Hiring Folks for Diversity: Diversity Commodification of Gender and Race in Software Engineering Hiring Across Job Transitions

11:00am -12:00pm
Friday, October 20th, 2023
Social Science Centre 5220

A lecture by Koji Chavez

Koji Chavez’s research is broadly focused on gender and racial inequalities in the labor market and in the workplace. Much of his research centers specifically on discrimination in the hiring process and relies on quantitative methods to understand trends in discrimination and qualitative methods to understand how and why such trends occur. In one strand of his current research, he and his coauthors use field experiments and in-depth interviews to develop a theory of diversity commodification which explains how the corporate drive to diversify the workforce affects patterns of gender and racial discrimination in software engineering hiring. Koji also enjoys teaching courses on the sociology of work, race and ethnicity, and research design.

Koji Chavez received his BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his Ph.D. from Stanford University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University before becoming an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Indiana University.  


White, male-dominated professions in the United States are marked with substantial gender and racial inequality in career advancement but often simultaneously face pressures to increase diversity. In these contexts, are theories of employer biases based on gender and racial stereotypes sufficient to explain patterns of discrimination during common career transitions? If not, how and why do discrimination patterns deviate from theoretical predictions? Focusing on a case study of software engineering hiring, we first draw from a large-scale audit study and demonstrate unexpected patterns of hiring screening discrimination: while employers discriminate in favor of White men among early-career job applicants seeking lateral positions, in upward and lateral applications to senior jobs, Black men and Black women face no discrimination compared to White men, and White women are even preferred. Drawing on interviews with hiring decision-makers, we explain these patterns of discrimination by demonstrating how decision-makers incorporate diversity value— applicants’ perceived worth for contributing to organizational diversity— into hiring screening decisions, alongside biases. We introduce diversity commodification as the market-based valuative process by which diversity value varies across job level and intersectional groups. This paper offers important implications for our understanding of gender, race, and employer decision-making in modern U.S. organizations. 

The Sociology Colloquium Series, brought to you by the Department of Sociology and the Social Science Student Donation Fund, is open to the public, students and scholars of any discipline.