Arthur Woods is a social entrepreneur and LGBTQ+ leader working at the intersection of equity, inclusion and technology. He was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and 40 Under 40 by BEQ. He is the author of the book, Hiring for Diversity; he is a three-times TEDx speaker and has advised leading brands from Disney, Sonos and MetLife to the Smithsonian.Follow
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 197. Today we have Arthur Woods from Mathison about the use case or business case for why his prospects use Mathison.
Arthur is a social entrepreneur and LGBTQ+ leader, working at the intersection of equity, inclusion and technology.
Mathison’s mission is to bridge the gap between the most underrepresented job seekers and employers committed to diversity and inclusion.
Show length: 30 minutes
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Music: This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup
William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Arthur Woods on from Mathison who will be learning about the use case or business case for why his prospects and how his prospects become customers and how his customers remain customers. So let’s just jump right into it. Arthur, thank you for being on the show. Would you introduce yourself and Mathison?
Arthur Woods: Thanks for having me, William. Absolutely. My name’s Arthur Woods, I’m a co-founder of Mathison, a member of the LGBTQ community. I’ve been a lifetime entrepreneur, I have started multiple social ventures and HR technology companies. My background has really been all about using technology to advance humanity, to advance equity and inclusion. I have been really proud to be part of Mathison and bring it to life for the last two and a half years, and we’re a diversity equity inclusions technology company focused on hiring and measurement. So really excited to be here today with you, William.
William Tincup: I love this. And first of all, we’re a hundred years late, but I’m glad that there are conversations that are finally happening. And, again, like I’ve told a lot of folks that are starting on this journey, you don’t end inclusion completely. There isn’t like, “We’re done.” There’s not a moment. So you got to get used to that. We’re going to keep unlearning some of the things that we’ve learned in the past, we’re going to learn new things, and we’re also going around the corner, we’re going to learn other new things that we didn’t even know existed.
Arthur Woods: That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right. You’re right, it’s absolutely a journey and it’s wonderful to see that so many folks are having the conversation now. You’re right, it sometimes feels like it’s late, but glad that it’s happening.
William Tincup: Yeah. And again, conversations are great, but what I’ve noticed with candidates and employees is, and some of it might be the talent, some of it might be COVID and remote work. I can’t really get the confluence of why this is, but they don’t have the patience. It’s really easy to say that you care about diversity inclusion. You just change your logo during Pride Month and, “We care.” But I’ve got the real sense that candidates, they want results. They want to see outcomes. They want to be introduced to ERGs. How much are you spending? What’s your annual report on the… It’s great that you say you’re good at this, but the proof’s in the pudding, what are you doing? What are you all seeing? What are you seeing from your perspective?
Arthur Woods: That’s exactly right, first of all, William. There’s a lot of performative activism happening today. There are a lot of folks that really just want to signal that they care about diversity, but not really make any change. So what we’re seeing is a new breed of leaders and companies that are saying, “No, we actually not only need the signal that we care, but we need to make some real changes in the way that we shift our systems to make them make sure that they’re working for people, that they’re accessible, that we’re addressing bias at really critical stages where a lot of folks have actually had barriers.”
We’re seeing organizations change the way they’re actually fundamentally sourcing, the way that they’re reaching out to new communities that they didn’t typically engage in the past. And one of the most exciting things, William, is that we’re seeing a lot of organizations saying we have to engage everyone in our organization to play a role and to take responsibility. And that’s been a pretty exciting shift that this work is not just being owned by HR, by the talent teams, or diversity teams as much anymore, it’s really becoming more of a democratic responsibility.
William Tincup: As it should be. It should be. Again, if Sally or Jordan, if they’re the diversity, if they run it, that’s fantastic, but it’s everyone’s responsibility and it should be every one’s responsibility. What do you see as the barrier for folks that maybe just haven’t made the mental or emotional or intellectual move over to understanding why it’s important? And I’ve always viewed, and tear this apart by the way, I’ve always viewed the reason, and it’s a cop out, but the reason that people don’t dip their toe into this is because they’re scared. It’s fear. They just don’t know. And again, it’s a cop out. To me, it’s a cop out, and it’s an excuse to not get involved and learn and not to be vulnerable, but what do you see?
