DIVERSITY UNCENSORED: Part 1 — What Diversity Is… And What It Is Not

This is the first part of a blog series. I will be publishing a new post on Diversity tomorrow and Thursday.

Diversity in the work place means three things to most people: (1) gender, (2) ethnical background, (3) sexual orientation. The problem is that it means three things ONLY. I see diversity as a far more reaching topic.

Let me go through the three topics most commonly associated with diversity and then talk about the other things I suggest we should include, when really aiming at diversity:

I — DIVERSITY STATUS-QUO

GENDER

I hear “More women in the workforce means a different way or working.”

Does it? Really? Some of the most efficient women I have worked with were pretty ballsy and men-like in their professional behavior. In my experience, women have an equal ability at being competent or mediocre, ambitious or lazy, loud or shy, two-faced or honest as any man out there. I have to disagree with the stereotype that women, genetically, think more long-term than men or are more diplomatic. I think this is a patronizing and dangerous generalization of genders that comes from the same people who only get pink dolls for their daughters and blue trucks for their sons.

“There should be more women in the C-suite.”

I think there should be more competent people in any C-suite, regardless of gender. When I hear “We need more women on our board” I cringe. Surely you mean you need more experienced, energetic, innovative, knowledgeable, thought-provoking people on your board, right?

Let’s not focus on gender but rather, ignore gender, when we hire.

ETHNICAL BACKGROUND

I find it borderline politically incorrect to talk about “ethnical backgrounds” in the work place. We’re now forced to tip toe around this topic because no one can say out loud, “We need more blacks in this office!”

Today, that’s just not acceptable. So we invent elaborate terms, “Minorities” is the most vague, so therefore the most commonly used of them all. The magic term “Minorities” enables us to talk about the fact that the only person of Arabic origin in the office is the cleaner and the only Latina is the receptionist and that maybe it’s not ideal.

But hang on a second, why exactly is it bad? If it means we would not consider hiring a Latina for any other job than receptionist even though we receive tons of applications from qualified Latino people for Management roles, then I wholeheartedly agree, it isbad. If it means lengthening indefinitely the recruitment process because even if there are hardly any Latinos with a specific set of skills and attributes out there, we only want a Latino in this role, it’s plain stupid.

Furthermore, aren’t we expecting large corporations to do the job governments are not? Aren’t we expecting companies to have a break down of ethnicities versus hierarchy that is the opposite of what’s going on in our society? Are large corporations capable of leveling the social gaps that governments let happen?

Corporations must make sure that minorities are represented in the workplace. But to whose benefit? If it’s to the benefit of the “minorities” and the company, I would encourage companies to do something real about it, such as an apprentice program to give a chance to candidates who may lack academic education. If it is to the benefit of the majority or the company, ask yourself: Will a Caucasian person perform better because he’s sitting next to a Chinese colleague? Will this meeting yield better decisions because there’s an Indian in the room? In my view, this is how corporate BS tastes and there’s a need to think deeper about this.

When we talk about ethical diversity, we’re not really talking about ethnicities at all, we’re talking about what I will highlight next as a real topic for diversity: Attitude, experience, wisdom, vision, perspective…. *

When ethnical diversity means trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole, it’s useless.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Frankly, I have never quite understood why we need to discuss, or even consider, let alone know the sexual orientations and preferences of employees. HELLO!! This is PRIVATE!!! Once professional competences have been assessed, who’s thinking or asking “so, who do you shag?”?! If an employee dresses like Ru Paul on tour, then you have a dress code problem, but that’s not a GAY problem.

If someone’s gender is unclear, who does that bother? Not me! I am not talking to your genitals when I work with you, I am addressing your brain. And do not fool yourself, even if your company is sponsoring the Gay pride this year, this is not going to change the attitude of a few idiots who are homophobes and who will continue to discretely discriminate against gay people when they spot one.

Again, I think that by trying to appear politically correct and by being “all inclusive,” we hide real diversity issues behind a screen of patronizing BS that I am surprised the gay community does not see through. Having started my career in fashion, a fairly gay-busy industry if there’s one, I can testify that I have never felt slowed down because of my heterosexuality, and actually, no one’s ever brought up the topic!

Sexual orientation is not a topic for the work place, period.

So what is real diversity at work? Come back tomorrow for Part Two of my three-part series, “Diversity Uncensored.”