The Leaky Funnel: The Reason Your Talent Diversity Efforts Are Falling Short


Laraine McKinnon



‘Tis the season when technology companies publish their diversity numbers. And, despite a concerted effort to increase diversity, women and people of color are still underrepresented across all levels and particularly in senior leadership.

How does this happen? All organizations have three inflection points that can make or break diversity: recruiting and hiring, team dynamics, and career advancement. When unconscious bias kicks in and leaders give opportunities to people they feel “are the best fit for the team,” diverse candidates—like women and people of color—are less likely to get those opportunities

When diverse talent starts falling out of the corporate talent pipeline, we call it “The Leaky Funnel”.

Unconscious bias is alive and well when decisions are made about individuals and their career opportunities.

Whether it’s hiring the person who will “work best in our culture” despite the fact that another candidate more clearly meets the stated criteria, or promoting the person who “looks like a leader” despite equally strong resumes across a more diverse candidate pool, senior managers continue to hire and promote people who look like—and think like—themselves.

Despite more awareness around diversity initiatives, these decisions get made again and again. Many managers know they’re deciding against the diverse hire, but they trust their gut and let it override the company’s initiative, hiring the candidate that “feels right” just this once.

The Leaky Funnel and the Corporate Pipeline

All of these little decisions add up. It’s why we see homogeneous engineering teams. Why there’s little improvement in diversity numbers for individual firms. And why there’s still such underrepresentation for women and people of color across all industries.

According to a comprehensive study conducted by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org of over 222 companies employing 70,000 people, by the senior vice president (SVP) level, 70% of positions are held by white men.

If your company is working on diversity as an internal initiative or if your CEO has taken a public pledge, perhaps your organization would benefit from a more focused approach to help prevent the Leaky Funnel. Contact us to learn more about our Managing Unconscious Bias Program and how it supports opportunities for diverse talent to thrive, or sign up for a free course trial and see for yourself.


Laraine McKinnon

Laraine is an advisor to Emtrain, and an unconscious bias expert. Laraine is a passionate supporter of diversity in the workplace; she focuses on blending behavioral science (managing unconscious bias, organizational behavior), big data and practical implementations to transform workplace cultures. Laraine has led high-performance customer success and sales teams at BlackRock and Barclays Global Investors, and founded strategic consulting firm LMC17.

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