We’re not getting the diversity we’re looking for.
There just aren’t any candidates of color out there.
We’re not appealing to a lot of candidates because of our location.
I hear these and more declarations of frustration about the schism between an organization’s commitment to diversity and the yield of their candidate pool when they post a job opening. There’s earnest intention in these statements–and, in my opinion, an all too easy surrender to circumstances that are beyond an organization’s control. Like, for instance, location. True, most organizations can’t just up and move to attract a more diverse candidate pool. Then again, seeing location as a prohibition of diversity presumes that employers know how candidates view and prioritize their location in considering submitting applications. Who says brown and black people don’t want to work in the suburbs? (And there’s a convenience in blaming that which we can’t change.)
The truth is that there’s a lot within an organization’s control when it comes to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. And, taking action within the realm of what the organization can do may actually get candidates past any initial inhibitions about location or other immutable factors.
Here, I’m just going to focus on one lever that is well within an organization’s ability to push: clearly understanding and explaining why diversity. I’m not talking about a non-discrimination clause, like this one:
We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or any other status protected by law or regulation. It is our intention that all qualified applicants be given equal opportunity and that selection decisions be based on job-related factors (http://gigshowcase.com/EndUserFiles/28854.pdf).
While such a clause is an important baseline for any employer to state and understand internally, organizations need to go well beyond just promising not to discriminate (starting with understanding normative prejudice and discrimination in hiring that often goes undetected and unadmitted because, after all, don’t we have a clause that says we don’t discriminate?)
In addition to a nondiscrimination clause, organizations need to understand and clearly articulate their commitment to diversity, and, more specifically, why they’re seeking a diverse employee base.
An example of an organization that does this well is Teach for All (not to be confused with Teach for America, Teach for All applies Teach for America’s model globally).
Check out Teach for All’s “Join Our Staff” page: http://teachforall.org/join-our-staff. Notice the positioning of their “Commitment to Diversity and Inclusiveness.” It’s right there above the “Search for Jobs” button. And they invite you: “Please see more about our commitment to diversity here.”
When you click on “here,” you land on their full page explanation of their “Commitment to Diversity and Inclusiveness” (http://teachforall.org/about/diversity). I won’t repeat it all here, but I encourage you to read what they have to say and see if they answer any of these questions to your satisfaction:
The answers to these questions ought to be apparent to anyone applying for a job at any organization that claims to be committed to (or even to value) diversity. And the answers ought to make sense, first and foremost, under the mission. Second and close behind, to every person who works or wants to work at the organization. Because when the people who are the organization understand the commitment to diversity, then they can embody and live it.
Regarding the last question, I just want to point out the last paragraph on the page:
To move ahead on this journey towards greater diversity and inclusiveness, all of us who are part of Teach For All must reflect on the ways in which diversity is central to our work. We must engage in an ongoing discussion and consideration of the ways in which our own background influences our perspectives and the ways in which we’re received, and of why increasingly diverse representation and inclusiveness is important. In the context of deepening understanding of the role of diversity in our work, we must ask ourselves what we can do—as individuals, as teams, and across our organization—to increase the diversity of our talent pipelines and the inclusiveness of our culture.
All too often, diversity becomes the default (and unpaid) responsibility of the people in organizations who identify with under-represented, disenfranchised and disadvantaged groups, and a tacit line is drawn between those people who do diversity and those who do not. So as a minority, you are hired not only to represent, but to bring a skillset that is supposed to be innate to your identity and experience. This statement by TFA reframes diversity and inclusiveness as everyone’s shared responsibility via cultural competency skills. (I do think this reframing could be more explicit in including folks of privilege in the “all.” While “all” should say it all, from experience I know the power of exemption that the mere word “diversity” grants to folks who identify with normative and majority groups.)
I do think TFA could strengthen their “Commitment to Diversity and Inclusiveness” by repositioning this statement. (I missed it the first time I visited this page because it falls last, under the large photo.) This paragraph, which critically holds all TFA staff accountable for cultural competency, ought to be the opening statement of “Our Focus,” establishing right from the start that everyone is responsible for doing the work of diversity.
Of course, I don’t know if TFA holds all its staff accountable for the practice, not just the intention, of inclusiveness (in the form of performance evaluations with specific, clear criteria and metrics). But with their clear statement of commitment, that’s a question I would think any applicant could feel comfortable and hopeful asking. Heck, maybe they’d even move for the job.