Diversity doesn’t need to be a Mensa brain teaser

During our “Safe-at-Home” isolation, I’ve had the blessing to be still working. One of the projects that have occupied my time is writing articles about diversity and inclusion.

For a little background: In 2005, I was working for United Way of Elkhart County. The “mothership” (United Way Worldwide) invited professionals to come and chat with their executive team. I was invited to discuss my experience as a woman. It launched me into 15 years of diversity and inclusion work. Work that I’ve been very proud to be a part of on a global, state, and now local level.

One of our clients has asked for articles on how to expand the diversity and inclusion workforce. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the topic for the past five weeks. I find I am disheartened and frustrated by the resources online. Don’t get me wrong; there are many articles on the reasons why having a diverse team helps you be smarter, faster, and richer.

I say, fabulous! Let the hiring begin. Unfortunately, the pathway to “we are the world” is unchartered and hard to find. It’s paved with a lot of platitudes that are not helpful and superficial. Like… go where the diverse people hang out, or get referrals from your diverse staff (you know that one non-white person on your team), write an inclusion policy, and put it on your website… and don’t forget to put pictures of non-white people on there too!

Don’t get me wrong. These are all strategies. Some I have even done and recommended myself.

But let’s get real. If these techniques worked, we wouldn’t be having this conversation anymore because every company would be a beautiful, diverse pool of awesome. And it’s not.

So, now what? Well, we all must do better. We have to commit to diversity. We must educate ourselves and our teams, we must get buy-in from “the man” (I say this because most boards and CEOs are mostly white men), and we must change our practices.

This means:

  • Acknowledge implicit bias is a thing that we all do. Naming it is the first step to slaying it.
  • Commit to taking the time to examine our traditional hiring practices (i.e. do we need to know every college they attended (reduces minority candidates), is the long list of every possible task really needed on the job listing (reduces women candidates), and using every slang/jargon word in your industry doesn’t make you cool or smart (reduces young candidates)?
  • Take time to find the right candidate. This isn’t speed dating (because regardless of what you’ll find on TikTok… it doesn’t usually work).

Perhaps diversity and inclusion isn’t this Mensa-level brain teaser after all. Perhaps it’s all of us actually taking a stand, taking the time, and offering up opportunities to the diversity ecosystem. Let’s do this.