How to drive inclusive hiring in tech ft. Orange Is the New Black

Welcome to #NetflixandHire where we learn some great tech hiring lessons from popular TV shows. This episode is focused on inclusive hiring. Over the course of the next 4 episodes, you’ll learn 4 ways in which you can successfully screen and hire developers in 2020. Buckle up, here we go!

2018 and 2019 brought about a surge of revelations in workplace equality with the #MeToo movement , the gender pay gap disclosure , Silicon Valley’s struggle with diversity and unconscious bias , among others. Things seem to be gearing up in 2020. Companies are now working toward drastically driving inclusive hiring in the workplace.

We thought this would be a great topic to cover in our maiden episode of #NetflixandHire and what better show to learn about inclusion than Orange is the New Black!

This comedy-drama takes place in a women’s prison, and thanks to its plots, it puts a diverse set of women at the forefront. The show ended up being one of the most-watched original series on Netflix. No wonder it won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, the GLAAD awards, and the Peabody awards.


Diversity in tech is not just about gender. It is your responsibility to ensure that hiring takes place regardless of age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Here are 3 lessons we can learn from Orange Is the New Black to make this happen:

1. Strength lies in differences and not in similarities

The show embraces ethnicity like no other. Remember the fiery Russian Red, the entire Black cast ..Poussey, Taystee, etc., and the Hispanic gang of Maritza, Daya, and the others? The beauty of the series is it never overshadows one story over the other. Each character is given the screen space they deserve and issues of race and caste are discussed head-on.


Inclusive hiring is no different! As a recruiter, you hold the onus of promoting diversity by ensuring a fair hiring process. You need to reassure future employees that you have their best interests at heart. Also, at an organizational level, you prepare your current employees on how to appropriately interact with different people. Overall, you need to create a welcoming workplace.

Here are some initiatives by companies we absolutely admire for being flag bearers of tech inclusion:

Since 2015, the company has proactively sought out candidates from outside traditional developer pipelines such as Stanford and MIT. It has also focused on recruiting tech talent from all women’s coding camps such as Hackbright and programs that focus on training black and Latino programmers such as Code2040.

Intel has made the largest-ever commitment to invest in technology companies led by women, underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans), startups led by entrepreneurs with disabilities, US-based entrepreneurs from the LGBTQ community, and US military veterans. Through September 2019, the Intel Capital Diversity Initiative has invested $381 million in companies led by diverse teams.

Buffer uses its blog as a medium to explore issues in tech which affect underrepresented groups. The company also regularly modifies its job descriptions to include language and images that support inclusive hiring. They also sponsor awesome initiatives such as POCIT‘s Beer and Boardgames event and #wocintech‘s awesome photos.

2. Freedom of expression

The first character that comes to our mind when we talk about freedom of expression with respect to the show is Suzanne, aka ‘Crazy Eyes’. Suzanne is portrayed as an intelligent woman, but someone who lacks social skills and is prone to spiral into emotional outbursts when agitated due to mental illness. The show is special because it never takes away from a character’s uniqueness, even if it’s someone like Suzanne. It lets her express emotions the way she wants to, be it in the form of writing a book or reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets.


Isn’t that the whole essence of inclusive hiring? Letting candidates express their skills the way they want to help both ways -you get to see the most genuine side of candidates without putting the candidate under pressure.

But are we actually providing candidates with the means to give it their all in the tech hiring process? We think not. Take the example of a whiteboard interview in which candidates are asked to solve a coding problem in real-time. The important thing to consider is that a whiteboard is not a code editor. Candidates can’t actually run the code to see if it works, let alone benchmark it.

We suggest you opt for an anonymous coding assessment instead. This is a take-home coding test that candidates can take in an environment of their choice. It also gives candidates a chance to take the test by masking all personal identifiers. This helps eliminate bias and assures that candidates will be judged fairly. Also, since all candidates face the same set of questions, it is less likely to introduce biases that could filter out good candidates.

3. Inclusive hiring is more than just a checkbox

Are you hiring just to complete a mandate? Or does your definition of diversity hiring only mean hiring more women? It’s about time we understood that diversity is much more than that. It is the range of differences that make people unique, both seen and unseen, and this is where we get to the third lesson that we’ve learned from Orange Is the New Black-Sophia Burset’s story.


Though the show is about women inmates, it never leaves out people based on how they identify themselves. Sophia, a transgender inmate, is given equal screen presence as anyone else and delivers a moving and hilarious performance. In fact, after the show aired, she became the first transgender person on the cover of the TIME magazine in 2014 and has used her story to empower others.

Sophia is not the only one. The show served as a platform for several people from the LGBTQ+ community to share their stories and bring more visibility to the group.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do something similar in tech hiring?

Here are some initiatives we can all be inspired by:

Lesbians Who Tech is a community of over 15,000 queer women, with a mission to increase visibility in tech. It has partnered with the White House LGBT Tech and Innovation Summit to empower participants by connecting them with the Federal government information, resources, and opportunities. Additionally, it conducts three annual conferences, facilitating coding scholarships and hiring opportunities. It runs a cool new mentorship initiative called ‘Bring a Lesbian to Work Day‘, a one-day shadow program with a mission to match a queer woman with a mentor.

Out in Tech encourages underprivileged LGBTQ+ to pursue tech internships and post-secondary training by giving access to careers held by their heterosexual counterparts. The community actively works with companies to change workplace dynamics by helping evaluate diversity and inclusion.

Microsoft Pride is Microsoft’s initiative for pushing the LGBTQ+ inclusion forward. It was one of the first corporations to include “sexual orientation in their corporate nondiscrimination policy” and “offer employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners.” It also urges employees to be more vocal about the actions that they are taking. By the way, you can download some cool LGBTQ+ buttons from their website.

Started by Angelica Ross after being shut out of the professional world, TransTech Social Enterprises seeks to empower, educate, and employ transgender and non-gender conforming people in tech. It offers tech workshops, peer coach training, study buddies, and graphic design and web development apprenticeships. It also offers job placements through its in-house design studio and remote learning opportunities.

We hope 2020 kicks off a culture-first decade with inclusivity being at the center of it all. Here’s to a vibrant and diversity-fuelled hiring process in the months to come. See you soon in the next episode!

Originally published at on January 30, 2020.



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