Arthur Woods is a serial entrepreneur specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
His newest company, Mathison, is committed to advancing intersectional diversity and helping underrepresented job seekers connect with employers that value equity. This includes the Black, LatinX, Asian & Native American community, the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, refugees, immigrants, older workers, women, veterans, working parents, formerly incarcerated people, and more.
Woods’s interest in helping underrepresented communities stems from his own early-career concerns about being accepted in the workplace.
“I distinctly recall in my earliest job interviews hiding the fact that I was gay,” Woods says. “I wasn’t sure if it would be safe to be out at work.”
This led him to realize that being from an underrepresented community can be more of a hindrance than a strength in a person’s professional life.
He also realized that as a white man, he was more privileged than many.
Engaging with nonprofits supporting individuals with disabilities, Woods witnessed firsthand the important role work can play in a person’s life and the heartbreak of wanting to work but being unable to find employment.
According to a study by the nonprofit research organization Urban Institute, unemployment may be linked to declining mental health and increased mortality rates. Underrepresented individuals often have more difficulty finding work and face additional challenges once on the job, potentially taking a toll on both their financial and personal wellbeing.
Woods believes that much of this inequity results from three key aspects of the hiring process. First, leaders tend to hire those who are similar to them, which propagates a homogenous workforce. Second, the system has built-in biases that are difficult to overcome even with extraordinary diversity sourcing, so well-qualified candidates could get hung up in the hiring process if the organization isn’t thoughtful in its approach. Finally, Woods sees a mindset challenge. Some leaders lack awareness and/or are unwilling to modify behaviors that stymie inclusion.
While some are resistant to change, DEI can be beneficial for companies, individuals, and society as a whole.
“We know that there is such a significant business case around diversity and inclusion,” Woods says. “We’re seeing greater innovation occurring in a more equitable workforce.”
In a study by BCG Henderson Institute, companies with more diverse management teams reported 19 percent greater innovation revenue than those with below-average diversity among their leadership.
Woods’s companies have helped businesses make strides toward a more inclusive workplace. Mathison’s Job Post Bias Screening Application addresses exclusionary job listings by scanning them for bias and microaggression, and its training courses help teams build inclusive skills and behaviors. One of Mathison’s most recent accomplishments is the Equal Hiring Index, which includes a full assessment of hiring and retention. A dashboard with a benchmarked scorecard allows leaders to measure and monitor diversity, and actionable recommendations provide a clear path forward.
While there is still much need for DEI initiatives, Woods has seen it being increasingly prioritized and viewed with a sense of urgency. The argument has shifted away from whether it’s important toward how best to achieve a more inclusive workforce.
“There is no one that doesn’t benefit from a more inclusive and diverse workforce,” Woods says. “I’m excited for the day that this work is so ingrained in the culture of our organizations that it doesn’t have to require a dedicated effort.”