Diversity: Inclusion not Exclusion

Diversity Program Backlash!

googleIf you’re in HR or Tech, I’m sure you’ve read about the now former Google employee’s ten page anti-diversity Manifesto. This was obviously a hot topic even in my household! We discussed it even though none of us had read the manifesto and discussed what little we knew. My husband who has been in tech is not happy about a diversity program that seems to exclude men. He strongly felt that Google’s Diversity program was promoting reverse discrimination.  My 17-year-old daughter’s utopian mindset feels that people should be hired based on skills and abilities regardless of gender, race, etc.  My point of view, as a long time HR professional, was different. I’ve seen more of the reality & ugliness in the workplace and been subject to racial discrimination in the past. This made me a bit more skeptical about objections to Google’s policies. Given what I’d read from a fellow HR pro, the manifesto was more about the author’s sexist opinions than the diversity program.

 

HiddenFiguresI reminded my daughter of the movie, “Hidden Figures.” It not only focused on women in tech, but people of color who excelled in the face of discrimination and segregation in the workplace. Unfortunately, we haven’t advanced much in our thinking. Inequality and inequity still exist in professional environments. If programs such as Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity hadn’t come into play, would we even be where we are now? She has the perfect mindset, if only we could convince everyone to think the same…sadly, the better candidate often faces a hiring manager whose mindset denies them the opportunity they’ve earned.

After reading the anti-diversity screed, I agree with Google’s decision to terminate the author (Damore). Google released a memo from Pichai to employees in which the chief executive made his reasoning clear: while the company values critical discussion of its diversity programs, parts of Damore’s essay crossed the line “by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai wrote.

The author of the manifesto made sexist statements and promoted a view of women that created a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is a workplace situation in which an employee cannot reasonably perform his or her work due to certain behaviors by management or co-workers that are deemed hostile. Google will be in violation of California Labor code if the author continues to be employed. His view on women in the workforce will not likely change in the near future. Even after his termination, he remained steadfast in his views and showed no remorse. Who would want to work with him? I know I wouldn’t! His views will only result in discrimination for women in the workforce, especially in tech.

However, the termination of Damore is not the end of Google’s problem with their Diversity program. It is only a chapter in their growing problem with diversity, which unfortunately plagues other industries as well, not just the tech industry.

DiversityConversations about diversity in the workplace are not new. They’ve been around for at least 30 years, but we’re still talking about diversity like it’s a new thing.  Jackson, S. E. (Ed.) cited descriptive case studies from prominent organizations such as Xerox, Digital Equipment, Pacific Bell, American Express, Coopers & Lybrand, and Pepsi-Cola International.  The case studies cover international diversity and merging corporate cultures, as well as ethnic, gender, and lifestyle differences (The professional practice series. Diversity in the workplace: Human resources initiatives. New York: Guilford Press, 1992).

Over the last 30 years there has been progress, but serious challenges remain. Thousands of business case cite the reasons that diversity matters, and establishes the ways in which it drives revenue, motivates employees, and fosters innovation. Yet, somehow, it often leads to unsatisfying debates without advancing diversity.

Many large companies invest in diversity efforts and appoint chief diversity officers, yet are frustrated with the inadequate results.  Studies have shown that this is often a result of poorly designed plans.  Diversity is not just about hiring people who are in a protected class. It is certainly not about excluding those who are not in a protected class.  Doing so will be considered reverse discrimination.  According to J. Greenberg, “Diversity encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education, background, etc. Diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves, but how they perceive others. Those perceptions affect their interactions. For a wide assortment of employees to function effectively as an organization, human resource professionals need to deal effectively with issues such as communication, adaptability and change.” (http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/diversity/diversity-in-the-workplace-benefits-challenges-solutions.asp.)

Diversity2Diversity should be about inclusion and not exclusion. It’s about avoiding stereotypes and biases. It should be about focusing on individual’s strengths and capabilities. Perhaps rather than reinventing the wheel or looking at old formulas for diversity, we need to look at those who succeeded in fostering diversity and explore the reasons for their success.  The latest example of the power of inclusiveness can be seen in the 2016 Best Workplaces for Diversity list.  Diversity is not just about numbers. It’s not about having an equal number of each group represented. Diversity is about having an inclusive culture where everyone can have a potential to be successful, included, valued, and respected regardless of differences.

#HR #Diversity #Leadership #SHRM #EEO #AffirmativeAction #Tech