Storytelling about Diversely with Helen McGuire

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 73. This week we have storytelling about Diversely with Helen McGuire. During this episode, Helen and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Diversely.

Helen and Diversely work to help businesses hire without bias. Her passion for helping businesses understand where they are on the diversity spectrum and how they can improve really comes through during the podcast. 

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William


Show length: 33:53  


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William Tincup [00:00:01]

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Use Case podcast. We have Helen here from Diversely and we’re going to be learning all kinds of good things from her. So, Helen, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and to introduce diversely to the audience?

Helen McGuire [00:00:22]

Yeah, of course. Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Helen McGuire. As you can tell, probably I’m British, but I’m living over in Singapore and I’m the CEO of a business called Diversely. Diversely is an all tech solution in the diversity and inclusion space. We work to help businesses. No one understands exactly where they are on the diversity spectrum through a scoring and reporting system. And secondly, to help them hire without bias through our bias-free AI-driven hiring tools which are available online on subscription anywhere in the world.

William Tincup [00:01:05]

So where people are, let’s tackle both of these. First, let’s talk about where they are on the map. So you’ve built a map, right? And again, it’s kind of like a maturity model, I’m assuming. How do they take that data? You mean like how do they respond to when you say, OK, based on everything that we’ve learned here, here’s where you are. Here’s what’s left to do. Or like how do they intellectually and emotionally, how do they respond to that?

Helen McGuire [00:01:46]

It depends on the size of the business and we have separate approaches to this, so #1 is a very simple qualitative scoring system whereby businesses, no matter what size they are, don’t need to have any kind of quantitative data to get a benchmark score, followed quickly by a very sort of overview report that’s completely free. And, you know, as you say, looks at where they are on that. Not so much maturity, but just in terms of the types of diversity that they have internally as a business where they could possibly improve. So they get a very simple percentage score across five different types of diversity. So we don’t just focus on on gender, which is definitely a differentiating point for us in the market. But bigger businesses, generally want to understand on a much deeper level where they are. So that involves us asking much broader questions, but essentially generating a report for them through an API that we’ve created that we can present to them and say within a 10 percent error rate, exactly where they are on a quantitative basis. Across those were three different types of diversity. So gender, age and ethnicity. And the response to that is often one of surprise. I think it’s usually an unknown quantity within a business exactly where they stand. Unfortunately, this concept of DNA reporting, measurement, analytics and tracking progress is very, very new to businesses. And actually we found only five percent of businesses have anything in place to do this. And I guess our argument there is, well, if you don’t know why you’re starting, how do you know how to improve and how do you know where to start that improvement journey? So when we present those reports to businesses, there is an element of surprise that is sometimes an element of pushback as well.

Helen McGuire [00:04:01]

Well, you know, we’re not so bad across this region and we make up for it in this region and so on. And it’s definitely a regionally based as well. So we benchmark against industry and region because it is a different maturity spectrum, depending on where you are in the world.

Helen McGuire [00:04:17]

And also depending on the ethnic makeup, let’s say, of your city, your region and where your offices are in the world as well. So there’s a lot to go through. There’s a lot to unpack within those reports. But we’ve been working in this space now for many, many years. And really the purpose of diversity is not just to reflect back exactly where businesses are, it’s to help them move forward from that point.

William Tincup [00:04:50]

So a number of things to unpack here. One is, why is it this way? So when they kind of give you that you know, we didn’t know. We you know, we didn’t have a benchmark to don’t didn’t have visibility or insight into kind of what is or what is the current state. You’ve been doing this a while. Why why is that? Why don’t they know? I mean, it’s just plain terms like why? Why don’t they know that?

Helen McGuire [00:05:24]

Because they don’t ask the questions. And, you know, for many businesses and particularly things such as sexual orientation and disability, self-reporting and that, you know, arguably is the right way to go. But it also means that they just have no idea where they are, where those types of diversity are concerned, where age, gender and ethnic makeup is concerned.

Helen McGuire [00:05:55]

It’s more obvious, but they simply don’t have the systems internally in order to be able to pull that data out and visualize it in a way that’s useful.

