourcing. So you’ve gotta fish where there are fish, right?

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yep. Yep. Of course.

Dorothy Dalton:

So quite often we just fish in the same, where the usual suspects are, but there are fewer of them. And then it really means radicalizing the way that you approach things. And this is where ERGs, or employee resource groups, can play a role. Recruiters or hiring managers can start building different partnerships, going to different employee resource groups and trying to tap into sourcing and getting referrals for different types of candidates. And I think one of the things that came out of the end of last year is that because recruiters are having such a hard time finding candidates, there’s a greater emphasis on referrals, but referrals mitigates against people of color and women. So even women refer men.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Bias, it’s everywhere. Right? And so it is, when we talk about it being a fight, it’s not just the words, it’s not just the budgets, it’s everything together. And it’s macro to micro. I think that’s so interesting about it, is you have to attack it from a lot of areas. So I’m a testing guy, obviously, and an assessment guy. So do you have any experience with, or recommendations, or anything around the use of testing in helping combat bias. Or do you feel like it actually adds bias? What are your thoughts and experience?

Dorothy Dalton:

I do have some, and it’s not my area of expertise so I’m reluctant to say too much. I find it helpful. Although, what seems to be emerging is there is lots of indications that even the tests, there’s bias within the tests. We tend to have strong confidence bias or overconfident where we gravitate towards extroverts. And I think this is also common in testing, particularly the MBTI, things like that, where they tend to favor extroverts. But generally, I find that testing can be helpful.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Have you had any experience with using testing instead of resumes to help combat bias? Because you don’t know if it’s a male or female, you don’t know what the person looks like necessarily, or their ethnicity or any of that kind of stuff, or their background, their educational background. So substituting hard, reliable, valid data about a person for the more subjective sources.

Dorothy Dalton:

I mean, to be honest, I haven’t. I haven’t been involved in any hiring where someone has been [where] tests have been submitted before the CV. But what I have been involved in, hiring processes where testing has been done before the interview. And that’s particularly on entry level, where they just found a lot of the candidates had undeveloped social skills and were not good at communicating their value. And they found that testing them first helped them to get a better indication of what their strengths were.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah. I think that’s … What I was talking about is a movement that I feel is slowly happening. It may be very difficult, just like a lot of these other things, to make it go away anytime soon. And look, a resume has important information on it, but it’s just about the job relevance of that information and opening up that source of bias, which I feel can be detrimental, for sure. So this is great. I am fascinated by what you have to say. I think it’s good for our listeners to really understand. And one of the other things I think is really interesting, being not based in the US, right, do you have a sense of any differences in Europe versus the US? Maybe you do have clients in the US, probably do. That would even be better. So perspective about, internationally, are you seeing key differences, is one area ahead of the other, that kind of thing?

Dorothy Dalton:

Yeah. I mean, I think that culturally there are different perceptions. For example, the Great Resignation here, people are not leaping and becoming unemployed in the way that they are in the US. I think the Great Resignation is more of a thought. People are definitely thinking about it. And my experience is that passive candidates are more open to contact than they were. So that’s the first thing. I think, also, that we have different social support in terms of unemployment and sickness and medical, that sort of thing. So I think people don’t feel as vulnerable over here as they do in the US, which is quite significant. Although, we have seen quite big shifts into freelancing and the gig economy. But once again, governments are trying to clamp down on that and make these people to have the same rights as employees. So it is a very different cultural setting.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah. And I think that makes sense to me. I start thinking really, overall, the workforce is a workforce of increasingly free agents, people that can move quickly between jobs because there are better opportunities for them, and because they have choices now and are making decisions based on things that they may not have made decisions on before, in so much as how the company treats an individual like a human. How do they celebrate those differences and those individualities, those kind of things. It’s all good stuff. I just hope it can happen at a nice clip, a little faster. So we think about, and here in the US, there is definitely a lot about — I think I saw some research, I can’t remember who put it out, that a great number of people who resigned from their jobs are not looking to get back into the workforce, but are kind of following their passion.

Maybe that’s a little different than being a gig economy worker, in that they’re starting their own businesses. They’re going freelance. They’re becoming consultants. They’re taking their hobbies and turning those into businesses. And maybe that’s a pretty quick route. I mean, if you think about it, I’m obsessed with entrepreneurialism. I watch a ton of “Shark Tank,” which is, I know, kind of lowest common denominator entrepreneurialism, but what I’m getting at, is there’s a lot of females that are starting businesses there, that if that business becomes successful, they are the CEO, right? So maybe there’s a faster route to becoming an executive or an owner of a business and running the show no matter who you are or where you come from, because the things are in place.

