Women’s History Month at Highnote: A Perspective from a Technical Recruiter and DEIB Lead

Mar 8, 2024
Morgan Howell

This year, Women’s History Month – and its theme, “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” – coincide with a significant overlap in my own professional journey. After years as a technical recruiter, I've recently taken on a leadership role in our company's Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives. It’s a shift that’s given me a unique view. I had always seen and appreciated DEIB from the hiring standpoint, but with my new responsibilities, I saw how hiring tied into a continuous feedback loop in maintaining a culture of inclusion and belonging.

So, this Women’s History Month, I aim to share how Highnote actively practices intentional inclusion, offering actionable insights for talent and culture professionals seeking to replicate our approach.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

One crucial yet often overlooked aspect of DEIB? The detrimental effects of implementing diversity initiatives too late.

Often, smaller companies focused on growth think they can focus on diversity “later” when they’ve gotten their feet under them. I’m grateful to Highnote in that we’ve had the concept of intentional inclusion baked into our DNA from the very beginning, and it has fundamentally impacted our culture and our level of success for the better. Moreover, I’ve seen from personal experience how having the opposite view can permanently negatively affect overall diversity efforts and muted business outcomes.

However you decide to execute DEIB initiatives at your organization, be sure to incorporate them early and don’t wait until you’re more established.

Prioritize Data

As you know, data is at the heart of every effective strategy. Using the recruiting outreach tool Gem, we can track our LinkedIn Inmail outreach data (how we perform most of our recruiting), identify bottlenecks in the interview process, and monitor gender ratios within our candidate pool and teams. By analyzing this data, we can refine our strategies and messaging, address disparities, and maintain transparency by sharing insights with our hiring leaders. Using Gem allows us to see what is and what isn’t working well with our sourcing strategies.

Especially when recruiting for very specific and highly technical positions, it’s necessary to carve out time for building and following sourcing strategies for candidates from underrepresented backgrounds. Highnote’s own Meghan Major noted in a previous blog post, “Nine out of 10 fintech firms have no women at the top, and only 5.6 percent of fintech CEOs are women.” The pool of candidates we are recruiting from is predominantly from non-underrepresented backgrounds, so we have to do extra leg work to expand that talent pool as much as possible. LinkedIn Recruiter does provide recommendations for keywords or other search options to increase the number of female candidates in a search result list. However, results are still typically very limited. Also, gender is not the only lens when looking at diversity.

Maintain DEIB After Your Candidates Walk through the Door

Increasing the percentage of underrepresented candidates in the Recruiting pipeline is only one piece of the puzzle. Ultimately, we want to build and maintain a diverse, inclusive, and equitable Highnote, so we’re now taking steps to formalize our DEIB Strategy. One focus of our strategy is providing recognition of different cultural celebration months in an effort to validate and celebrate diversity in backgrounds, identities, and cultures. We have been fortunate to have executed internal and external panels to celebrate and recognize Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Pride Month for the past two years. (Check out recordings of these panels here!) This year and going forward, we have dedicated team members who own the execution of these culture month events with support and direction from volunteer planning teams.

Highnote’s first employee resource group (ERG) was formed last year as the “Ladies of Highnote,” and anyone who is an ally in supporting and promoting women is invited to participate. With quarterly events, so far, we have held a discussion of Brené Brown’s podcast episodes “Armored vs. Daring Leadership,” an “Exploring Enneagrams” session, and a Paint & Sip session for the holidays. More than just (albeit fun) events, we’re also doing the work internally, with all interviewers participating in unconscious bias interview training this year. “UB training seeks to raise awareness of the mental shortcuts that lead to snap judgments—often based on race and gender—about people's talents or character. Its goal is to reduce bias in attitudes and behaviors at work, from hiring and promotion decisions to interactions with customers and colleagues.” (Gino and Coffman.)

Celebrating Inclusion: This Month and Every Month

At Highnote, we believe in the power of intentional inclusion to drive innovation and success. We see these initial efforts as the start of our continuous journey – and that journey is far from over. It's an evolving process of learning, adapting, and growing. This Women’s History Month, I’m honored to be a part of an organization that not only “approves of” the investment in a DEIB strategy but is fully committed to it. This month, and every month, let’s embrace all the strategies we can to champion equity, diversity, and inclusion and make our places of work sources of hope in the progress in the tech industry.

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