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The Diversity Microscope

One time I had a discussion with a recruiter who was a member of a team focused on recruiting from underrepresented groups (in her case, military veterans). She said, “Diversity wasn’t happening organically so we had to put a microscope on it.”

That’s an excellent point: diversity doesn’t happen naturally. Our lizard brains are hard-wired to seek safety, and one way that manifests itself is by identifying with someone like ourselves.

Some of the things that we are naturally attracted to when examining a resume include:

  • Someone who worked at the same companies.

  • Someone who went to the same college or university.

  • Someone from our same town or state.

  • Someone who has the same hobbies or plays the same sports.

In this way, the natural tendency of companies is to become more homogeneous and less diverse over time. Studies have shown that as companies get older, management within an individual company tends to be more homogeneous in terms of inherent and acquired diversity when compared to their industry.

It takes conscious sustained effort to overcome our instincts - which form the basis of unconscious bias - to hire and promote outside our comfort zone.

So how do you put it under a microscope?

  1. Measure it. Most companies don’t know how bad their problem is - and many don’t want to know.

  2. Talk about it. Teach people about things like unconscious bias (but hint, mandatory diversity training doesn’t work).

  3. Implement policies to improve it. Maybe you need something like the NFL’s Rooney Rule, as discussed in a previous post.

  4. Measure it again. Make the metrics for hiring, retaining, and promoting part of each manager’s regular evaluation.

Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion doesn’t happen on its own, and until companies focus on it, it will only get worse, thereby making you less innovative and competitive.

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