Debunking 5 Diversity + Inclusion Myths with Aleria Research Corp

You’ve probably heard of the “pipeline problem,” which stipulates that there aren’t enough diverse, qualified candidates for companies to hire women and people of color. Maybe it’s the first thing your team, board of directors, or investors said when faced with the task of improving your company’s diversity.

Here’s the catch: the “pipeline problem” is a myth—and so are many other ideas surrounding diversity and inclusion (D&I) that people believe and perpetuate. 

This year, Greentown has partnered with Aleria Research Corp (ARC)—a nonprofit whose purpose is to conduct charitable, scientific research in areas related to D&I—to offer a series of free workshops to help startups take meaningful action on D&I. At the second workshop, ARC dove into debunking a series of D&I myths—read on to learn the truth behind some of these myths and actionable steps for companies!

Register here for our next workshop with ARC on April 8, 2021, which is geared toward helping startups build stronger, more diverse, and ultimately more successful teams.


The Pipeline Myth
“There are not enough ____ candidates”

The truth: While women and people of color are underrepresented in certain disciplines, these gender and race gaps are more prominent in the workforce than in college graduates, according to ARC—a dynamic that worsens in higher career ranks.

The real problem is likely with your pipeline, which is shaped by how diverse your company is currently; whether your company has a positive or negative reputation surrounding inclusion; and how much you’re relying on your network to find candidates.

How to take action: 

  • Share your career opportunities on job boards that draw candidates from diverse backgrounds
  • Attend or watch a recording of ARC’s webinar on how D&I impacts your recruiting

The Ivy League Myth
“We only recruit from top schools”

When explaining the thinking behind this myth, people tend to say that top schools attract better students, better prepare people for the workforce, bring status to the company, and have better networks.

The truth: Hiring from elite schools may not be as good a business decision as you think—academic training and performance measures don’t correlate well with on-the-job performance, according to ARC, and companies have to pay a “huge premium” for these graduates’ salaries. Additionally, top schools tend to not be racially diverse, so following the Ivy League Myth perpetuates racial inequities.

How to take action:

  • Work with career offices at local colleges to share job and internship opportunities
  • Don’t put too much emphasis on applicants’ GPAs or standardized test scores

The Bar Myth
“There are so few ___ candidates that we would have to lower the bar in order to increase diversity”

The truth: Most companies don’t actually have a defined, measured, and tracked “bar,” and can’t show that there’s a statistically significant correlation between their bar and employees’ long-term work performance.

How to take action:

  • Carefully create objective criteria for assessing candidates before you post the job opening
  • Avoid judging candidates based off of “culture fit” or performance indicators such as GPA that don’t have a real bearing on how they could succeed at your company
  • Root out biases in how you assess candidates, such as when seeing someone’s name on their resume
  • Create an objective system for tracking performance after a person has been hired, so that you can see how your hiring criteria translates to job performance


The Meritocracy Myth
“Anyone can get to the top”

The truth: Many companies don’t use objective, consistent performance metrics to inform promotions, which leaves room for conscious and unconscious biases to creep in. This myth creates an “illusion of fairness” that reinforces existing biases, according to ARC.

How to take action:

  • Develop structured criteria for assessing performance
  • Formalize review processes that focus on quantitative rather than qualitative information
  • Perform company-wide reviews and audits

The Things Didn’t Work Out Myth
“We tried hiring for diversity and it didn’t work”

The truth: When someone brings this up, ARC suggests asking, “The last time a white male colleague messed up, did you attribute that to his gender or ethnicity?” When employers have limited experience working with women or people of color, implicit and explicit biases can lead to attributing any performance issues to a person’s race or gender. People also often don’t consider the ways in which women and people of color have the odds stacked against them at work, particularly if they’re the only person belonging to their racial or gender group at the company.

How to take action:

  • Embrace D&I at your company as early on as possible
  • Don’t assume that an individual is “representative” of all people belonging to their racial or gender identity
  • Be aware of the additional challenges women and people of color face in the workplace, and provide them the extra support necessary to overcome those barriers
  • Encourage open and honest feedback from employees