*Note: This has been republished from a guest post for the Retail Industry Leaders Association blog.
Diversity is not a quota system. At least not to college seniors like Mya Brown—an active student leader and D&I campus advocate, Brown believes the problem with today’s diversity and inclusion initiatives is the very definition of diversity. To the international business major, it’s not checking off people from different ethnicities, backgrounds or religions. “Diversity is the thought of ideas, it’s the thought of experiences, it’s bringing people together who believe in different things,” said Brown.
A student at Northeastern University, the senior is also an entrepreneur—her fashion line JET NOIRE launched earlier this year, with the aim to empower women to express themselves authentically through what they wear. Brown is just one of many ambitious and academically outstanding students on HIVE DIVERSITY’s platform.
A mobile-optimized recruiting tool that democratizes both the job hunt and early-career pathways for studentsand companies, HIVE connects students with diverse backgrounds to jobs and internships at its partner companies. Saks Fifth Avenue, Chobani, Capri Holdings Ltd., Versace, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, and Atlantic Records are some of the high-profile brands making up its roster.
Accenture tops off the list of Fortune 500 companies as another one of HIVE’s notable partners, uniting with the D&I business on its deeper mission to make hiring processes more fair and equitable. “We are collaborating with HIVE Diversity because they complement our purpose of combining human ingenuity with technology to serve a greater good,” said Joseph Taiano, the retail managing director of marketing and communications.
He says what HIVE offers is an innovative service. By catching a student early enough, the platform facilitates career points of entry to major companies like Accenture, effectively impacting diversity on their bottom line.
Taiano has the right idea.
Companies dedicated to fostering an inclusive culture—ones led by executives who make inclusive culture an organizational priority as well as a personal goal—grow more than twice as fast as their peers.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2020 report, businesses with gender-diverse executive teams report their sales are 2.2x higher—while profits are 3.2x higher—than their non-diverse counterparts. And for every 1% increase in a company’s diversity, there’s a tangible increase in revenue.
Such a definitive business case for a more diverse workforce comes at a time where people everywhere are seeking to better understand the disparities in every sector.
Over the past year, leading corporations across retail have acknowledged they each have a role to play in combating systemic inequity. CEOs of conglomerates like Amazon and Target have added their influence to the conversation, making recent public commitments to increase diverse representation in their companies. They join Fortune 500 retail organizations receiving attention for championing D&I initiatives in the workforce including H&M, Starbucks and Costco.
It’s a list that keeps on growing, as inclusivity has become critically important to retail brands and the purchasing behaviors of their consumers. It’s also something that should be prioritized—given the staggering inequities in today’s workforce.
Only four Black CEOs are on this year’s Fortune 500 list, reinforcing how Black executives are severely underrepresented in C-suite roles. Black women are even more disproportionately marginalized, making up only 1.6% of vice presidents and 1.4% of C-suite leaders, but 7.4% of the national population.
The pressure to increase minority representation across all levels of a company now falls on the shoulders of those in positions of leadership, as systems perform the way they are structured to.
Research by Harvard Business Review shows this isn’t an issue that can be fixed by simply implementing quarterly training to reduce implicit bias on the job. Using stand-alone solutions as bandages to systemic problems translates to failure in the long run.
The solution worth investing in? Recruiting for a stronger, more inclusive workplace.
Enter HIVE DIVERSITY. With representation across 300 universities and 2500+ student organizations, HIVE’s community engages the next generation of talent, spanning everywhere from Alaska to New York City.
Founder and CEO Byron Slosar started HIVE DIVERSITY after a decade spent working in college career services. “Much of the career structure, with regard to recruiting and career development, doesn’t include students as participants in the conversation,” said Slosar. His experience led him to recognize some of the major inefficiencies and potential inequities that come with personalized career service: “It expects students to accommodate how the structure has always existed because they need and want jobs.”
Merging innovation and personalization with the power of technology, Slosar and his team have found another way. Launched in 2019, the SaaS platform offers an unrivaled career development experience for college students from diverse backgrounds and companies looking to ‘pipeline their pipeline,’ as Chief Operating Officer Dakotah Eddy puts it.
For a student, it’s a no-brainer—the interactive tool builds them a perfectly-formatted resume and profile, to use when they apply to any of the jobs or internships available in companies that are committed to hiring diverse candidates. It also helps undergraduates grow and develop professional networks, with digital diversity and inclusion training programs and peer-based communities at the heart of the HIVE experience. Plus? It can all be done on their phone, on their own time.
For a corporate partner, it’s a seamless way to build a foundation of junior level talent, ensuring an organization is on track to creating a C-suite and workplace culture that looks and feels more diverse. What HIVE does that’s unique is recognizing how companies’ needs for representation remain dynamic.
“On the corporate side, priorities and needs around representation will forever evolve. Workforce diversity will forever evolve,” said Slosar. The founder says HIVE’s focus is on building a community of career-committed undergraduates who are empowered by their ability to share more about their diverse backgrounds. 91% of students on HIVE reportedly share how they self-identify directly on their resumes and profiles.
For a company, this direct access to a range of representation and experience is a huge benefit. “The biggest thing we’re doing for a company is saying you can find what you need, in one place and we know that what you need is going to change by the minute,” Slosar added.
It’s also a novel way to introduce students to careers in industries they otherwise wouldn’t consider.
“Fashion is an industry that has a lot of opportunities for first and second-year students, part-time in retail stores,” said Slosar. “But not many are connecting that to how that funnel could lead to corporate work post-graduation. That approach might then introduce careers in fashion and retail,” he said.
HIVE’s partner Steve Madden echoes that sentiment. Liz Rodbell, the brand’s group president of retail, believes a diverse set of candidates is only one part of the equation. “We also need to be cognizant of our application process and ensure that talented people aren’t being left out for reasons that have no bearing on their ability to fulfill job requirements,” said Rodbell.
HIVE DIVERSITY works to help eliminate the inequities in the hiring process. The company’s CEO says the explanation is two-fold: first, they focus on cultivating genuine connections with their pool of talented students from diverse backgrounds. The second, equally important element is the partners they work with and their shared commitment to fostering a culture of inclusivity. Innovation in HIVE’s platform provides their partners with real-time guidance on equitable practices.
It’s these benefits that make HIVE more than just another recruiting platform. Rodbell agrees. “HIVE is really taking a holistic approach to build authentic relationships with a diverse network of students, by helping us remove barriers that might have previously prevented those candidates from rising throughout the job application process,” she said.
In a world dominated by staffing agencies that prioritize quantity over quality—which often leads to inequitable hiring, communication issues and indirect candidate access—HIVE manages to stand out thanks to the universal solution it offers both companies and students.
“It’s time to stop asking students where they go to school and who they know. Instead, let’s focus on understanding who they are a bit better,” said Slosar.
Head of Digital Marketing and Student Strategy at HIVE DIVERSITY, Ayurella Horn-Muller is a former journalist and TV news producer. A Forbes 30 Under 30 and ForbesWomen contributor, she’s been reporting on emerging businesses making a difference for years—which is what led her to join the team at HIVE. Her work has been published in USA Today, NPR, NBC, Southerly and PBS NewsHour, among others.