Helen McGuire [00:06:05]

You know, we’ve spoken to companies who are looking at doing this or who are doing it manually and literally trying to Excel spreadsheets and putting things out of their attics and whatever internal systems they might be using to try and get a measure of this. But it’s an incredibly complex procedure, and it’s not always obvious from names what gender somebody is. Right. So so this is where our software comes in and our API comes in. And as I mentioned, that’s true within attempts and error rate. So it’s it’s a very complicated area. I think it’s one that has only just really started to come out because D&I previously has always been something that, you know, as always has always been nice to have. I think this is it. And I think in the last year, 18 months, it’s just been this increased pressure. But in fact, there was some research recently from Gustl that said there’s been a 70 percent increase in the numbers of people with D&I in that job title. So businesses are having to take this a lot more seriously and they’re starting to realize that unfortunately, they just don’t know where they are and if they don’t and they don’t know how to move forward.

William Tincup [00:07:19]

And so the problem here in the States, I think, you know, when people would say diversity, they wouldn’t even say all the other things, just diversity. People would automatically think gender and race. And I think that probably held true up until #metoo. And so #metoo #loveislove and Black Lives Matter. A lot of the things socially that have been going on here in the States, I think that’s put more pressure, thankfully, put more pressure on businesses to ask these questions, to get curious and figure out again where you are and also kind of plot the course of where you want to be. So what is your question about the reports? So and I know people are going to be wondering this as well. So as you, you know, basically come back to them and render, you know, your findings, I’m assuming they’re kind of laden with actions or recommendations, a path forward, etc.. So could you cut without giving away secret sauce and things like that? Could you tell us a little bit more about what the reports to?

Helen McGuire [00:08:33]

Yeah, sure. So the report breaks down across gender, age and ethnicity. It will also break down for region. It can break down for specific teams or specific job roles within a business. It can be taken from a local perspective, a regional perspective or global perspective. And yes, that there are points within that report that say we would recommend you looking at this. This is underrepresented for your specific industry or for your specific region. And I think. There’s there’s a lot that we can do when we present the report back, we actually placed roundtables with key stakeholders to help No. One to understand the report, but also to give them our expertise on what they could do to help improve those numbers if that’s necessary. And that’s really where our tools come in. You know, as I mentioned, diversely was not set up just to preach about DNA. It was set up to practice DNA and it was set up to really help businesses to move forward from whatever point there are right now. And one of the things that we always recommend is looking at the way in which businesses are hiring. So starting at the very, very beginning from sourcing, how are you reaching out to the types of people that you want to or need to attract within your organization, what language you use and what structure we using within those job ads? Is it biased towards or against a certain group? Does it feel inclusive or is it telling people who you are as a business and why they should be interested in working there? And secondly, where are you then posting those jobs? Is it just going up on LinkedIn or Monster or Indeed or some of the big ones?

Helen McGuire [00:10:34]

Or are you looking at more niche job boards where you might go and find those people? And one thing we always say is you don’t use the same language to talk to your grandma or your child or your dog or your colleague. So when you are trying to attract people within to your organization, you need to use language that appeals to them.

Helen McGuire [00:10:59]

You need to use inclusive language. And that’s really where our first tool, the bias analyzer, comes in, because it looks at that language in that structure across the five different types of diversity. And it gives you, again, a school so that you know exactly where you sit and also helps you then to post out to both Global Initiative boards. So these are things that are tools can do from an Arab perspective to take the human bias out of and out of this process. We worked for the University of Nottingham on this. They have three years worth of data globally, specifically on job ads to help with this. But there are also many practical things that businesses can just start to do themselves without using tools. And that’s also why we give some advice.

William Tincup [00:11:49]

So here in the States, we call it diversity, inclusion and belonging, equity, equality. So, DIBEE. OK, so as we learn new things, so you’ve rattled off a couple of things. Age and gender and sexual orientation, disability, ethnic makeup. And there’s obviously probably a list of other things that you would probably add to that. As we learn more, as we unpack things, we’re going to learn more about what we don’t know. But I’m just assuming. Right. How does that change your model? Like how do you bring in new things when people you know, I get a job, veterans, neurodiversity, whatever. I like to bring new things to you or newer things and in the model doesn’t necessarily consider that yet. But it’s a really cool, cool thing to them. And how do you bring new things or new ways to look at diversity into the model?

Helen McGuire [00:12:47]

Yeah, the model is constantly updating, so we need new data into the eye almost constantly. And our partnership with the University of Nottingham, the Center for Applied Linguistics, helps us to do that because they have look specifically at bias in job descriptions, but not specifically any particular biases. I mean, as you say, we’re picking those five out. But you know that there is there is an endless spectrum of diversity. So we’re constantly looking at ways to update that.