And what I look at is really technology has facilitated this a lot, because now I can go online and I can build a storefront or a business or whatever without knowing how to build a website. I can take payments. I remember early in my career, we published a buyer’s guide and a database, and getting credit card processing set up, filling out 8 million forms and having to put paper back and forth. And finally, I got this credit card authorization key I could use to process. Then I had to find a merchant processor and build a bridge. Now, I go on to any one of these payment platforms, and I can accept credit cards in five seconds, or you can Venmo me. What do you think about all that?

Dorothy Dalton:

Well, I think for sure that women quite frequently leave the workforce and set up on their own. And we’re seeing in Europe, as well, we’re seeing quite a large number of women doing that. And I think it works for them because they can find the sort of balance that they’re looking for in their lives, whatever that might be. And I think, particularly during the pandemic, in talking to quite a number of people, and it depends where you live, which country, but governments were quite supportive of independent contractors or freelancers during the pandemic, particularly during lockdown. So a lot of women were able to maintain some level of business activity, which they might have struggled with if they had to homeschool, elder care, all of these other things during the pandemic. So I think in that way, for the entrepreneur, that for some women, it’s been a huge — there have been benefits.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah. And I think it’s just sometimes it’s that kick in the pants you need. I mean, I remember I got, after 9/11, the last actual job I had, I was — before running my own company, I was laid off, and I didn’t have a lot of choice. I went ahead and built my website and my brand or whatever, started that out from a very embryonic state, because I’m looking for jobs but it’s tough during that economy to find any. So, by necessity, I did it, and then I never looked back. So there’s a lot of that, I think, going on, that getting kicked out of the nest, so to speak. But there’s always trade-offs.

So what’s difficult about that is, I think, that people do look for their employers to provide stability, benefits, especially in Europe even more so than here. Right? And so you do give that up, I think, when you go on your own, in the short run especially, right? So there’s a give and take there. But when you have to do it, you have to do it, because we all want to survive and bring the basic food, clothing and shelter we need and then blossom from there. Right? So for sure.

So what, as we kind of get to the end of our session, what would you want our — tell our listeners, what can they do? We have a lot of hiring professionals, right? And I’m sure that most of the people who listen, if not all, are as aligned or excited about equity in the workplace. 

But what can those people do? Because you talk about the bigger entity of a company saying, “Yeah, we’re going to do this,” but then not funding it, then not supporting it. So if I’m an individual stuck in that machine, trying to — and I care about this change but I’m not necessarily as supported as possible — what can I do on a daily basis to keep from being frustrated and help squeeze whatever I can out of a forward momentum? Does that make sense?

Dorothy Dalton:

Well, just to loop back very quickly to the first question, because I only covered part of the recruitment process in terms of bias. I mean, but it comes into CVs. It comes into interviewing. It comes into the negotiation process, the onboarding. There is no part of that process that doesn’t have bias. So if you are a poor hiring manager or an HR manager or a recruiter, and you’re not working in the best environment possible, I think all you can do is, you can only focus on the things that you can control yourself. And the only thing you can control is your own results and behavior. So I think I would advise you to get trained on unconscious bias. There are lots of trainings that are available. I run a training, if you want one.

The next thing is to try and implement in your own area of activity these common elements. And the other thing is to call things out. So if you see someone behaving in a particularly biased way, if you see a colleague saying, “Well, this person didn’t send me a thank-you note, let’s cut them,” then I think what you need to develop is what I call a call-out culture. It doesn’t have to be conflictual. It can be just gently reminding someone, just to ask them to dig deep and to find, well, OK, you said they haven’t sent, what makes you say that? What’s your thinking behind that? Because that is nothing to do with the competence required for the job. So it’s about looking at yourself and applying it in your own area of activity.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah. I think that is — change has to come from individuals to become a collective change. I think that’s a really great insight. So as we sign off, I always like to allow a guest to provide some information about where folks can follow you and find you, and give yourself a shameless plug about what you can do for our listeners.

Dorothy Dalton:

Perfect. I love the opportunity to give a shameless plug. So you can connect with me on LinkedIn, just Dorothy Dalton on LinkedIn. I’m a bit of a Twitter addict, so you can connect with me on Twitter, Dorothy Dalton, really easy. My company website is www.3plusinternational.com. And where I can help you is to help you look at your hiring process and do an audit to evaluate what you need to look at to make your hiring process more equitable. So make sure you get in touch.

Dr. Charles Handler:

Yeah, that’s awesome. And I hope that people listening to this archivally 10 years from now or 20 years from now can say, “You know what? Some of these things are actually happening,” and it’s because of folks like yourself that are really helping create a push and momentum and awareness and all that good stuff. So thank you so much. It’s been a really enjoyable session, and look forward to keeping in touch.

Dorothy Dalton:

Thank you very much. My pleasure.