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What Data Teams Can Do to Hire More People of Color

AIG Head of Data Edosa Odaro discusses how companies can attract and retain staff from diverse backgrounds with Black in Data Co-Founders Sadiqah Musa and Devina Nembhard

Data and analytics teams can benefit from cultural diversity. Yet, factors including fewer people of color studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics, a lack of mentorship and exclusory workplace cultures mean the industry has a real diversity problem.

Black in Data was founded in 2021 to increase ethnic representation in data-focused professions. The organization provides a jobs portal to help people find roles within the industry, provides mentorship for people of color pursuing careers in data and is currently developing a training and work placement program to help people improve their employment prospects.

At Corinium’s 2021 Data and Analytics Live Europe virtual event, Black in Data’s Co-Founders spoke to Edosa Odaro, Head of Data at insurance firm AIG, about what companies can do to build more diverse data and analytics teams.

Attracting Black Talent is About Brand Perception

“The thing that comes up time and time again is brand perception,” said Sadiqah Musa, Senior Analyst at The Guardian and Co-Founder of Black in Data. “So, the first thing any organization needs to look at is how is their brand perceived within the Afro Caribbean community.”

Musa said that people of color can be put off from applying to work for organizations that don’t align with their values. She argued that this is particularly true in the current climate, where more people are prioritizing their core values over salary.

Devina Nembhard, Lead Analyst at The Guardian and Co-Founder of Black in Data, added that companies may need to enlist specialist recruitment agencies or diversity promoting platforms such as Black in Data to ensure their job ads reach a diverse audience.

“Innovation when it comes to how you advertise these jobs is key,” she said. “If you’re having a problem hiring people of color or black people using your current methods, then maybe it’s time to change those methods.”

At the same time, staff want assurances that they’ll be treated fairly should they accept a position in a new company.

Nembhard noted that being transparent about the salary an applicant can expect for a given role can help. This will give people of color the confidence that they can expect to be paid the same as anyone else, should they be offered the role.

“There’s a huge ethnicity pay gap throughout all industries and loads of companies are making the move to publish that on an annual basis,” Nembhard said. “[This] will just help us to understand what the salaries are and, if we do get to the stage where we are offered the job, [whether] we are being offered the same money as anybody else.”

Both founders agreed that companies should also take steps to ensure their websites are inclusive and feature people of color.

Keeping Black Talent is About Equal Opportunities

For Odaro, companies that want to build diverse data and analytics teams should focus first on ensuring employees from diverse backgrounds are treated well and afforded equal opportunities for progression.

He argues that this will help to improve retention rates for black staff. In turn, this should trickle over into people’s perceptions of what it’s like to be a person of color working at an organization.

“Rather than think about it only on the ‘attraction’ side, which some organizations are starting to think about, [I prefer] to think about what happens next,” he said. “Obviously, that attraction piece is a slice in time. Most people spend more time in the organizations themselves.”

Musa agreed that many companies have work to do to ensure that people of color genuinely have the same chances of progression and receiving senior roles as their white colleagues. She argued that some may feel excluded from common activities that facilitate social cohesion and provide networking opportunities for white staff members.

“What’s inclusive for one person is completely not for another person,” Musa said. “We are so conscious of not being perceived as troublemakers, we tend to accept these situations and just suffer in silence.”

Nembhard added that simple measures such as ensuring companies have comprehensive onboarding processes and having a ‘buddy system’ that pairs new hires with suitable mentors can help, here.

“A lot of organizations have a level of diversity already within them,” concluded Odaro. “The thing that a lot of organizations struggle with is having an inclusive environment internally for those people.”

For more discussion on how data and analytics teams can attract and retain staff from diverse backgrounds, listen to this recent podcast where we interview Black in Data’s Co-Founders.

If you'd like to see more content from Data & Analytics Live, Europe visit the site here to access the on-demand content.