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“Our next hire must be diverse.”
When you hear someone say, “Our next hire must be diverse” or “We need to hire five more women and two people of color to have more diversity,” it’s usually said with good intentions. People are trying to be mindful of diversity debt and are determined to not make the problem worse. But this way of looking at D&I may do more harm than good.
Talented people of all different backgrounds want to be given a fair opportunity to succeed based on their skills and aptitude. Demanding that your next hire must be a member of one URG or another can lead them to be referred to (or thought of) as the “diversity candidate.”
First, let’s clarify some language. Saying “our next hire must be diverse” is problematic in part because diverse is a quality of a group and does not describe individual people. This may sound pedantic, but misusing this term has real ramifications, including tokenism, stereotype threat, impostor syndrome, and inequities that affect performance and contribute to the high leave rate among URGs in tech.
If your team has been saying “our next hire must be a woman or person of color,” even if you do end up successfully hiring a stellar URG candidate, they may always wonder whether they wouldn’t have gotten the job otherwise. And so may their colleagues. This may lead to resentment and defensiveness among the rest of your team, especially if you haven’t yet developed a shared understanding around D&I. Likewise, if a hiring manager gets blocked from hiring someone from the majority group, they may perceive the process to be unfair, and hold a grudge against the person who does eventually get hired.
caution Focusing only on outwardly apparent difference limits the scope and effectiveness of any inclusivity program the company might develop, and can itself be discriminatory. Such a focus also neglects to see individuals as their fully complex selves.
“Let’s focus on hiring women first.”
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.
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