“Let’s focus on hiring women first.”

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Updated August 24, 2022
Technical Recruiting and Hiring

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You might also hear, “How do we hire women?”

A common misunderstanding is that one kind of representation equals diversity and that D&I only matters in hiring. An employee or boss who has a more PR-centric approach to D&I might think that because media attention often focuses on gender imbalance, that’s where attention should be paid to avoid earning a bad reputation.

The Basics

This is one of the most common pitfalls for teams starting on diversity and inclusion efforts. Even when well intended, the “women-first” approach may lead to nothing getting tackled at the root cause, and surface-level solutions can actually have the opposite effect of reinforcing existing inequities. For example, the common advice for professional women to “lean in” tends to favor white women and actually punishes women of color who face additional barriers to equity, like being labeled too aggressive. “Hire more women” policies often reinforce the same inequities, where white, wealthy women are the primary beneficiaries.

Going Deeper

Effective D&I is not simply about “checking the boxes” on one demographic, especially because your hiring processes could still be biased against other marginalized groups. In that case, any gains or benefits you see are not likely to be sustainable. To develop hiring policies that support all marginalized people, it’s helpful to use intersectionality as a framework.

Programs that lack an intersectional approach can fall short of achieving the goals of D&I, instead benefitting a single group like white women at the cost of other underrepresented groups.* This can lead to its own diversity debt, continued poor outcomes for many groups, and frustration and fatigue with D&I efforts that are perceived as ineffective.

So when you hear this pitfall, a possible response might be, “Let’s take a more intersectional approach and build a hiring process for not just women but all underrepresented people to thrive.”*

“We don’t have the time or resources to prioritize D&I.”

This comes up a lot, at all levels and stages of a company.

startup At startups you might hear things like, “We don’t have the luxury to focus on this right now” or “There will be time for this later; we have to figure out the business first.” Or with even more urgency, “I’d love to think about diversity, but right now we need someone yesterday.”

If you’re at a larger company, you might hear something like this: “It’s too late for us to build a diverse team.”

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