“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1966, the percentage of female musicians in the New York Philharmonic was zero. In fact, Zubin Mehta, the conductor of the Los Angeles Symphony and later the New York Philharmonic, once said, “I just don’t think women should be in an orchestra.”
In 2014, 44% of the musicians in the New York Philharmonic are women. Things have changed at the other major orchestras also. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra went from three women out of 104 musicians to 41 women out of 102 in the same time period. Currently, most major American orchestras are now more than 40% women.
What happened? How was this change triggered? Affirmative action? Forced quotas?
Nope. None of the above.
In the 1970’s, American orchestras decided to use a blind screen for auditions. They even added padded carpets so that you could not hear the sound of heels or shoes. Once blind auditions became standard, the number of women hired in orchestras went up significantly.
Hiring biases are rampant in our decision-making. Most of us tend to hire people similar to us. We weigh heavily the metadata around the candidate (gender, race, region, school, accent) and underweight the actual performance data of the candidate. Once the blinds went in, the metadata disappeared and all the selection committees had was the actual performance data. And once they started to evaluate only the performance data, women and minority musicians were employed in increasing numbers.
Today we are announcing our investment in Gild (www.gild.com) – a truly unique, once–in-a-lifetime company that has married big data analytics to recruiting and is on the path to change hiring as we know it. Sheeroy and Luca (the two founders) have built a hiring platform that focuses on the performance data and allows employers to objectively analyze candidates without the bias of metadata.
And it is working.
More than 250 companies including Microsoft, Red Hat, StrongView, TripAdvisor, and Rackspace are using Gild and uncovering real, talented employees they were missing before. Employees like the first-generation Mexican American computer prodigy who didn’t have a LinkedIn profile who is now making six figures in San Francisco; or the older ex-soldier/Tibetan monk with extraordinary skills who is now a hiring manager, or the skilled, but introverted Indian woman who didn’t hail from a “name” programming school but was discovered and has since gone on to several fantastic jobs.
Once we blind the metadata, the actual data shines and illuminates talent in all sorts of places. We need to make sure that the meritocracy we all desire is free from the unconscious biases we all carry. Now more than ever we need to have a level playing field for hiring in technology so that all members of our society have a chance to participate in our economy.
We at Menlo are proud to partner with Gild to bend that Arc just a little bit more and a little bit faster towards justice.