13 percent of Black workers are unemployed, compared to seven percent of white workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, making Black workers one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. But as businesses begin to reopen and jobs are added to the market, helping Black people find inclusive workplaces is also vital. Black Owned and Hiring in the Greater Philly area is working to connect Black professionals to job opportunities, focusing on making connections with employers that will value them.

Jasmine Whaley founded Black and Hiring last year following the demonstrations in the wake of the death of George Floyd, which also led to Black professionals challenging their workplace to address their own issues around race and diversity. 

“Many Black professionals, including myself, didn’t feel supported or seen at work. We were all overwhelmed with emotion and grief, even mental exhaustion, but were forced to pretend like it’s business as usual at work,” Whaley told The Plug. 

As companies made grand statements about taking care of their Black employees, Whaley created Black Owned and Hiring as a platform to hold them more accountable, centering around the experiences of Black workers. The platform features anonymous job reviews, career advancement tips, resources, information on diversity and inclusion initiatives and companies’ culture towards Black employees. 

“We all deserve work environments that make us feel welcome and supported,” Whaley said. “The Black experience is unique and I felt the need to create something that speaks to that specifically.”

 

How the platform works

Since launching in  June 2020, the company’s platform now has roughly 50 reviews from Black professionals listed on its site, and about 200 reviews in the queue, Whaley said. 

“The experience isn’t always the same for all people of color,” she said. “I’ve even had reviews come in from Black people after being referred to a company by someone else that’s a person of color. But they had a different experience being Black there. I wanted to create a space where we can share those experiences from our perspective.”

The beta version of the website provides different job posting packages for companies. When they sign up to be included on the platform, companies can build a profile with important information like their open positions, company demographics and percentage of Black employees in leadership. 

Though Whaley said promoting jobs isn’t currently her main focus, it is an important component she’s hoping to expand on in the future. The platform currently has 28 employers listed. While the platform is free for use by Black professionals and companies right now, Black Owned and Hiring will eventually implement a pricing model as more users join. 

To help guide reviews,  Black professionals fill out a survey with questions about situations they’ve had to deal with, how their company celebrates Black culture, if they would recommend others to work there and if they felt like their work environment was toxic. Reviewers can also share experiences freely without guided questions and, while they do stay completely anonymous, the company collects data on  the reviewers’ gender, ethnicity, age-range and sexual orientation. 

 

An unlikely but welcomed career change

Before launching Black Owned and Hiring, Whaley had spent about ten years in marketing, working across various industries including music, real estate and, most recently, tech. Because she’d had no experience in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Whaley researched online the DEI space as a profession. 

“What I was finding was that DEI was getting a lot of attention over the last couple of years but it’s been around as a profession for 30 or so years,” she said. “I talked to a lot of people in the DEI space and even in human resources, too.” 

Whaley wasn’t sure if she had the tools to launch Black Owned and Hiring, but after several months interviewing professionals in the DEI space, she began conceptualizing her company’s platform. While job applications can sometimes sell a dream, Whaley wants to make sure Black professionals know as many details about a company’s culture before getting too invested.

“We want to give Black talent a place to get more insights into companies that they’re applying to,” she said. “We felt like there is so much emphasis on easy apply, and once you’re in there, you’re having this negative experience, but no one is talking about it.” 

With the push for more DEI initiatives in corporate America, Whaley said working in this space has become more competitive, with most of the focus on recruiting and helping companies tap into a diverse pipeline. On the review side, many platforms have niched down in either their users or customers, she said. InHerSight and Fairygodboss, which both cater to women’s experiences in the workplace specifically, are also expanding in this space. 

Black Owned and Hiring’s direct competition is Kanarys, a Black-women-led company founded in 2018. Kanarys also offers company reviews to help underrepresented groups learn more about company culture and data and insights for companies looking to improve their work environment. Kanarys has about 1,000 companies using its platform and it recently raised $3 million in venture capital.

“Most platforms that I’ve come across share experiences for all underrepresented groups or POC,” Whaley said. “I haven’t come across many, or any, that are focusing on the Black experience.”

When it comes to DEI, it can’t just be about getting candidates in the door, Whaley said. On the current trajectory in the DEI industry, it could take roughly 95 years for Black professionals to reach talent parity in the private sector. This is a stark reality since currently, 43 percent of companies with diverse leadership teams not only bring in a higher profit, but they have a more diversely distributed workforce. 

Whaley hopes Black Owned and Hiring will also help companies track the candidate experience so they can update their DEI goals. Whaley also wants to help companies with talent sourcing and recruiting through her company’s platform so they can retain Black talent. 

 

How Whaley envisions Black Owned and Hiring growing

Whaley currently runs Black Owned and Hiring full time, leading a small team of five employees that she hopes to  grow this year. She built Black Owned and Hiring on WordPress and is working with a software development company to build out a more robust platform. 

“I did not start this journey knowing that I was building a tech startup,” she said. “I’m learning about the tech industry and the startup industry and the DEI space all at the same time, and it’s been fun.”

Before the end of this year, Whaley is hoping to raise some venture capital and grow Black Owned and Hiring’s user base. She’s also focused on building relationships with company’s ready to hold themselves accountable and improve their DEI initiatives. 

“Our goal is really to be at the glass door for Black talent,” she said. “You can’t shy away from the data. If you don’t have a diverse workforce, you need to own that and understand that it’s going to take some transparency to really create true change.” 

This story is part of a partnership with WURD radio covering technology, business, and innovation in Philadelphia. This vital work is possible with support from the Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund, an effort by Independence Public Media Foundation (IPMF) and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund (Knight-Lenfest Fund).