my employer says they’re committed to diversity — how can I hold them to accountable to that?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

As a white woman working in a company that is not very diverse, I’d like to speak up and hold the company to account over their commitment to diversity. I work in the head office of a large retailer and they shared a generic “Black Lives Matter” post recently. We do use diverse models in our marketing communications, but it seems to me that that’s as far as their commitment to diversity goes.

I plan to write to HR to ask about our current data on employee diversity, and what action we intend to take beyond sharing the post on social media. But beyond writing to HR, what else can I do? Is this something that your readers could share some ideas about?

I’m throwing this out to readers to weigh in on.

One key thing, though, is to make sure you’re focusing not just on diversity but on equity and inclusion too. It’s not enough just to change your demographics! Companies need to work to ensure that people of color truly feel included; receive the same type of feedback, opportunites, and mentorship as white staff; feel safe speaking up and their voices are truly heard; and their careers can thrive. So it’s about way more than just recruiting and hiring — it’s about the culture and every aspect of how managers and teams operate. Don’t let them off the hook by framing it as just about diversity.

{ 363 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Important update: Half an hour into the post being open, I’m going to ask that we let people of color take the lead here, per some requests last week. White people, our role in this one is to listen, not to take a major role in the discussion (similar to what I’ve occasionally asked in the past on posts about LGBTQ issues).

  2. AdvocatingAsAGroup*

    My former company had an interesting experience with this. The company I worked for was well regarded for their diversity measures. They had made the decision that inclusion was not enough. Instead of ensuring that women and people of color receive the _same_ feedback, opportunities, and mentorship as men and white staff, they created special advancement and recruitment programs to ensure that women and people of color received elevated opportunities and mentorship and expanded feedback to make up for the barriers they likely encountered early in their career.

    As a result, we had highly diverse leadership at all levels.

    Then came the buyout.

    We were bought out by a much larger European corporation. One of the earliest town hall meetings introduced us to their top four levels of management team. First level, all white men. Second level, all white men. Third level, finally one women, still all white. Fourth level, a scattering of women, still all white.

    It came time for the questions, the first interface between new leadership and the company they had just acquired. A forest of hands shot up, and the first question was, “How will your company commit itself to diversity? And not just diversity of sleeve length?” Stunned, they gave a reply about how they ensure to identify strong candidates at all levels. Second question, “Why do you only identify strong candidates instead of mentoring and developing leadership in people of color and women early in their careers?”

    It went on and on through a dozen plus questions, each questioning new company’s commitment to diversity and nothing else before the town hall shut down. Once the first question was raised in such a prominent and forward way, everyone else acted as a group.

    Now, the issues of diversity in parent company are not fixed, but they are dramatically different from what they once were. And no one has let up at the town halls.

    1. NGL*

      That is amazing. Both for the company to set up such a clear plan to ensure women and BIPOC are getting additional support, but the (continuing!) visibility of the issue at town halls.

    2. JohannaCabal*

      Were the management team members all Europeans? I ask because I sometimes find that Europeans sometimes aren’t as clued in on diversity issues as they should be (see recent pr BLM protests on the Continent). Sometimes it’s a matter of ignorance.

      I keep thinking of the Eastern European exchange student in high school who couldn’t get over seeing non-white people out and about. She was coming from some small city in Croatia so she really wasn’t used to seeing non-white people. I think the host family had a conversation with her and she stopped making loud remarks in public, thankfully.

      I’m glad no one in the town hall backed down!

      1. ThatGirl*

        Our new ownership (as of 2018) is German, and our two presidents are German and Irish, and I have strongly suspected this is part of the reason for their milquetoast response – they don’t quite understand it.

        I am following all of these comments with interest because I definitely want to do my part as a white lady and hold leadership’s feet to the fire.

        1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          I know a lot of Germans well and have traveled extensively in Germany. They do understand it. Don’t let them off the hook.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Thanks – there’s also this idea that we can’t be “political” which I frankly think is nonsense for so many reasons, but that’s a separate issue. If I’m gonna stay at this company long-term, they need to actually enact change, not just talk about it.

          2. A Teacher*

            Same with Irish. I’m Irish. We do understand; or, at least, being Irish is not the reason for not understanding. Hold them to it.

      2. selena*

        I think the difference might have been that in europe there is generally way more of a concern that positive discrimination merely creates new victim-groups: thus you can only fight inequality by enforcing strict equality and not by (temporarily) elevating one group

        1. temp-a-non*

          This is not just a European thing. Everyone in leadership likes to think they got there solely by merit and hard work. If everyone in leadership is a white guy, why then that just goes to show how HARD it is to find qualified “others” for these roles!

          People choose comfortable myths over difficult truths.

            1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*


              Creating diversity means recognizing privilege. It doesn’t meant that the people at the top aren’t smart or didn’t work hard, but it has to be understanding that not everyone has those advantages. And that just because someone didn’t, doesn’t mean they can’t be a huge asset to the organization.

              I think too key areas organizations need to work on are examining their own biases and also recruiting. In recruiting, if an organization is having trouble getting diverse applicants, they ahve to intentionally examine that and find other places. If the are getting diverse applicants, but mainly straight people, or white people, or men, are moving on the processes, they have to ask why, and rigorously test why they are weeding out certain applicants. is it that they only recruit from certain schools? Or only people who seem to a be a good “cultural fit.” Point a finger at those things and try to change them.

