This article is meant to create dialogue. There are real life experiences by a number of anonymous clients, candidates I have spoken to over the years. I can only tell you my professional perspective as I have lived it. It may not be for everyone, some may even disagree and that’s fine too.
I have written a couple of articles about the challenges Companies face in their quest to create diversity and inclusion programs that work. As an African-America woman in executive search, I myself, am very passionate about the need for inclusion for ALL in a Corporate America and have championed this cause for many years. I can not tell you the countless offices I have gone to Client meetings, where the one other person of color and I will make eye contact and nod our head acknowledging one another. In most cases, the senior, decision making roles consist of white men and white women. In my past article, Diversity Recruiting on Wall Street: Business or Fluff, I mentioned the fact that term diversity and inclusion itself has become a colloquial that sounds politically correct while nothing is getting done to push the agenda forward. My inbox was filled with the roaring consensus that diversity in corporate America is nothing but resounding fluff talk.
What has made me revisit this topic is an article I read this past week called Blind Hiring May Be Missing the Point by Roy Maurer. Roy Maurer is a writer for Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), where I am also a member. In his article, Maurer discusses companies using “blind hiring” techniques as a potentially, forward thinking way to combat issues of lack of diversity and inclusion. How it may completely remove bias from the hiring process as the hiring managers and recruiters (doing the hiring) tend to select candidates, who they can identify with over the other types. In most cases, we have companies, authors (such as Maurer’s article), bloggers, who spark conversations about diversity and inclusion or lack thereof, who have no clue about the experiences of what it’s like to be diverse and/or excluded. But, seem to be the authority on it…hmm. It doesn’t matter how many diversity certifications you receive or sensitivity trainings you attend, I’m sure you can empathize about the experiences but you do not live it each and every day. You can engage these issues and help with the cause but, you can also disconnect and resume your normal lives. I have been in the search industry for 20 years now as well as, career coached plenty of people regardless of color, sex or sexual orientation. I live the different experience every single day. As president of a minority, WBENC certified woman-owned executive search practice, I am sometimes not privy to search opportunities that I am more than qualified to fill, while my white male and female counterparts are getting those opportunities. Why, because again as Maurer’s article states hiring managers and corporate human resources when using third party search tend to go with firms that are more relatable and fit within their demographic. While I have some really great Clients, and built quite a positive reputation for myself on Wall Street, this happens quite often. This is real talk and it’s a pervasive problem in all facets of America from board rooms, management circles, human resource departments to third party search firms chosen and beyond. Same club plus same players equal same results. Period!
This is exactly why Corporate America has a prolific diversity and inclusion deficiency. I attend plenty of meetings, where Companies ask me some ways to get ahead of the diversity and inclusion issue. They want to see and engage different kinds of Candidates. I appreciate that there is an acknowledgement of the issue as Maurer’s article mentions and agree with him that “blind hiring” is not the answer because its takes away from the human interaction of the entire recruiting process. I also agree with J.T. O’Donnell’s, CEO of Careerealism comments about how blind hiring removes “the emotional intelligence” from the process. What I do not necessarily agree with is the assertions about diversity and inclusion Candidates having to fit within the corporate culture of a Company. In fact, that is where the core of the problem lies. The traditionally excluded will not fit into a corporate culture, who’s very foundation is marred in preconceived notions of identifying other as such and, based on nepotism, pedigree and privilege. Companies themselves need to make a fundamental cultural shift in their core ideologies and adopt new ones which are more inviting and inclusive of ALL people. This is no easy feat as there are no cookie cutter solutions but it can be accomplished. It will take sweeping changes as well as policies and procedures put in play to truly see a difference. Is your Company ready and willing?
Companies now create and implement diversity and inclusion programs which merely scratch the surface of the underlying issues. Band aid programs to remedy the lack issue when the real issues have been danced around for way too long. In-house diversity company titles, networking mixers and even strategic partnerships with minority programs can’t begin to solve the lack of diversity and inclusion in Corporate America when the people who have the real say so are not open to ideas. Yes, you want diversity and inclusion but, the candidate also has to want to work for your firm too. When you look at resumes, where the preference is given to Candidates, who have attended Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and, not give the same attention to Candidates coming from historically black colleges such as Howard, Spelman and Morehouse, you are repeating the same habits and identifying the same kinds of Candidates. Same patterns create same results.
