It’s Not Just a Silicon Valley Problem
Everyone’s talking about the latest harassment scandal in Silicon Valley as though it’s breaking news. Yes, it is awful and no, this should NEVER have happened. But make no mistake, Silicon Valley isn’t where the story begins and ends. And the issue is not just limited to women and sexual harassment.
Take a good long look in your own community and company. Harassment, discrimination, and many other micro-aggressions happen every single day. There are people who go to work every day to pursue their passion and earn a living in the process only to be:
- paid less than their counterparts
- passed over for promotion / career development / funding
- passed over for roles they are qualified, or even over-qualified for
It’s an epidemic for which there is still no cure.
Many organizations are now devising new roles to address the lack of diversity in the workplace, and ensure an inclusive working environment for all: Head/VP of Diversity & Inclusion or Chief Diversity Officer.
Does anyone else see the problem with this?
One role, one person is supposed to solve a company’s diversity & inclusion problem that will speak for all underrepresented people based on gender, race, religion, disability, and sexual orientation? Really?
As someone who has been fighting for equal treatment and fair pay for my skills over the past 20 years, I can assure you I only know of the transgressions I have been subjected to as a cisgender white female (and as a single mother early on in my career — which opens a whole different can of worms).
Whenever I have opened up to share my past experiences with my male colleagues/friends/peers, the first response is generally: “Really? I’ve never seen that happen in MY company/department/product team”
Or, if they know the offender, the response is: “Billy? No way. He’s always been great to ME. I think that’s probably just a misunderstanding. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.”
In light of these reactions, I’m extremely sensitive to the fact that I only know what I know based on my own personal experiences. I cannot presume to know what transgressions individuals from other marginalized groups have been dealing with, how that makes them feel, and how to solve those problems. The best I can do is listen, empathize, and amplify their struggles too.
Now with this latest media blitz, there is some justice in seeing the offenders lose their power position. But as I mentioned earlier, this isn’t just a problem at companies in Silicon Valley. It’s all around us.
What concerns me is that there is speculation that the Head/VP/Chief Officer of D&I will clean up the mess. Wasn’t that the same person who was supposed to solve the pipeline problem? Wasn’t this what HR was supposed to be doing all along? How did that work out? How will this new role be any different?
Diversity & inclusion measures are multifaceted. The arrogance that companies demonstrate by staffing a single individual to represent the collective voices from all diverse groups is insulting, to say the least. In my opinion, it serves as a means for companies to save face. Are they really taking action, or will the individual who takes on that role only serve to bear the brunt of the backlash when shit hits the fan?
Only time will tell.