Arthur Woods: It’s a really good question. And I’ll say, William, I think it’s a couple things. One is, I think there are a lot of folks who don’t understand what this work is, and may generally understand we need greater representation, but why? And it might not be really clear on what success looks like in it. And I think there’s a really great opportunity for us to level, set with everyone to say, “This is not just about having visible diversity in the room for the sake of checking that box, it’s that we’re striving to create organizations that have diversity of thought, that can innovate, that represent the communities we’re actually trying to serve externally.”
And that all of a sudden shifts the strategic value of this work. I think there’s a second piece, which is how do we want to show up and feel every day when we walk into a team? Do we want to be living in fear-driven environments where people can’t speak up, where people can’t be themselves, or do we want to create environments where people show up and they feel like they belong? And they show up as their full selves and they actually contribute and they go the extra mile because they’re safe to do so. And I think these become very pragmatic questions we can ask ourselves and each other. It starts to really shift diversity from being this thing that may just be something we said we were supposed to do, to all of a sudden something we really want to do in the spirit of the way we want to build our organizations.
William Tincup: It just makes us a better company. It makes us a better team. It just makes us better for our customers, et cetera. It just makes us better.
Arthur Woods: Absolutely.
William Tincup: I read a wonder satirical article last week on… No, it didn’t include a Q, it was LGBT, and it was satire. And the whole bit was the acronym is confusing for heterosexual people. And I was just laughing the whole time I’m reading because they’re adding the different things they’re adding. And the whole bit was, the whole point is we’re learning new things about people. There’s a whole lot of self discovery, there’s a lot of discovery that we’re learning as a society, and it’s okay.
And that vulnerability of being… It’s okay if you don’t know what some of these things mean, or if you just don’t don’t have great reference points. I still remember one of the first trans guys that I’d met. I was training, and after the training he came up to me, his name was [inaudible 00:07:40], and he came up to me and he said, “Do you remember me?” I said, “Man, I meet so many people and I’m horrible with names.” I’m like, “No, I don’t.” He goes, “The last time you met me, we were at this offsite, strategic offsite, and you were training and I was a woman.” I said-
Arthur Woods: Interesting.
William Tincup: Yeah. And so I said, “First of all, tell me all about it.” Because now I can’t walk away from this. Now I got to know. All right, bring me into this. And he told me his whole journey and it was fascinating. And again, I was vulnerable because I didn’t know anything about it. I could have easily said, “Fantastic. Got to go.” But I took the time to then say, “[Seth 00:08:29], I want to hear all about this. I want to learn because I don’t know anything about it.” And I’m vulnerable there because I don’t know anything about it. Just take me into this world. Take me on this journey.
And it was fantastic. His journey’s going to be different than somebody else’s journey, I get that. But it was just fantastic as a reference point for me. And he talked about the pain he had to endure and all of that stuff too so it wasn’t all fun and games, but it was his journey and it was amazing, but I had to open up. That’s what I realized. And I can give you thousands of examples of other people that done this as well. I had to actually go, “I want to hear all about this.”
Arthur Woods: That’s right. That’s right. And what’s so powerful about that though, William, is I feel like there are two postures leaders can assume right now. One is believing that you have all the answers and not admitting to not knowing, or being vulnerable and exactly what you are, admitting to not knowing and being open to exploring and having that dialogue. And honestly I think team members today are not expecting their leaders to have all the answers or to be perfect, I think they’re expecting leaders to show up and listen and be vulnerable. And that I think is a really exciting shift. And I think it’s a whole new muscle for a lot of leaders that were used to maybe leading from a different posture to now better understand.
William Tincup: Yeah, the command and control mentality that came out of manufacturing World War II. I don’t know if it ever technically worked, but it definitely doesn’t work now. And I 1005 agree with you that leaders, if they think they have all the answers, they’re already on a pathway of being extinct. They’re going to age out. But the leaders that I know today that are just thriving are the ones that show up and they are extremely vulnerable, and it’s okay. There’s a gentleman that runs a company called Lessonly, and his name’s Max. He wrote a book and it was his memos to the company, like 50 memos over the course of four or five years. And that’s the book, and all these memos are him being vulnerable. They’re not, “Sales are this, we’re going to go in this direction and you’re going to require this,” [crosstalk 00:11:14]. It was, “I don’t understand this. And I’m struggling with mental health,” and all kinds of stuff. And it’s like, this guy’s co-CEO. Founder.
