blackbox Seminar Series

Tech-Enabled DEI Products and Organizational Inequality


  • Apr. 18, 2023
  • 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
  • Hybrid Event
  • Summer R. Jackson from Harvard Business School
Summer R. Jackson headshot

In a 20-month ethnographic study, Summer R. Jackson of Harvard Business School examines how a technology firm, “ShopCo” (a pseudonym), considered 13 different recruitment platforms to attract racial minority engineering candidates. She finds that when choosing to adopt recruitment platforms focused on racial minority candidates (targeted recruitment platforms), but not when choosing to adopt recruitment platforms where the modal candidate on the platform was White (traditional recruitment platforms), ShopCo managers expressed distaste about what they perceived to be the:

  • objectification
  • exploitation
  • ‘race-based targeting’

of racial minorities. These repugnant market concerns influenced which types of platforms ShopCo adopted to recruit racial minorities. To recruit racial minority candidates, ShopCo eschewed recruitment platforms that emphasized speed, quantity, efficiency, opportunity, and compensation (what she calls a transactional approach to candidate recruitment—typically used for White candidates) in favor of platforms that emphasized individuality, ethics, equity, community, and commitment (what she calls a developmental approach to candidate recruitment). In this way, she both reveals how ShopCo managers had different relational models for recruiting, based on the race of the candidate, and present a new mechanism to explain employee resistance to DEI initiatives (or “failure to implement”)—repugnant market concerns.

Recruitment platforms are one type of “tech-enabled DEI product”– machine-learning and AI-based DEI products that are meant to overcome our (current) understandings of the sources of bias in hiring, promotion, and retention. Building from her research, she discusses the tradeoffs and considerations managers should make when choosing whether, when, and how to use these technologies to make their organizations more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

This talk is part of the blackbox Seminar, a D^3 Assembly series hosted by the D^3 blackbox Lab, that is open to faculty, doctoral students, and academic researchers. The blackbox Seminar focuses on the intersection of race, technology, culture, and business.

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    The DI is now part of the Digital, Data, and Design (D^3) Institute at Harvard. Read more about this change..