Stephanie Lampkin negotiates opportunities for her own company as much as she creates tools to help others negotiate a fair salary. She’s the founder and CEO of Blendoor, software that reduces unconscious bias through inclusive recruiting and people analytics.
I had a chance to speak with her recently about the possibilities for her product and the frustrating fundraising challenges she faces.
When job seekers submit their information to Blendoor, they are presented to companies without their name, photo, age or university information.
“The idea is companies are able to see more of the skills, experiences and behaviors from a candidate,” said Lampkin. “We can pull in your online behavior, organizations and the extracurriculars you’ve done outside of your 9 to 5 to better understand your fit.”
Blendoor creates recommendation algorithms, similar to the ones used by Netflix and Amazon.
“We have an opportunity to take that paradigm around recommendations for products and apply it to people,” says Lampkin. “If there’s enough evidence of success, we’ll see people trusting the machine more than their human bias.”
Lampkin wants to eliminate the human bias factors around determining who gets paid what by collecting as much relevant data as possible.
“We’re like the carbon monoxide monitor in your house; we’re a quiet listener,” says Lampkin. The alarm goes off when you find out a company is paying women $10,000 less than men, even though they have more work experience and education than the average person in this role.”
The software is gaining traction. Blendoor currently has 57 large, multinational tech companies who subscribe, post jobs and connect with their talent. More companies are eager to partner with them. In fact, they have a waiting list is over 450.
What’s the hold up?
“We’ve only been able to raise $165,000 in outside capital. Before we can capitalize on some of the opportunities that are waiting, I have to raise more capital,” says Lampkin.
Lampkin said the companies she’s worked with have been champions and advocates for the work she is doing. Investors, on the other hand, have not been as supportive.
“I go in as my full self. I can’t identify whether it’s racism, sexism or homophobia. But when they see me, they don't see success. It’s obvious,” says Lampkin. “Not being white and not being male are compounded. It brings a whole different level of skepticism and stereotyping that limit me before I even the negotiation process.”
Lampkin speculates that she’d have more success if her company was a non-profit, “with a hand out, asking for a donation.”
Investors have told her they didn’t believe Blendoor would provide value because companies are equipped to make the best choices regardless.
“One guy said, ‘if I have two qualified candidates — one male and one female — are you suggesting that I should prefer the female?’ I said, absolutely, especially because your current team is is 100% male.”
No matter how many studies we have demonstrating that diversity improves team performance, “until it’s personal to the individual, they won’t really take it seriously,” says Lampkin.
“The human brain is naturally really bad at judging people. We have so much ‘like me’ bias.”
This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.