“PeduL is the #1 diversity recruiting platform that helps employers diversify their workforce using our Diversity Cheat Code™: scholarship programs. Our platform helps students earn corporate scholarships, internships, and career opportunities all in one place,” alumna Kayla (Jackson) Michele ’17 said, referring to PeduL, the company she and fellow SC&I alumnus Chisa Egbelu ’16 co-founded while they were still undergraduates at SC&I majoring in Journalism and Media Studies.
PeduL enables companies to create scholarships for their exact candidate profile, receive a targeted pipeline of competitive and diverse applicants, and boost their organizational performance, all while financially supporting underrepresented students, Michele said.
In this way, PeduL makes a critical contribution to the U.S. economy, because, as Michele explained, hiring discrimination imposes a ~$64bn tax on U.S. productivity, via mass workplace inefficiency. Though targeted hiring is the intuitive solution, U.S. employment regulation bans racially, ethnically or gender-targeted job listings.
“For example, Michele said, “due to employment compliance regulated by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, ViacomCBS cannot post a job listing for a Black woman software engineer.”
This is how PeduL offers a solution. “They can use PeduL to create a scholarship for that exact candidate profile, specify a grade (Junior in undergrad, MBA student, Doctoral candidate, etc.), and we can deliver a pre-vetted pipeline of competitive and eligible applicants, all while helping students pay for school,” Michele said.
Michele added that at PeduL, they “seldom celebrate opportunities. We intentionally create equal access to them. Through our platform, employers are not only helping underrepresented students with the much-needed gap-funding to complete their academic careers, but employers are also playing a pivotal role in their career trajectory. By matching students with internships, rotationals, and mentorships at companies they may have otherwise never had access to, our student community is able to tap into networks and opportunities that they have historically been barred from.”
Endorsing PeduL, Suzanne Rosenthal, VP of Talent Acquisition at ViacomCBS wrote, “We love PeduL’s unique approach to working with organizations. They have built a pipeline of diverse and qualified talent and supported our team on various recruitment efforts. We share our job descriptions and desired candidate profiles, and they work their magic! Their strategic, thoughtful, and targeted approach is positively unique.”
Nelson Mills, CEO at Columbia Property Trust, wrote, “PeduL has been invaluable in our efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse talent pipeline. They fully invested in understanding and representing our needs as we initiated our internship program for minority students, and helped us overcome a significant barrier to finding diverse talent by enabling us to access the depth of their network. PeduL then sourced, vetted, and matched us with a target group of ideal program candidates, contributing to a successful and highly rewarding first year of our internship program. We are grateful for their partnership as we continue to grow our outreach and foster greater diversity at all levels of our organization.”
Applauding their success, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy wrote, “PeduL is the embodiment of New Jersey’s innovative spirit. Their success] was well-earned, and I look forward to seeing PeduL’s success in the months and years to come.”
In our Q&A below, discover more about how PeduL has developed over time, how the company has been awarded funding from FedEx and Google, and their exciting future goals.
How does PeduL work?
We believe the greatest educational outcome is equal access to high-impact jobs, allowing every student to realize their full potential. For decades, evidence has shown a strong correlation between diversity and improved performance. McKinsey & Co. demonstrates that companies in the top quartile for race and gender diversity are up to 35% more likely to outperform in their industry.
Yet, as network-based hiring attracts applicants which mirror leadership’s race, gender, and ethnicity, even the most inclusive companies struggle to achieve targets. Compounding these losses, underrepresented students face considerable barriers to the best jobs, with studies demonstrating an increased probability of interview for minorities who mask their race during the application process.
Uniquely, PeduL harnesses tailored corporate scholarships to match underrepresented students with the internships and career opportunities that best meet employers’ needs. Our purpose-built platform simultaneously balances the hiring playing field, providing students with potential-maximizing opportunities, and equips employers with the tools they need to build an inclusive, world-class workforce.
Recently PeduL received a grant from Google. How will it benefit PeduL?
Few people know that PeduL started off as a crowdfunding platform. It didn’t take long before we were forced to address the disparities within our community of users: some had successful campaigns and others didn’t. When we realized that crowdfunding, at its core, is elitist because it almost always requires organizers to have access to networks of capital, we knew we had to evolve to account for inequity.
It was through years of grueling tinkering, pivoting, and struggling to garner the support we knew our platform deserved, that we built the courage to relaunch PeduL into the business it is today. Investors and corporations alike have said that we were “ahead of our time,” when we announced the new PeduL concept. When in reality, the world just needed to catch up. When we relaunched PeduL in 2020, we gained massive contracts with reputable brands like the NFL. Then, when Covid-19 shut down the entire world, we lost everything.
We didn’t know we would make it to see 2021, until the tragic public lynching of George Floyd. The pandemic fostered a universal moment of silence, which ultimately primed our country for a racial awakening. Shortly after, the country finally “caught up” with us. We relaunched again in December 2020 and partnered with companies like ViacomCBS and Paramount Pictures. This changed everything for us. It didn’t take long before more opportunities for validation knocked on our front door. We won FedEx’s $50,000 Scale Up Pitch Challenge.
Then, we were recognized on Forbes Next 1000 List. Through Chisa’s participation in the Google for Startups Founders Academy, we were exposed to the Google Black Founders Fund grant program. We applied and won $120,000 and up to $100,000 in Google Cloud credits, as well as technical and business mentorship from Google employees.
And most recently, we’ve been invited to participate in one of the most successful accelerators in the country, Techstars. Now, we have a real chance to scale the business, which has seen success without spending a $1 on marketing. We plan to use the Google proceeds to hire a sales force and market our services to students and prospective corporate clients across the country.
How did the idea of PeduL develop and what steps did you have to take to get where you are today?
The idea for PeduL all began with an honest conversation between me and Chisa Egbelu, a 2016 graduate of Rutgers University School of Communication & Information. While we were in school, we saw two sides of the same coin. We saw friends struggle to gain employment at corporations across the country and we also saw our employers at places like Google and NBCUniversal, struggle to find diverse talent. We knew that the talent was there, but we understood how difficult it could be for a corporation to find them. These were the seeds that blossomed into PeduL.
PeduL’s mission is to assure that all students have equal access to academic and professional opportunities - regardless of where they go to school or who they know. And it’s our thesis that employers who are intentional about curating diverse work environments will create more sustainable and impactful legacies for generations to come.
How has your Rutgers degree helped you succeed?
There are many moments woven into the fabric of the PeduL story, but one, in particular, sticks with me the most. When Chisa and I learned about our entrepreneurship classmate, Daniel Reji, launching his app that garnered 40,000 downloads in the first month, we were inspired and motivated to create something of our own. It was this moment that catapulted us into research about leading-edge technologies and ideas that were born on campus. From the discovery of the cure to tuberculosis to antibiotics that have treated countless infectious diseases, Rutgers has always been known for breaking new ground. This is when truly recognized, and valued, the power of being a part of a legacy of innovation and an ecosystem that celebrates diversity.
We knew that Rutgers fostered a learning environment that respects contrariety and encourages diverse thought. It was in this environment that the seeds of PeduL were planted. If it were not for faculty members like Alfred Blake, Steve Miller, Gary Minkoff, and Mukesh Patel, PeduL may not have had the opportunity to be the business that it is today. Although Chisa and I had job offers lined up in-time for graduation, we decided, with little reluctance, to bet on ourselves. We attest this confidence to our mentors on campus who instilled in us such invaluable lessons, and provided us with pathways to the economic and professional resources we needed to jumpstart our business.
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