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HP Continues Diversity Push With Promise to Fight Bias in Its Hiring

HP Inc. is advertising its commitment to reduce bias among its hiring managers with a new video that begins by showing a series of black job candidates on interviews that conclude with the dreaded words, “We’ll be in touch.”

“When qualified for a job,” text on the screen explains, “African-Americans are 3x more likely to experience a denial.”

“It’s intended to raise awareness around the ingrained biases that exist in the hiring process,” said Lesley Slaton Brown, who was named HP’s first chief diversity officer in 2015 after the company’s split with business-focused counterpart Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. “It’s meant to wake people up and get people talking about this,” she said.

The technology industry is especially culpable, she added.

The problem extends beyond hiring, according to Carissa Romero, partner at three-year-old consulting firm Paradigm, which tech startups such as Airbnb, Pinterest and Slack have hired to help create a more diverse workplace.

“Unconscious bias is very prevalent,” Romero said. “Unless companies are actively putting processes in place to manage it, then it’s likely impacting not just decision-making for recruiting and hiring but also for when people get to the workplace.”

Recent studies that have shown gender biases favoring men in academic science, for example, Romero said. She pointed to research out of Boston and Chicago that found white-sounding names received more resume callbacks than more “ethnic”-sounding names. Because of such studies, many brands are taking action with bias training in the office, Romero said. Google was one of the first tech brands to introduce such initiatives two years ago.

HP’s minute-long spot, which will post across digital media including paid social, is the first of several installments that will highlight similar issues as part of HP’s “Reinvent Mindsets” campaign. Future spots will center on women and LGBT communities.

HP, which spent about $44.6 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media, had told Ad Age that it planned to dedicate 65% of its media spending in 2016 to digital. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company consolidated its digital media business with Omnicom’s PHD in March, and has been dabbling with more creative digital initiatives like a web series about the dangers of printer hacking with Christian Slater.

Antonio Lucio, HP’s global chief marketing and communication officer, last summer took a stand on diversity when he asked HP’s agencies to make strong pledges to include more women and minorities in their management positions. Now, agencies including Gyro, BBDO, Fred & Farid, FleishmanHillard and Porter Novelli have committed to quarterly check-ins about their progress with HP. Late last year, HP also donated $100,000 to Free the Bid, an initiative to increase the number of female directors in advertising.

This new effort continues HP’s call to action. The creative group at Fred & Farid that came up with the new spot was multicultural and included an African American as creative director. Lucio said HP will have more to report by mid-summer, when it plans to showcase specific diversity numbers from its agencies.

“Diversity is a business imperative for us, in addition to a values issue,” said Lucio. “We’ve said the time for talk is over and that we need to act now.”

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