What's In A Name?

It's been asked before, what's in a name? That's a pretty good question. What do our names tell us about ourselves? Why do our names matter? When it comes to diversity and inclusion, names are extremely important.

Before we get into that, consider this. In his classic book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, Dale Carnegie talks about how somebody's name are the two most important words that they've ever heard. Why is this? Because it's totally personal. Your name is like your DNA -- it’s personal and very much intertwined with who you are. Your name is you and you are your name and that is just a fact.

Getting back to matters of diversity and inclusion, our names tell us everything. At Holistic, we have built a system that allows us to process large groups of names and determine an estimate of the demographics of those groups. In essence, we are able to look at a collection of people using nothing more than their first and last names and gain a strong understanding of the ethnicity and gender of the population on the whole through an engine that we’ve developed.

Measurement is obviously important, and anybody who works in the industry of diversity and inclusion or people in any fashion can understand why it would be valuable to be able to ascertain quickly the demographics of a group of people. What’s important to remember is that we’re not trying to understand an individual person’s demographics by looking at their name; rather, what we are doing is we are looking at the demographics of an entire group of people. As with any data set or sampling, the more people, the more accurate, but we feel that at a level of 100 or more people, we are starting to get fairly accurate information about the demographics of a group.

This is applicable to our work in several different ways.

First, it is extremely useful in terms of thinking about pipeline. Pipeline is a huge challenge across the entire DEI space, especially when it comes to hiring and diversifying organizations and populations. We are able to look at pipeline as a whole and understand the demographics of it in a way that is much more efficient and honestly much more productive than the current methods -- which are basically racial profiling.

If you were looking at your pipeline and monitoring it for trends and understanding the demographics, then you’ll understand if you’re laying the groundwork for success later on in your efforts. If you look at a pipeline for a particular position, for example, and the pipeline is not reflective of the marketplace, then you have an opportunity to address that before it’s too late. What happens all too often is that the pipeline is insufficient or broken and that results in a bad hire a bad outcome.

Second, this technology will help us understand the landscape. I’ll provide an example. If you look at the position title director of marketing in Chicago, it is a position that is 60% women in about 25% people of color, according to our engine. This is very valuable information. But having a baseline and understanding the landscape and organizational goals, we can monitor advances or declines in the industry, we can see where certain programs are going well or poorly, and many other things.

For example, a company could analyze its applicant pool or even set goals for the diversity and make up of this applicant pool before it set out on the search. Or a company could look at every visitor who came to that company for the course of a year, and get a good estimation of who it was meeting and serving the community that was reflective of its goals. Very powerful.

Lastly, we can measure results. This is one of the key places where we can actually see if we’re meeting our aspirations and our goals surrounding diversity and inclusion. If we’re meeting our community where they are and if our efforts are reflective of the populations that we are choosing to serve.

Why is this important?

First off, we are not trying to find out an individual person's demographics based off of their name. That simply wouldn’t work. There are always outliers and it's very easy to think that a Shannon is a male, or a female, or that Charlie is a guy when they're not. It's also very easy to mistake somebody's demographics on a one-for-one basis and so that's not really our objective. What we are looking to do is to find large groups and to understand if they meet certain demographic standards. We are looking at every aspect of the business experience. The hiring process, for example, is a great place to start. We are able to look at candidate pools to make sure that candidates that are being submitted for jobs are reflective of the population that you wish to serve. We are even able to get understandings of the current demographics of certain position titles, to better understand the landscape.

For example, according to our engine, we know that in Chicago, a Director of Marketing title is likely to be female, 60% to be exact. If you are hiring for that position, and at least three of the five candidates that you submit are not female, then are not even keeping up with the environment, let alone with your aspirations for having a diverse and inclusive workforce. As you follow the process along, you get even more information. Let's say that you submitted 65% candidates who were women. Lets say, though, that in the interview round you interviewed 10 people, but only two of them were women. This is disproportionately low. Using other methodology that we've developed at Holistic, we know that the chances of this happening naturally are XX%. This helps us hone in on the exact area where there is a challenge. Basically, in the conversion of the pipeline to actual opportunity, and on, and on.

We look at every aspect of the process and we try and narrow in to make sure that we're meeting our best values and that we're being consistent throughout the process. This has applications in many other spaces. If you host large events, such as the Momentum Awards that are hosted by 1871, you can understand that the demographics of your population match the demographics that you are seeking, or if you are doing better or worse year-over-year in terms of attracting people. Membership organizations like Chambers of Commerce and other user groups are historically struggling for information about demographics, diversity, and inclusion. This is an easy way of doing it. Anything involving an applicant pool, like student bodies, is a great example. If you're trying to have a diverse and inclusive organization, you have to be measuring both the inputs and the outputs in terms of demographics and this is going to give you added benefit.

What we're really looking to do is to infuse diversity and inclusion throughout every part of our business operations and every aspect of our lives. This is an easy way to do it. Presently, the only way that companies really are measuring diversity and inclusion in many cases is by counting the people on their staff. This is a race to the bottom. First off, by the time somebody's on your staff, there's really not a whole lot that you can do about it. Second, hiring is probably the slowest moving aspect of the employee experience, so if you want to affect real change, it's going to take you some time.

Finally and most importantly, building a culture that everything can be measured and that we're looking at every aspect of inclusion as an opportunity is a big part of what we're trying to do here at Holistic. This is a new measurement. This is something that we are making available to our clients and we are working with folks to get it out there in the ether. If you are interested in working with us, by all means hit us up in the interim. Please be thoughtful about the different ways that you can make sure that you're living your values every single day throughout every aspect of your business process.