In fact, according to the article, Positive News For HBCUs written by Jake New on Highered.com, “About 55 percent of black HBCU graduates said they “strongly agreed” that their college or university “prepared them well for life outside of college,” compared to less than 30 percent of non-HBCU black graduates. More than half of HBCU graduates reported “thriving in purpose well-being,” compared to 43 percent of black graduates from non-HBCUs”. This is very interesting news for potential employers and recruiters alike, who are paying attention. Now, I am not knocking predominantly white colleges, as I am a proud graduate of Vassar College. My experiences there prepared me intellectually for the world but it did not nurture me on what to expect entering a corporate world that can be harsh and unforgiving at times.
Companies must come outside of their traditional, neatly packaged boxes to aggressively identify and entice different kinds of hires. You need more foot soldiers in true HR and higher management roles, who are identifiable to show potential diverse Candidates, I am here and you can be here too. How many companies visit and recruit from Historically Black Colleges (HBCU) or any colleges and universities outside the Ivy league, seven sister realms? Going to one of the above mentioned school doesn’t make you more or less qualified for positions. Just like going to so many other college or universities do the same. But you have to be willing to look at resumes and interview Candidates with qualifications from all kinds of schools not just what is considered “the top, more prestigious schools”.
Also, companies must take inventory of their diverse employees and wonder how included they feel. As J.T. O’Donnell, CEO of Careerealism mentions in the article conducting a “cultural audit”. Great idea but employees of diverse backgrounds in fact, no employees will be honestly forthcoming with how they truly feel. Every diverse group should be able to be proud and celebrated for their cultural differences in the workplace.
In my twenty years in recruiting, I have heard some pretty interesting stories. For instance, I have heard countless stories about women, who had senior roles and were big money producers for their employers, left to have a baby and their spot was taken. Only to return to a role that was beneath their previous role-punished for wanting a family. I have also talked to many people of color from the top, prestigious schools, who are considered the “token” hire, feel marginalized where they are, and have been passed over plenty of times for the promotion they so deserved because they weren’t part of the “in crowd”. Corporate America can be emasculating to their employees making them feel isolated and quite disenchanted.
You can’t dip your toes in the diversity and inclusion waters. You have to jump in completely to truly embrace inclusion initiatives. Empower and promote differences. Here is where creativity such as conducting focus groups come in to play to entice a different kind of Candidate. Anonymous in-house company surveys would help to get a sense about how your employees feel about their current firm. These things can start a blueprint for initiatives. You have to know what you are doing wrong in order to correct and move forward. Also consider, that Candidates won’t always be relatable to your experiences but, that should not automatically disqualify them.
Now, I am not saying that significant strides haven’t been made. For instance, Lincoln Financial Group located in Radnor, PA just made the big news this past week. The financial services company has been named top places to work for LGBT equality. They scored 90% out of 100 on tangible policies and procedures that directly effect the inclusion of LGBT employees and their families. Spearheaded by senior vice president, diversity, inclusion and employee engagement officer Allison Green, here’s full proof that acknowledging and embracing cultural difference works. Once you are branded as a diversity and inclusion trailblazer, potential employees with take notice and apply. Ask yourself what are they doing right that you are not?
So now is the time to stop talking about it and be about it.
I am a career catalyst, an impetus for professional change. I offer game changing insight on executive recruiting, career tips, advice as well as, real talk messages that will inspire, empower and create limitless pathfinding journeys. My goal is to make you continue to think, question and push your career boundaries. I’m also a girl, who proudly represents where I’m from – Brooklyn. A proud Brewers (Vassar) alum. A wife and mother of four beautiful children. An always keep it real person, who is a champion of inclusion and social responsibility recruiting initiatives in Corporate America. If you like my writings and would like to continue reading about my executive search journeys and unique career coaching techniques then like, comment below and follow me: LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/asrandasktheresumediva), Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/A-Solomon-Recruits-ASR-The-Resume-Diva-224252394265903/?ref=hl) and Twitter: (@asrecruits) ,(@askresumediva), http://www.asolomonrecruits.com
Works Cited in Article:
Maurer, Roy, BlindHiringMayBeMissThePoint: Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) newsletter: February 4, 2016
New, Jake, Positive News For HBCUs, www.highered.com : October 28, 2015