Could This Be The Secret To Hiring More Women And People Of Color?

Accenture's giving the bold new plan a shot.

02/09/2016 03:53 pm ET | Updated Feb 10, 2016
  • Emily Peck Executive Editor, Business and Technology, The Huffington Post
Patrick George via Getty Images

More companies are opening up about just how white and male they really are, taking the necessary first step in solving their diversity problem: publicly admitting they have one.

Accenture did just that on Tuesday, sharing internal data on the race and gender of its 48,000 U.S. employees. But the consulting firm took its announcement one step further and detailed a new strategy aimed at hiring more women and people of color.

The company said it will pay employees bigger referral bonuses if they recommend an African-American, Hispanic-American, woman or veteran and that candidate is successfully hired. The company is still working out the size of the "enhanced" bonus, Julie Sweet, Accenture’s chief executive in North America, told The Huffington Post. 

Currently, the best hiring source for the firm comes from employees referring new hires. Too often that is a surefire way to keep your workforce looking exactly the same. You wind up referring your friends, who look just like you.

"Now we're asking people to up their game on this," Sweet said.

Accenture wouldn't be the first company to pay extra for diverse referrals. Intel doubles bonuses if the company hires a diverse candidate recommended by an employee.

In publicly sharing its employee data, Accenture is following in the footsteps of the tech industry. Google, Apple, Facebook and other major tech companies started sharing this kind of information a couple of years ago. Each is struggling to increase the numbers of women and people of color in their ranks.

Accenture's demographics look slightly better than what we've been seeing in tech: Sixty-four percent of employees are men. Half are white, 34 percent Asian, 7 percent African-American and 6 percent Hispanic. The company is less diverse at the executive level -- 63 percent of execs are white and 69 percent are men.

By comparison, an astonishing 83 percent of executive roles at Intel and Microsoft are held by men, for example. But there's work to be done at Accenture.

“We are not where we want to be,” Sweet said. “We released these numbers because we think transparency is really important.” 

Accenture

The strategy of openly sharing this data is starting to catch on outside of tech. In a big report published with the United Nations last month, 10 corporate behemoths publicly released their gender numbers, including PWC, another consulting firm, Barclays bank and Unilever.

Of course measuring the problem isn’t going to fix it, but it's going to help these employers set goals and measure progress. If you want to lose weight, you need to step on the scale. Accenture's goal is to have women comprise 40 percent of new hires by 2017. There are not hard goals on ethnicity, Sweet said.

The business case for diversity is pretty clear though, she said. “We’re smarter and more innovative when we’re diverse.”

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