Helen McGuire [00:13:24]

And I think the other way in which we want to make sure that we’re being as inclusive as possible to candidates and we are not a job within ourselves and we’re not recruiters ourselves, but we’re partnering with job boards locally, regionally and globally, as you say, even those who are ex military, for example.

Helen McGuire [00:13:46] So the specific job boards around that obviously around ethnicity, disability or diversity, college, older people, etc. So there are many, many job boards other people don’t know about. And that’s really where the job for posta comes in, recommending those job boards to businesses so that they’re reaching out into those communities in a way that they may not have considered before.

William Tincup [00:14:13]

Right. So this is going to probably be the dumbest question you get asked in at least a year. So just brace yourself and I’m going with you. OK, so most of what we do in the technology world, especially around hiring, is we try to eliminate bias. Right. But what if we’re wrong? What if actually people put their biases again, let’s say someone wants to hire more African-Americans or more women, let’s just make it simple. That’s for whatever reason. It’s a firm that’s grown up and it’s it’s 90 percent male and they just want to hire women. Yeah, well, what’s wrong with just hiring women? But if you want to fix that, if again, it’s being self aware, but if we use all the technology in a way that says, OK, we hide all that, strip all that stuff away, but what if someone has, I guess, a good intent or a proper intent?

William Tincup [00:15:20]

Why would we hide all that stuff? That could be a stupid question.

Helen McGuire [00:15:28]

No, it’s not. It’s actually quite a big discussion and it’s a discussion around positive discrimination. And I think the jury’s out really, or it’s a relatively hung jury on whether this is a good thing or not. And I think where we’re concerned, there are two schools of thought on it when from a diversity perspective, when businesses post out job boards, all of the candidates that come back and say are not automatically anonymized. So you cannot see whether they’re male or female, what ethnicity they are, school and university, they went to that age, et cetera, et cetera. And that’s for a reason, because we believe that that’s where human bias starts to creep in. And you see a name or you see an image or you see a school or university on a profile and you make an assumption.

Helen McGuire [00:16:19]

So that’s deliberately taken out from the processes. However, what we do provide is a diversity indicator. So once that switched on, you can see where the underrepresented groups are in that list and wanted to positively discriminate at that point. And I think that is an argument for it. And my argument is always that unfortunately, you know, there is very, very good evidence to suggest that underrepresented groups underrepresented themselves on the far right and underrepresented themselves when they apply for a role.

Helen McGuire [00:16:59]

So if you want to look at those profiles, particularly, I give them a 10, 20 percent extra terms and interview them and speak to them face to face or, you know, in our world, give them a test of some kind that helps you understand better what skill sets and soft skills are where we’re OK with that.

Helen McGuire [00:17:23]

And I think, you know, there are always elements of. Potential misuse around this as people for the wrong reasons, and that is something that our tech will pick up if we see that happening time and again and you will be asked to leave the platform.

Helen McGuire [00:17:40]

That’s OK. But, you know, we have taken that into consideration. And as you say, I think I don’t I don’t think it’s it’s definitely not a stupid question, William. So thank you for asking it. It’s actually a very interesting one. And I think the jury’s out on it.

William Tincup [00:17:57]

Yeah, it’s a it is a tool for good or is it a tool for evil? And I guess that’s probably every technology. Right. You can you can kind of look at it through that lens of, OK, what do you what’s what are you trying to do with some of this is we don’t we’re not we’re not either conscience or we’re not we’re not in touch with what biases we have. And some of, you know, just don’t know what you don’t know. And some of it you choose not to know. And so I’m I’m asked by DNA folks here, especially people that are trying to target. You know, specific, underrepresented groups, how can I do that if all the technology makes it difficult for me to do that? I’m like, well, that’s a fascinating question. So you’re making a case for actually, you know, going about this in a different way.

Helen McGuire [00:18:53]

I mean, just quickly, at that point, the whole point of this is to make your approach more inclusive. Right. This is to increase your reach into diverse groups, to basically increase the chance of finding the best person for the job. And that’s really why we recommend looking at the bias in your job ads and so on. And it’s to give the candidate a good experience as well. So he’s on a level playing field when they come. You know, they’ve all had the same opportunity to do the same job that they’ve all come through the same system. They’ve all been anonymized. So, you know, it’s really to sort of give the candidate an even chance, no matter who they’re up against, you know, background wise. And that’s that’s what we feel is key. And there’s there’s also within the process a very fair way of letting candidates know whether they’ve made the grade or they have made the grade. So that’s kind of how we work as well, because it’s not just about the hiring managers, it’s about the candidate’s experience.

