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May 09, 2024

Diversity Recruiting Sees Shakeup as Employers Rethink Mega-Conferences

For years, diversity conferences like Grace Hopper and National Black MBA were a prime pipeline for employers to access and advertise themselves to diverse groups of talent. But, that’s beginning to change.

What’s Shifting?

Heads of DEI are rethinking the value of traditional recruiting conferences as costs soar, conversions fall, attending talent becomes diluted, and new technologies democratize access to top talent.


The Driving Forces Behind the Change

  • • Skyrocketing Costs: Entry fees have ballooned to untenable levels, with some quotes reaching $10k for an interview booth.
  • • Poor Recruiting ROI: DEI leaders note that conversion rates are often too low given the steep financial investment required. It’s hard to justify a $10-20k event for only a handful of hires.
  • • Talent Dilution: Despite their focus on particular identity groups, major identity-focused conferences are increasingly attracting attendees that fall outside the target demographic, which is significantly reducing their value. For example, last year, Grace Hopper – an event that traditionally supports women and nonbinary individuals – was overrun by men.
  • • Disruptive Tech: While diversity conferences were once the best way for employers to access talent groups, the explosion of AI-driven tech (think SeekOut, HireEZ, Eightfold) offers direct, cheaper, and more efficient access to talent.


How Employers are Rethinking Conference and Event Strategy

  • • Bringing Events In-House: Some employers are reaching potential candidates at scale with talent-specific webinars and virtual events, rather than investing in external conferences. Curation and invitations can lend an air of exclusivity that draw in candidates. 
  • • Trading National for Regional Events: Employers are partnering with local chapters of national organizations to run more targeted, location-specific events, enabling companies to micro-target the talent pools that most closely align with their talent footprint.
  • • Co-Hosting Industry Events: Some employers are partnering with other companies in their industry to host intimate recruiting events with top talent. They’re benefiting from the larger draw of multiple employers, while keeping costs lower than attending most conferences. 
  • • Upping Investment in Diversity Job Boards: Some employers are reallocating conference funds to partners that promote job openings to their talent pools. This approach not only guides candidates to open roles organically, it also cuts the time-consuming work of entering candidate data that typically follows a conference.

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