I Hate Diversity, But Not Really
I hate diversity, but not really. I don’t actually hate the concept and intent behind diversity. No, I am in love with the idea that we can all learn and grow from varied perspectives. Our individual life experiences enable us to have a unique approach to business and life challenges. As the world becomes more and more colorful, we will organically realize open-mindedness and a genuine appreciation for our differences.
Back to my statement though:
Over the last year, I have grown to dislike the term “diversity” because the term fails us. Its attempt to unite us causes discomfort and alienation. And as it relates to business practices such as recruiting, it has made “non-diverse” individuals feel left out.
I was speaking with a friend of a friend a while ago about her job search and we got into an interesting conversation about “diversity” efforts and job hunting. She said, “Dwayne, I get the whole outreach effort to ensure that there’s a good mix of racial and ethnic backgrounds in the workplace – it’s the right thing to do for sure. However, when I see the term tossed around and attached to recruiting initiatives, it makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t even think to walk up to the tables [at recruiting events] to inquire about opportunities that might be a good fit for me, but when I have, I’ve been met with certain looks and energy that say, “Sorry, we’re only targeting people of color at this table.” As she continued, I thought to myself, “She has a point. What was truly designed as a good faith effort has created dissonance.”
Over the course of my recruiting career, I have been involved in plenty of diversity recruiting efforts and have been a champion for the hiring of underrepresented groups – I’ve done my part to close the gap. However, reaching as many people as possible has always been a part of my overall strategy for every role/job I attempted to fill. I worked hard to ensure that I presented a diverse slate of candidates whom could not only do the job but candidates that could offer thoughtful perspective. The term “diversity”, though championed across virtually every industry as the way to establish a competitive advantage, has taken on a different meaning from company to company. However, at the core, it’s primarily rooted in serving African Americans, Latinos and Asians.
The conversation I had with this woman helped me to understand the power of messaging. It’s important to examine what people hear and how people process things and ideas. Since then, I’ve moved away from the term “diversity” and have replaced it with “inclusion” which feels much more open and…inclusive. The message should always be about reaching everyone and at the end of the day, “may the best man (or woman) win.”
Starting my own recruiting agency, Amplify Recruiting, has encouraged me to be extra thoughtful about the ways in which people might interact with my company. From a marketing and branding perspective, I’ve evaluated every image and every word (from my website to informational materials) to ensure that the content and value proposition is engaging enough to attract everyone. I’ve been intentional about my efforts to reach talented people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. We will only start to see some progress when we truly embrace the idea of “equal opportunities” for all.
It is true that some minorities aren’t exposed to career options in certain fields (i.e. sales, advertising, technology, etc.) and subsequently don’t seek them out. However, it then becomes our responsibility to educate them on various career paths by active engagement through visits to high schools and colleges. Our roles as recruiting, hiring and industry professionals will need to become augmented a bit, resulting in us all wearing a “teacher” hat so that we inform and ultimately inspire a new generation of leaders and change agents.
The takeaway from this article isn’t that I hate “diversity”, but rather a call to action. We need to approach this topic in an innovative and creative way that reaches everyone. The goal here is to truly attract a diverse blend of skills and backgrounds that will support the learning and development of all…by osmosis.
Dwayne Cash is Founder of Amplify Recruiting, a boutique recruitment and consulting agency targeting the media, digital and entertainment industries. Dwayne is a Talent Finder, Career Coach, mentor to many and a champion of inclusive recruiting practices.