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Diversity and growth: what I saw and heard in Denver

It’s interesting how 90 degrees feels even hotter when you’re 5,280 feet above sea level – at least that was my conclusion after spending a few days in Denver last month! The occasion was Jobg8’s 2019 Job Board Summit, and the consensus seemed to be that both the speakers and the food were great. And (perhaps in honor of Chad Sowash’s attendance) Jobg8 included a can of Colorado beer in each attendee bag – that was a first!

A few of the sessions really stood out:

  • Miranda Bogen of Upturn talked about the ways that algorithms introduce bias – even when they are specifically designed to prevent it. She and her colleagues at Upturn placed a series of ads on Facebook without any type of targeting – and discovered that Facebook ended up targeting the ads anyway. Her advice? Be aware that this type of inadvertent bias introduction is actually a problem – recognizing you have a problem is the first step toward solving it. (And if you want to read more, check out her paper on ‘Help Wanted’ – it’s worth a read.)
  • Sara Sutton of FlexJobs, Matt Lucas of JobMonkey, and Andrea Olivari of Adzuna shared the stories of their very different recruiting sites. Matt’s business originally grew out of his publishing efforts, spreading the word about how to find unusual jobs in the Alaskan fishing industry – which helps explain the content-driven approach JobMonkey has taken to traffic acquisition. Sara’s desire to help job seekers like herself who were looking for flexible work turned into a full-time business that is now international in scope. Andrea recounted the rapid growth of Adzuna, including the use of ‘crowdfunding’ to fuel the aggregator’s expansion outside of Europe. All three shared the challenges they had encountered along the way, but Matt certainly had the most impressive list of setbacks and recalibrations!
  • Bill Fanning of Jobiak talked about the numbers behind Google for Jobs’ rise in the marketplace. The stats he gave on job seeker abandonment were…surprising. He thinks Google will get it fixed eventually – but in the meantime, employers are not getting the results they had hoped. This session – the final of the conference – was packed. Wonder why? 🙂

One other comment (soapbox alert!!) – over half of the presenters were female. This shouldn’t be a big deal – but I can’t remember the last industry conference that I attended where this was the case. Speaking as the person who pulled together the agenda, I found it pretty easy to find smart, expert, and effective female speakers – our industry is full of them! So I would encourage you – if you’re given the opportunity to set up an industry conference or event – to make a point of increasing the diversity of your speakers. It’s a small step in the big scheme of things, but I think it makes for a better conference to hear from everyone – not just the ‘same old same old’.

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