Diversity doesn’t begin and end with white women.
At the risk of sounding divisive this needs to be said: Staff diversity doesn’t begin and end with hobby variation, who likes coffee vs. who likes tea, who’s from this country or that , or merely making the commitment to hire more women — especially if they are all white.
Workplace diversity is all of those things in addition to tackling racial bias, sexism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia etc. Truth is, if your company has met — or is projected to meet — its 50/50 gender initiatives but hasn’t been as proactive about eliminating all of the above, then you aren’t doing enough.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on how to fix all of these, because I’m not (yet). But I believe the first step in dispelling some inequity in the hiring process is recognizing the nuanced intersections of race and gender.
Who really benefits from gender diversity?
Placing all women and people of color under the same umbrella of disadvantage is, in my view, incredibly problematic. Some women have many more privileges than others. In the same way, some people of color are less advantaged than other people of color.
White women will undoubtedly have more privilege than their Black counterparts. Hetero Black men and women are likely to be more privileged than queer Black men and women — who may have more privilege than poor queer Black men and women. My point is: there are actual levels to this.
Aubrey Blanche, the Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Atlassian said this: “The problem is when diversity programs focus on ‘women’ as a whole, they often fall into the trap of prioritizing the majority: White women”. She notes that her experience as a queer Latina woman poses its own unique challenges and that we should have systems in place to address varying identities within these groups.
So, no, we can’t all be lumped into the same category when measuring a company’s diversity. Hiring “women” doesn’t necessarily signal that representation has been acknowledged or accomplished across the spectrum.
Just take a look at the top firms and their teams:
In 2014 Amazon led the pack of top tech firms to hire women, who at the time, comprised 37% of their workforce. But a closer look revealed that 22% of those women were white. Black women made up about 7% of Amazon’s population, leaving Asian, Latina and Native women to make up the other combined 8% — which seems sparse until you consider that the average percentage of non-white women among companies like Facebook, Twitter, Intel and Google hovered around 12% in 2014, according to EEO-1 reports.
Ladies in leadership
Female leadership paints a similar, if not worse, portrait. A study conducted by the American Association of University Women reported that about a quarter of senior-level executives in the private sector are female. Considering that women make up nearly half of the working population, this is a travesty all on its own. Worse still, is that Black and Hispanic women at the senior-level totaled less than 3%. Three. Percent. T h r e e p e r c e n t. Total. White women made up 24%.
What should we do about it?
First, acknowledge that our inclusion efforts haven’t been realized the second our companies are a tad less homogenous than before. Second, every single member of our teams must open up their networks in order to connect with and incentivize all types of women to join. Hiring managers can’t do it on their own. And third, we need to ensure that our working environments are supportive and encourage retention among people of color at every level.