Arthur Woods: So amazing.
William Tincup: Yeah. And I just loved it. So with Mathison, when you start interacting with companies, do you find yourself as a company, are you all coming in through the front door with HR, or through diversity, through TA? Where is your endpoint?
Arthur Woods: Yeah, great question. So we tend to find ourselves working with talent or talent acquisition leaders, and increasingly with directly diversity equity inclusion leaders. And what’s cool about the DEI leadership role is it’s very emerging, of course enterprises have had that role in place for years, but the role sometimes has been a little bit minimized to certain functions or certain domains and it really is elevating beyond [crosstalk 00:12:19].
William Tincup: You’re being nice, and I appreciate that. [crosstalk 00:12:26] but the budget, but the money [crosstalk 00:12:27].
Arthur Woods: Money hasn’t been there. The money hasn’t been there, or honestly, a lot of DEI leaders have been, they haven’t reported directly to leadership or the CEO. They haven’t had budget, to your point. They haven’t always had a seat at the table. Sometimes their role has honestly been more symbolic than it has been seen as really transformational. And so I think we’ve seen the role elevate a lot, especially in the last two years. I think we’re seeing earlier stage companies, midcap, high growth companies beginning to have heads of diversity earlier. Hopefully they’re getting more budget, they’re getting more of a seat at the table. In many cases, they’re getting more of a direct line to the CEO. They’re oftentimes sitting on the leadership team. So we’re seeing that evolve, but we tend to work with talent leaders who care about DEI and want to embed it throughout their talent lifecycle.
William Tincup: So tell us a little bit about what the tech does, the problem that it solves.
Arthur Woods: Absolutely. Our big takeaway in the space, we launched Mathison two and a half years ago, we saw that our DEI tech category, if you could call it a category at the time, was a lot of single point solutions, a lot of one trick approaches. And the challenging thing with that, William, was that there were these solutions living in their own separate swim lanes. So you had to go to a completely different tool to write inclusive job descriptions. And then you’d have to go completely to another tool to source candidates, another tool to start to think about shifting the behavior of your team, and then another tool to measure your progress in all of this. And we said, “This is a really cumbersome tech stack. It’s really expensive to do all these things in a combined way.”
And if you’re a high growth or even midcap company, chances are you’re doing maybe one of these things, definitely not all of them. And we said, “A real robust, sustainable diversity equity inclusion strategy has to have a holistic approach. It has to acknowledge that we need to shift our systems, change the behavior of our team, measure our progress throughout. And it’s not going to just be of these single approaches by itself that will be transformational.” So our big innovation was to create really the first end-to-end system that helps companies and employers measure, first of all, build their diversity roadmap, assess their talent systems from a hiring and from an engagement standpoint to determine where they have gaps, where they have potential bias, and help them actually build a diversity strategy.
And we have a measurement system that enables them to do that and it really creates a continuous roadmap over to time to really track progress. Our system has a sourcing component that helps companies expand their pipeline to really reach new communities. And part of our big focus there, William, is that we focus on not just visible aspects of diversity and not just ethnicity and gender, which some tools only focus it on, but we include the LGBTQ community, the disability community. So as organizations are really trying to expand their hiring pipeline, they have a reach to a lot of communities that weren’t typically on the radar before.
And the final piece is that we’ve built tools and training resources, really, around engaging your broader team. And our belief is that this work should not just fall on HR. It should not just fall on the one recruiter that does diversity recruiting, quote unquote. It should be something that everyone can participate in and contribute to. And so we have tools such as an inclusive text analyzer, diversity training content, and we make those available to the whole team. And what’s cool is we were able to bring this on a subscription basis to organizations of all shapes and sizes to make this very accessible for organizations that really want to make progress.
William Tincup: You mentioned a bunch of things and I want to unpack some of them. Do you find yourself, do you find Mathison coming into situations where they’ve got some of the pieces, maybe some of the process or some of the tactics, or do you find yourself coming into blank slate, they’ve not done a whole lot, which is wonderful in some regards, and you get to lay down everything? And the second part of that question is, do you find you’ll really focusing on process? It is a technology company, which I get, but do you find yourself helping them undo process and create better processes around making these initiatives that they care about and funded actually come to fruition? So the first question is, what environments are you being dropped into? What does it look like? Without naming names, of course.
Arthur Woods: Yeah, absolutely.
