Many companies pay lip service to increasing diversity. In some cases, it's a way for them to give themselves a self-satisfied pat on the back without actually making real efforts — or real change.
Change does require a little innovation, and that’s why Ryan Williams and Porter Braswell launched Jopwell, a web platform that connects other black, Hispanic/Latino and Native American students and young professionals with top-notch companies, particularly in the tech and consulting industries.
As undergraduate interns on the trading floor at Goldman Sachs, they recognized the flaws inherent in the way big companies often go about diversifying their workforce. Williams says they got their gigs through an internship program and knew that while such programs make a difference, not everyone has access to them.
“When we were working [at Goldman], they would ask us to help them to recruit diverse candidates [from our universities]," says Williams. “We saw how companies in consulting were placing an emphasis on diversity, but their efforts weren’t refreshed.”
Since launching Jopwell in 2014, the friends have partnered with companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Goldman Sachs. Job seekers create an online profile and pursue openings, while recruiters can reach out to candidates they find online.
Their approach seems to be working: Since the beginning of 2016, the company has attracted numerous big-name investors, including Magic Johnson Enterprises and Joe Montana's Liquid 2 Ventures.
“Backing Jopwell fits into my mission – to support, empower and strengthen underserved communities. I also like working with companies that can really innovate the way we do things and make them better,” says Johnson in an email.
Though he’s only a few years out of college himself, Williams says a lot has changed since he first entered the workforce. He spoke to Metro about what new graduates seeking their first job can expect when entering the professional world:
How does a diverse workforce change a company’s culture?
Having different backgrounds in the room, having different perspectives, it helps to avoid groupthink and to ensure companies can build products and services that cater to customers as diverse as our country and our world is. If they are hiring a wide array [of employees,] I think it can change culture [more so than diversity training.] It has a financial impact on the bottom line.
What’s your advice for first-time job seekers?
I would be very open-minded to opportunities that are out there, and that are a fit. Explore options you might not have considered.
The talent and the ethnically diverse candidates are out there [but] there are barriers that have traditionally been blocking them from getting access to these companies. The landscape of these tech firms has unfortunately not been very diverse, and each graduating class is hopefully an opportunity to change that.
The companies are getting serious about diversity, and what excites us is the reality that the landscape can and will change. We’re just excited and humbled to be a part of that.