William Tincup [00:20:05]

Right. And again, treating candidates like customers. We talked a little bit about hiring bias, but I want to go deeper there and understand, you know, what you’re learning about hiring bias. You know, again, a lot of people moving a little bit away from culture fit here in the states, moving away from that moving, or if you deal with competence on one end of the spectrum and potential, a lot of firms here starting to hire for potential, you know, so that’s kind of interesting. More companies here in the U.S. are going to go to the standardized interviews, which is interesting and, you know, probably a good thing and probably something we should have done a long time ago. What other places, you know, because you see all of this stuff with your clients. But we’ve seen it in years past. What are the things should we be thinking about in terms of hiring bias?

Helen McGuire [00:21:06]

So as far as Diversely is concerned, we stop once we have the pool of candidates, which a business can then go about contacting download speed into their systems, however, they they would normally approach that. But we completely recognize that there is a whole generation from that point to actually no one hiring that person and no to ensuring that they have a positive journey once they get into your organization. And really, that’s it’s interesting because when we first set up diversely and started doing the research around it, some of those businesses we saw as competitors and we when when we’re speaking to to our investors, we put them quite firmly in the invest in the competitive category. And very interestingly, now, many of them have actually become partners and key partnerships for us because there is so much tech out there that helps with getting people on board, hiring them, interviewing them, as there’s many companies that offer blind interviews, for example, that the testing that there are businesses that help you understand exactly how people are performing once they get into an organization, whether they’re likely to remain in the organization or whether that kind of falling off and not being included in conversations and not moving, which as they should do. So the software is out there, I mean, to name a few as it does business for pilot that we work with is another orange cats who are more on the retention side of things and is tell you, which is a video software company. And so, you know, these are all businesses that we look to work hand in hand with so that once you move into the hiring phase and the interview phase, you’re not introducing human bias or at least you’re trying to get around it. And I think you’re right. You know, the standardized interview, standardized scoring for candidates, online tests are a very positive way of approaching this. But, yeah, there’s lots out there that can definitely help us.

William Tincup [00:23:30]

So I see there I mean, obviously, in the work that you’ve done historically and now I see you know, if we can fix hiring, we can fix some of the experiential stuff, employee experience stuff I see there to being a large play, internal mobility and also in succession planning. What do you I mean, I don’t I’m not asking for trade secrets or anything, but what do you think the future looks like for you?

Helen McGuire [00:24:02]

It’s an interesting question. I think the way that we see Diversely and the vision for the business is really that diversity and inclusion should not be an added extra time or cost resource for any time. A position, a person, founder, whoever might be doing the hiring within a business. It should be a standard process that people of all backgrounds are included and considered and treated equally and fairly throughout the entire process. And of course, once they are on board within an organization. And that’s really why we see the future for diversity. And I guess many of our partners is that we become integrated into other Azziz, for example, we become integrated into company systems, whether they be large or small, so that, you know, this process, it should be quicker and easier. And it’s certainly cheaper to use us than it is to use many resources and recruiters out there, I would say from a subscription basis. So we should aim to increase the reach into these more diverse categories. We should aim the tech should aim to reduce the time that it takes for that to happen. And we should aim for a better result, which we can do on some level once we understand what the measurements and analytics are that underlie this whole process.

William Tincup [00:25:36]

Yeah, it’s fascinating to me because, again, a year ago we in the States, we went through some massive layoffs. Right. And I don’t think that those layoffs had elements of diversity, inclusion, let people look through. So, I mean, again, a culture there’s a lens there that would be interesting to know, OK, we laid off 75 percent of our workforce. All of them were female. But that would be good to know.

Helen McGuire [00:26:10]

Yeah, yeah. And I think actually, I saw some stats out of the States that two-thirds of the layoffs were women, which was optically I mean, first of all, the optics is horrible, period.

William Tincup [00:26:26]

It’s hard stuff. But beyond that, it’s like I don’t think back to your original point. I don’t think people have an idea. I don’t think it was out of you know, I guess you can always think there was ill intent or evil and shit like that. But I think I think it’s because they didn’t know what I didn’t where they were. Back to your original point of they don’t know the map of where they are. And so when they do a riff or a layoff. They do it blindly.

Helen McGuire [00:26:56]

I think that’s true, and I also think, you know, you can all disassociate the cultural pressure issue right now.