William Tincup: Secondly, is how much of this is process intact?
Arthur Woods: So the first part of that is, we see both actually. We see a lot of organizations joining us and it’s pretty cool, William, because sometimes it’s for the very first time that an organization, in their growth, has invested in anything in DEI and they see the holistic need and they actually don’t want to choose between doing one piece or another. They say, “We actually need to have a holistic strategy that is across the board.” And we’re making that possible for them, so that’s been really cool for us. And we ask them what would you do in the alternative? And they’d say, “Actually, alternatively, we would’ve just worked with one piece of this equation and left complete gaps.” So that’s been a major growth area for us are these high-growth, early organizations.
But we also work with organizations that might have one solution in place. They might have a tool in place to write job descriptions or some sourcing tool, but they’re looking for a more comprehensive way to make progress and they’re missing the measurement piece. So I think to your second question, measurement and process-based changes are a big part of our model. We believe that shifting your policies and practices and systems is critical to creating more equitable organizations. A lot of organizations have this misconception that they simply can just source candidates from new communities, change nothing else, and everything will be fine. And then what happens? Those candidates walk into an environment that isn’t inclusive, that isn’t empowering, they drop out, or they walk into a team that hasn’t been really prepared to support them and they leave. So we’re really big on changing systems as a way of shifting diversity.
William Tincup: I love that. First of all, I love that from, again, if you think you can fix this just by sourcing in different communities, you’re just going to have an attrition problem. That person will… Yes, you can go to an HBCU and you can bring someone in, fantastic. It’s going to be a toxic environment for them and they’re going to leave. You’re actually just making attrition worse. I want to ask a question about biases because you mentioned it earlier. What biases are we learning about now that maybe we didn’t know a few years ago? I’m curious now about, we’re learning and we’re going to continue to learn about new biases. So with your customers, what are you unpacking for them as it relates to biases? You might not even think you’re biased. You might be the most liberal, open-minded, fair. All fantastic. All that stuff’s great. But you don’t know that you have this bias. What are you learning there and what are you teaching?
Arthur Woods: It’s a great question. And so the first thing is that bias, in many ways, has been misconstrued as this evil thing that we maybe only possess in certain decisions that we make and that we can go to some magical training or take some magical pill and rate ourselves up. I think it’s key to understand that bias originates because our brain is having to make many unconscious decisions because of how much information we’re processing at any moment. And every single decision that we make where we may be on autopilot, where we use heuristics, is a place where bias can show up. And if we think about the number of decisions that take place in the hiring process, the number of times we try to make shorthand quick decisions, cut corners, use heuristics to decide about how good a candidate is, for example.
And these are all areas where our implicit bias can show up. So I think the first thing is to normalize bias by knowing it is pervasive in every decision that we make. The number of decisions throughout our hiring process and our talent systems just represents all of the potential areas where there’s a risk of bias. And honestly there are over 140 types of biases. There’s a bias essentially for everything we can imagine. The list is growing. We tend to hear the common ones that everyone knows about, which is, of course, affinity bias. We like the folks that like us or group think or conformity bias or we hear things like there’s name bias, there’s beauty bias.
There’s really, truly a bias for everything. And so what we try to, first of all, just really emphasize is the more that we structure, we create structure and systems to ensure that the decisions that we make are impartial, that they’re thoughtful, that we’re consistent in the way that we operate, the more that we will more consciously be addressing this unconscious bias. Because as human beings, left to our own devices, we will always revert back to implicit ways of acting, where we assert judgment quickly just because of the way our brains work. So that’s really why us thoughtfully building systems and using them is critical to us being impartial. It’s one of the reasons why all the systems work is so critical.
William Tincup: You and I, in a year from now, we’ll do another call and I can’t wait to hear the number from 140 what the new number is, because it won’t be-
Arthur Woods: It’ll probably be like 300.
William Tincup: We both know it won’t be 140. So years ago I owned an ad agency, and whenever I would do a pitch, if I heard the buyer, if I heard the prospect, if they ever used the words “fast,” “easy,” or “cheap,” I ended the pitch. And I’d tell them why. I wouldn’t be mean or anything, I’d just end it and say, “These are my trigger words. And you obviously think what we do is fast or easy or cheap and it’s none of those things.” So we are not going to, subconsciously you sent a signal, and we’re just never going to be able to push that boulder up the hill. It’s okay. The world’s big enough for all of us, not a [crosstalk 00:23:50]. So what are you learning about yourself when you’re pitching and when you’re talking to people about Mathison and you just get that signal? They’re not there yet. They’ll get there, but they’re not there yet.
