Anybody that works at a publicly traded company large enough to warrant an HR department has heard about the dire need to “improve diversity.” Anybody who watches / reads news has certainly also heard this statement.
This statement is taken as fact. Diversity must be “improved.”
To question any aspect of this is to invite accusations of racism, or insert your favorite “____ist” or “____phobic” pejorative here.
The question that is never asked is the most critical question:
How does one define “perfect” diversity?
Unless somebody can do that, they can’t possibly “improve” it. Until you do that, you can’t even measure with any degree of certainty that you aren’t making matters worse with your efforts.
Here’s a rule that universally applies to anything that anyone, at anytime is trying to improve:
If you can’t define – explicitly – what “improvement” even looks like, then you have no business changing anything.
Until one knows exactly where the “bullseye” is, how does one even take aim at it – let alone hit it?
Is perfect diversity defined as an equal proportion of each race / gender / gender identity / sexual preference of the surrounding community being employed with equal proportions inside your company? Does age weigh into it? What about physical attractiveness? Height? Weight? There are literally an infinite number of ways one can define “diversity.”
How exactly does it work? People really need to stop and think about this because again – it’s the single most important question.
Is the “surrounding community” considered the city limits? The county? The state? The country? The entire planet? Serious question. What is it?
OK – so let’s assume there is a definition: Your companies’ employees must be hired in equal proportions to the surrounding city in terms of race, gender, gender identity, and sexual preference.
Great. At least now you have a definition of theoretically perfect diversity. That’s a start. Now comes the hard part.
How do you not only achieve this, but maintain it?
Let’s say your office is in City X. City X has the following makeup as of the 2020 Census:
- White: 62.73%
- Black: 19.95%
- Asian: 14.07%
- Native American: 0.35%
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.08%
- Two or more races: 2.40%
- Other race: 0.42%
Now assume you’ve somehow managed to hire everyone you need to hire in the exact proportions to the above. You haven’t. You can’t. But let’s assume for his exercise that you have.
Congratulations! You’ve achieved perfect diversity! Not so fast: You haven’t even considered gender and sexual preference yet. Or age, physical attractiveness, height or weight.
As for gender, there are reliable publicly available statistics. For City X, they are 48.46% males and 51.54% females.
Now imagine you’re not only integrated your workforce at the same racial percentages as above, but you have also achieved the “perfect” 48.46 to 51.54 percent male to female ratio.
You’re still not even close. Sexual preference and gender identity statistics aren’t even available. What about all the other parameters I’ve highlighted?
OK – now you see why this discussion is a lot more complicated than it seems. In fact – you start to see how utterly untenable this entire exercise actually is.
Let’s assume you settle for perfect race and gender representation as “perfect diversity.”
Now – let’s assume you’ve achieved that. Congratulations – or I’m sorry to hear that. I’m honestly not sure which statement is more applicable. I’m leaning towards “sorry to hear that.”
Now comes the maintenance part.
Suppose 4 families of Pacific Islanders decide to move out of City X to Florida to retire. Suppose 4 white families move in.
Does this mean that your large company must now fire some Pacific Islander employees and hire some white employees to replace them?
Do you see where this is going? Are you starting to see why this is on par with some of the worst ideas ever to be taken seriously by large groups of people?
Their are literally hundreds of “Diversity Officers” in companies and colleges across the US. Surely they could provide me with an explicit definition of what constitutes theoretically “perfect” diversity. Until I hear even one person define this – the whole discussion is beyond pointless. I’ve yet to hear anyone even attempt to define it.
So unless and until someone can define exactly what “perfect diversity” is, and how that can be both achieved and maintained, I shall not and will not agree with the statement: “Diversity is our strength.” You are asking me to agree with a word that you can’t even define. I do not agree.
First – define what it is. Then – explain why any organization of any type should attempt to implement it.
Please define exactly what perfect diversity is before lecturing others about their need to “improve” it.