Helen McGuire [00:27:06]

Right. Women have concerns. And actually, I was asked this question quite recently about, you know, where I see this going for women, for people with disabilities, for people differently abled, those perhaps who are in different countries. And they don’t have the same opportunities as they might if they lived in, I don’t know, New York or L.A. or something or. And I think it’s really interesting because, yes, I agree that the situation and the stats are pretty dire right now and have looked pretty bad. Know the stuff that we’ve seen coming out of the states. God knows what it’s like in the rest of the world. It doesn’t report these things.

William Tincup [00:27:46]

But as I said, a lot of thinking about China or Russia specifically. However you.

Helen McGuire [00:27:55]

Yeah, that so there’s a lot of disinformation and unknowns about that. But, you know, I have three kids myself. They’re not quite school-aged six, six, and under. And when we were in lockdown here in Singapore, it was so tough because they were not in school. Obviously, they were doing swimming pools. And we’ve been very lucky because, number one, the lockdown was only three months and we haven’t had to repeat it. Number two, I have help here. You know, I’m very fortunate that I live in a city and a place where that’s just normal for families. And so the pressure was not solely on myself and my husband, who also has his own business to run. But I think that the future looks very bright. And look, this is only my belief. Who knows what’s going to happen. The world is a very strange place right now, but I do believe that this is a golden opportunity for many underrepresented groups. Never has there been so much focus on this. You never know.

William Tincup [00:29:06]

I think I think you’re spot on. I think history will judge us harshly if we don’t take advantage of this moment. Exactly. I mean, we’re I mean, again, foolish if it’s if we don’t take advantage of this, because this is a great time, again, to find out where you are and to make the changes, the requisite changes that you need to make and to get better. I mean, always kind of focus on getting better as an organization. A couple a couple just things that I know people will ask me work / workflow-wise, where does diversity sit, you know, for, you know, their technology stack, which is where does it sit right now?

Helen McGuire [00:29:46]

Yeah. So at the moment, we are a separate subscription platform and that’s purely because of the maturity of the company. But it’s fully on our roadmap to start integrating with access.

Helen McGuire [00:30:05]

And towards the second half of this year, we’re already in talks with bigger multinationals who obviously require these types of tools and systems to be integrated in their workplace. And we get that. I have a corporate background and BBC and in advertising, my co-founder has a cultural background in finance. So we get I completely.

Helen McGuire [00:30:27]

And so, yeah, it’s completely on the roadmap for us to be able to integrate with businesses. But right now we’re on a subscription basis and and it’s very easy to kind of plug that the data back in essentially to your training. Yes.

William Tincup [00:30:43]

And in the in the pricing model, it’s obviously, as you’ve said, subscription. Is it based on the size of company or the amount of cash flow through it?

Helen McGuire [00:30:54]

Yeah, it’s actually based on numbers of users and numbers of jobs. And so that’s that’s where we are with the pricing.

William Tincup [00:31:04]

Perfect. Last thing. When folks look at the software for the first time, they look at Diversely, you know, and a sudden they see it. The phrase here in the states, it’s the sizzle. It’s like, what do people gravitate? Because both people have worked corporate. And you I just assume that you’ve done a bunch of demos as a practitioner. And, you know, there’s always that moment when you first when you really like something, there’s that moment where you’re like, oh, I can’t live without this. This is now I figure out how to buy it. But, you know, what’s that? What’s that moment, that magical moment or sizzle moment for you?

Helen McGuire [00:31:43]

Yeah, it’s the visualization that we provide. It is that right in front of your face, I’m standing at number one exactly where you are. Genuinely, businesses, as I said, are very surprised by and have not seen it reflected in that. And number two, exactly how biased sometimes these job ads can be and they’re just not expecting it. And you can, as I mentioned, get some pushback on that because people are genuinely sometimes surprised and slightly shocked by what they say. But it certainly highlights where the work is to be done. And that’s really where we can help.

William Tincup [00:32:23]

Last thing before we wrap. What else should we know about Diversely?

Helen McGuire [00:32:29]

So Diversely is a seed-stage company. We have 13 global investors, we’re based out here in Singapore. We’re on a very fast growth path. So we’re already available globally and working with partners in the US, UK, Europe, Australia and here in Southeast Asia. And we’re ready for your calls whenever you want to make them.

Helen McGuire [00:32:56]

Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much, Helen. I appreciate your time. I know you’re busy, but I just appreciate you doing the show.

Helen McGuire [00:33:03]

Really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you so much.

William Tincup [00:33:06]

Absolutely. And thanks everyone for listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.

The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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