Arthur Woods: I’m really glad you asked that because there are a few things. One is that if people feel like this is going to happen overnight, and again, I flip a switch and I’m diverse, cool. That’s a red flag. I think if people tell us that, we all really need to do one thing, there’s just this one true love that’s going to be the answer and that sourcing, or it’s fixing one part of our system, but nothing else. So we need this, the time horizon that this will take a while. Second, this needs to be holistic. We can’t just have a single approach that’s going to work. And the third is if people say, “No, no, I can’t engage anyone else in this. I have to hide this work from my boss,” or “I need to just go figure it out and then I’ll let the rest of the organization know.” That’s pretty much a recipe for disaster, because we actually really do need everyone. And we need leadership on board, we need the broader team on board, any person who-
William Tincup: The board.
Arthur Woods: Yeah, the board. Any person who engages a candidate, they don’t have to be on the talent team to play a role and actually influence the way someone feels. So these are all really critical pieces to us knowing, again, are you thinking long term? Are you thinking systemically? Are you thinking democratically? And if you are, you’re likely going to be a good partner for us.
William Tincup: I got into a very heated discussion with one of my clients last year. It was before Pride Month and he said, “Are you going to change the recruiting daily logo?” I’m like, “No.” And he goes, “Why?” I said, “Because I care about that community. You’re out.”
Arthur Woods: I love it, I love it. We were actually asked the same thing.
William Tincup: I don’t change my logo for the month. I have the same issue with Black History Month. Black history is every month. It should be every day.
Arthur Woods: That’s right, that’s right.
William Tincup: If you’re curious and you care, then there isn’t a day or a month or whatever the thing is. It is cool to celebrate, I do get that part of it and acknowledge. But we got into a heated discussion, he was like, “I just don’t understand,” and I said, “I view it as pander.” I’m not a member of that community so I really can’t speak to how they feel about it, but I view it as pandering. So I’m not going to pander. I’m just going to-
Arthur Woods: That’s completely right.
William Tincup: Show up and care as much as I can all the time and learn.
Arthur Woods: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And honestly that performative activism, it can certainly really just affect the way people feel and it can signal that we’re only thinking about underrepresented communities during their given heritage month and not every other day of the year, so I think it’s something we have to be really mindful of.
William Tincup: So two quick questions. One is your favorite part of your demo. When you show Mathison to somebody that’s never seen it and just your favorite part, what’s your favorite thing to show them?
Arthur Woods: My favorite thing to show is actually, we have a knowledge center that is all about building awareness and, not only hearing stories of underrepresented communities and gaining insights around how to support everyone, but actually very tangible things that they can do differently. And our belief, honestly, is that knowledge is the path to equity. Knowledge, if we think about what awareness and insights and knowledge do for us in terms of the decisions we make and the changes that we make, knowledge should be something that everyone has. And I think a lot of it’s the lack of awareness that typically is what leads to a lack of action in this work.
William Tincup: I love that. Okay, last question, I promise. Favorite innovation story from a customer, without naming names, of course, but just something where you’re like, “I love what they’ve done here.”
Arthur Woods: Honestly, one of the things that’s been most cool for us to see is we have a number of customers, a number of partners, that have just made such significant changes to their policies and practices. And I think by going through our system, they’ve been able to identify immediate gaps, figure out, one example is the vast majority of employers we’ve worked with have found that there have been pretty major accessibility gaps in terms of, for example, individuals with disabilities applying to a job and not actually being physically capable of doing that because of the way that the employer’s systems are set up. So we’ve been able to see drastic changes to the way employers are approaching their systems, changing their policies, changing their structure. And it’s been just so wonderful to witness and it’s made this work immediate in so many ways, but again, it’s where these insights have led to real action and that’s been wonderful to witness.
William Tincup: I love it. I know we went a little over, Arthur. I appreciate your time. I love what you’re doing with Mathison, and thanks for coming on the Use Case podcast.
Arthur Woods: Thank you so much, William. It’s great to be here and I loved the conversation.
William Tincup: Absolutely, and thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.
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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.