You’re Probably Addressing Workplace Diversity All Wrong. Here’s What You Should Be Doing Instead by Brad Wayland
These days, it seems as though inclusiveness is the golden goose for human resources, particularly those operating in technology. The problem is that most businesses go about it in entirely the wrong way, falling into toxic traps like hiring quotas and tokenism. This needs to change.
How does that phrase make you feel? If you’re anything like me, not great. For one, it’s dehumanizing, reducing a new employee down to a single label, ignoring everything else about their accomplishments and who they are as a person.
You’re hiring them because of a quality over which they have no control rather than because of what they can do.
You’re no longer hiring Kristin the Data Scientist, who graduated with top marks from Stanford. She’s Kristin the woman. You aren’t hiring Greg the Marketing Director, with over ten years of experience and a master’s in Marketing Science from Columbia. You’re hiring Greg the black man. You’re not hiring Lucas because he graduated from New York University and worked on Wall Street. You’re doing it because he’s gay, and you have a quota to fill.
You get the idea.
“I’m a dream hire for most technology companies,” writes Jori Ford, Senior Director of Content and SEO at peer-to-peer G2 Crowd. “In an industry dominated by white, straight males, a lesbian with both black and Korean heritage checks a lot of boxes. And that’s the problem. In response to the demand for more diverse hiring practices, technology firms have resorted to quotas that ultimately miss the point.”
But isn’t it admirable to seek out men and women who are traditionally underrepresented in your industry?
Yes, but you need to be doing it for the right reasons. Not to fulfil some bogus corporate initiative or make your business look better in the eyes of investors and customers. And not with a focus that begins and ends at hiring and retention.
You should hire someone underrepresented because they might bring a unique perspective to your workplace. You should hire them because discrimination is harmful to everyone, at every level of a business. But most importantly, you should do it if you genuinely believe they’re the best candidate for the job.
There’s another angle to this whole conversation, as well. Simply bringing in a diversity hire will not make your workplace more diverse. Diversity requires that your organization rethink its values and mission. Here’s how:
• Work within your organization to find out what preconceptions your people hold about others, and why. Negative stereotypes do not develop in a vacuum, and challenging them is the first step to fostering greater inclusiveness.
• Look at your employees as people rather than resources, and ensure your colleagues do the same. Empathic leadership, as noted by tech publication CIO, is at the core of inclusiveness.
• Make diversity an ongoing effort rather than a single initiative, and focus on retention as well as hiring. Culture is not something that can be changed overnight, nor can inclusiveness be assured by handing out a few pamphlets.
• For the hiring process, consider implementing a blind evaluation phase. Your hiring department will look exclusively at each candidate’s credentials, without knowing anything else about their identity.
When you hire someone to fulfil a quota or simply for the sake of having a more diverse workplace, you’re putting the cart before the horse. Diversity and inclusiveness aren’t something that can be automated, nor can they be dealt with through spreadsheets. Understanding that is the only way you’ll make your workplace genuinely inclusive.
Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.
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