So You Desperately Need to Hire For Diversity?

Your diversity problem may not be what you think it is.

Scenario: Your company/institution has been confronted by the numbers. Your team, is almost all white. Worse, it's predominantly white and male.

Conventional wisdom in predominantly white spaces (PWS) is to go on a hiring blitz. Whenever there is a new opening, make sure there is at least one woman and one person of color in the mix. But what if I told you that you don't just have a diversity recruiting problem?

In my experience, for older, PWS, the matter of diversity is a complex one. However, one consistent problem has always been clear. You don't just have a recruiting problem, you have a retention problem.

Predominantly white spaces don't just have a recruiting problem, they have a retention problem.

You Have A Retention Problem

... I've printed that several times to make sure this doesn't go un-noted. When you're looking at abysmal diversity metrics, it's really easy to look at them and say, "We need to hire diverse people." But hiring minorities into a toxic work environment is bad for all people involved. In fact, it may be why you struggle to hire minorities in the first place. I present to you a paradigm shift.

Be An Inclusive Workforce

Instead of diving head first into increasing the number of minorities on your team, your institution needs to do some work. Start becoming a more inclusive community before you subject minorities to your existing culture. Avail yourself of resources like books, coaching, and volunteer communities, that will teach your team more inclusive practices. You can start with this resource from Forbes:

10 Ways Create A More Diverse, Inclusive Workplace
Here are some ways to strengthen openness and communication within teams — or the company as a whole.

And What About Hiring?

You should still go about hiring people from under-represented groups. However, I encourage you to do this exercise first:

  • Do a deep dive into how many, if any, minorities have come and gone from your institution in the past 5 years.
  • Are the minorities who are leaving recent hires or long-term employees?
  • Did you (do you) have any minorities who are long-standing pillars of your community?
  • What rank did these individuals have?
  • What parts of your office culture can be considered non-inclusive (think: drinking, sports, expensive recreational activities)?
  • What openings do you have in upper-level management and front-facing roles? How can you start your search for diversity here instead of in the lower ranks?

The last thing that diversity and inclusion should ever be about is patting a group of managers on the back for increasing a few percentages. The goal is not simply to look around and see a room full of people who look different. Instead, the goal is to engage the people around you, receiving and growing in the multitude of histories and perspectives that are incorporated into the work you do, at every institutional level.

I’d love to hear your take. How can PWS do better? What questions would you add to this list?

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