How close is the Diversity problem?
Dear Emerging Ally,
So you’ve started this journey of allyship and are listening and reading. You’ve Googled and watched movies. It is interesting. Shocking. Perhaps even confusing. But often we question if it happens here. My life. My company. Those stories are always other places. Or other times.
To fully grasp the task at hand and the nearness of the issue, I recommend the following exercises.
First open up your company’s annual report. Glide past the canned photos and the feel good prose. Look at the picture of the leadership team: the CEO and their directs. Count how many are white men. Chances are a majority. These are the people that run the company. They decide promotions, HR policy, budgets, salaries and the size of bonus pools.
Do this with the board of directors as well. You may find that the board has several diverse candidates. Getting diversity on a board is easier. Even then white men most likely are more than half. They set the company’s strategy.
Now go down your organizational chart and do the same thing. These are the tactical decision makers. These are the people who recommend promotions. Dole out salary increases and divide the bonus pool. Decide who goes on which projects. Who gets visibility in an organization.
Finally in meetings you attend take a moment and count the number of women or minorities. Again white men will rule the day. Many women I know count the gender gap in each meeting. They know.
If your organization passes these tests then wonderful! I hope I am wrong but I somehow doubt it. Certain industries may have more issues than others: Insurance comes to mind. Certain professions also have trouble attracting diverse talent. STEM professions have issues. My own Actuarial profession has this problem.
Understanding the closeness of the issue is a major step. Everyone thinks the issue is always somewhere else. And that’s easy to do. It’s tough to see the forest for the trees sometimes. You have your daily issues and are heads down on the fire in front of you. You don’t hear about these problems near you so you push them to somewhere else in your mind. You give to help hunger abroad but don’t see the homeless on your street. .
These issues are not new. Nor will they be solved in a day. But they are also not somewhere else. They are right around you and in the orbit of your daily life. They are within reach to fix and not some abstract problem. It is something near. Because it is near you can help because the opportunities to help are around you.
As you move along this journey of allyship, recognition that the issues are in front of you is key. You can’t act on what you can’t reach.
I hope this helps. I look forward to future conversations. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.