Many companies talk the talk when it comes to diversity, but it’s harder to know if a firm is actually going the extra mile to hire more qualified people from underrepresented groups, or if they just make noise about it. Blendoor, a six-year-old startup, wants to put data to work on the problem by giving companies a score based on publicly available data to let the world know just how diverse a company actually is.
Blendoor founder and CEO Stephanie Lampkin says that when she launched the company, it was more focused on finding qualified diverse candidates by mitigating unconscious bias in the hiring process. That involved removing name, age, gender or any other indications that could potentially create bias and just let the person’s work record stand on its own. She said that the startup targeted companies that had made public DEI pledges as a natural place to start.
As the company directed its efforts in this direction, however, Lampkin says that it quickly became apparent that the public positioning of a company, and how it directed its hiring resources, were often two different things, and she decided to switch focus. “So we decided to create an index, a credit score, and we pulled in a ton of data from their diversity reports, their EEO One forms if they publish them and all of this buzz around different pledges and investments and partnerships, etc.,” Lampkin told me.
She then took this data and structured it, normalized it and built an algorithm that could dynamically score companies much the same way that our credit rating or security scorecards work and make that information public.
She said the George Floyd killing was a turning point for her and the company. “When George Floyd [was killed] and I saw this resurgence of the diversity pledge, I decided that I don’t want to play in this diversity theater anymore and just be another check-the-box-solution that companies are using to demonstrate that they care,” she said.
She added, “So we decided to double down on BlendScore and in doing so hold companies accountable for all of these big financial commitments that they’re making in order to track the deployment of that capital, but also the downstream effects in terms of their hiring, retention, promotion rates, compensation equality, etc.”
That culminated in a report the company recently published looking at the data and finding that companies’ public stance doesn’t always match its public face, especially with pledges following Floyd’s death. “My initial purpose was to demonstrate if there is a negative correlation between pledges and performance — and the only area where we found that to be true was with Black employees versus Black Lives Matter pledges.” She says that everywhere else there was pretty consistent positive correlation around companies that said they wanted to improve in areas like gender diversity and pay equality, and those that were actually doing that.
In terms of making money, Lampkin says that she wants to focus on helping companies with governance when it comes to diversity pledges, especially for public companies, which will have to answer to a variety of constituencies, from investors to consumers. She also believes that their approach to measuring diversity will also increasingly have an impact on who wants to work at a company and the ability to attract the best talent.
She says that if people are insisting on making diversity a political stance, she’s going to focus on diversity as a fiduciary responsibility. While it may be good for society as a natural byproduct of that, some companies only see it through that governance lens, and if that’s the case, she intends to work that angle.
“I’m doubling down on ESG and fiduciary responsibility. No more talk about what’s good for a society. [It doesn’t matter] what you believe is good for society. This is now about risk management and ESG,” she said.
So far the company has 13 employees and she reports she’s raised about $1.7 million. She acknowledges raising money is a challenge, especially for a Black woman founder. It’s worth noting that fewer than 100 Black women have ever raised more than $1 million as of last year.
“It’s been really challenging. We’ve had to just survive off revenue, and think in part it’s because we sit at the intersection of social activism and for-profit venture, when a lot of investors are like Marc Andreessen they don’t see a path [for Stakeholder Capitalism], but I think that’s changing and the investor community claims to be on board for more impact investing, so we’ll see.”