              I think most importantly, senior leaders and also staff need to check their biases, and should use training and tools available through organizations like They should be introspective. It’s not enough to say “We need more women in top leadership.” People need to be aware of their own blindspots and biases. They have to look inwards to be better in the outside world.

              This stuff is not rocket science if someone wants to do it. But it’s work, and it’s easy to pay it lip service.

        2. Mathou*

          There is definitely a culture difference, although that has been changing lately. I can’t speak for all of Europe, but in France, “universality” is really big. There is a lot of pushback when speaking about race ; personnally, I have been raised with the idea that “there is just one race, the human race” and “there are no races, it is racist to say otherwise”. It is not just my family. Ethnic statistics are forbidden, for instance.
          The intent is fine when you don’t really think about it for more than 2 seconds, but of course it falls short as soon as you see that there are issues for specific members of the population.

      3. Cambridge Comma*

        I’m not sure this is the month for the US to congratulate itself at being better at diversity than other countries and continents.

      4. Koala dreams*

        One problem is that the US definitions of race doesn’t translate very well to Europe, where racism is seen as more of a grey scale thing than a black and white thing (see for example the recent debate about racism and Brexit). There are of course plenty of ignorant people too, and consciously racist people for that matter.

      5. AdvocatingAsAGroup*

        The very top level management is German, but it is a large international company with leadership from all over the world. I think there were some distinct cultural differences, but it was beyond just national cultures (e.g. part of it was definitely driven by the primary industries of each company).

    3. Today's OP*

      Wow! Good on you and your colleagues for calling the new company out! I hope that by speaking up, I can encourage others to do the same. You’ve inspired me that change is possible. Thank you for sharing.

    4. Kiki*

      I think this demonstrates how important it is for companies to treat DI&E as a top priority and not just an initiative they sort of kind of have going on that’s secondary to other work. When the company makes something a priority and makes every single employee aware that it is a priority, that’s when real change happens. So many companies say, “we would like to be more diverse but we don’t know how!” and then wave their hands and consider it handled. It takes time, effort, and resources to make change and a lot of companies like to ignore that.

    5. juliebulie*

      That sounds so much like my employer. They talk about diversity, and wanting to develop talent from within; but when there’s a vacancy in the top levels, they always go with an outside person, almost always a white or Asian man.

      It’s better than it was when they acquired a few years ago, but I’d say the reality still doesn’t live up to the rhetoric.

      They are similarly full of crap about being “green,” but I’ll stop there… it’s just disheartening when your employer tells you all this stuff when you can see that their actions aren’t coming from the same place.

      1. AdvocatingAsAGroup*

        Yeah, former company definitely made it a priority to hire from within. Now that we are a division of larger company, that practice has still mostly continued.

    6. sofar*

      Yes, I think constant questioning and speaking up and pushing back (like you all did) are all so important.

      Our company division laid off our ONLY black employee a few weeks ago. And then the protests started happening. And all of a sudden, our leadership was like, “Hey let’s repromote the content [laid off employee] produced for our blog!” Our department was like, “Nope, we are not going to resurrect zombie content from a writer of color who has been laid off. That’s bad on a number of levels.”

      White leadership will always ALWAYS take the path of least resistance. So make their quick and easy bandaid fixes more difficult. Question them. They will only embark on the harder stuff (diversity in hiring) if you remove the easy fixes as an option.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        All of this. And I’m glad you and your colleagues shut that down – that’s incredibly gross that they were planning on using his content after letting him go and pretending like they aren’t part of the problem.

    7. Elle*

      I genuinely laughed out loud at “diversity of sleeve length”. That’s brilliant and I’m stealing that line.

    8. zora*

      We had the same thing when purchased by a Canadian company, when asked about diversity in the first open town hall, they were completely stunned. It was as if we were speaking a completely different language.

      Unfortunately, the follow up you describe did not happen, the conversation was redirected after a few minutes and years later it seems like the Canadian C-Suite just really don’t grasp the problem at all.

  3. Anon Anon*

    This is a great question. There is a lot of virtue signaling out there right now. I know the company I work for put out a statement, but yet our leadership is exclusively white, and our c-suite staff are all older white men with the exception of one older white woman. I’m not sure how to advocate that actions speak louder than words, and a statement on diversity means very little if it’s not reflected by the organization’s actions.

    Although to be fair, we do have a demographically balanced work force, it’s just that it’s all at the lower levels of the organization.

    1. Jennifer*

      I was glad to see some former employees call out these companies for virtue signaling on social media. One example was Adrienne Law who called out ESPN after they said they were going to start examining racial bias when they treated her like garbage when she spoke out about their discrimination policies back in 2017.

      1. Anon Anon*

        I am as well. However, it’s difficult when you work for an organization that you believe is just virtue signaling (especially smaller organizations), because you can’t speak out without endangering your own job and career.

        But, I do think it’s pretty critical for all of us to start examining those companies we interact with to start asking what actions are being taken. What is being done. And to vote with our dollars. It’s why I shop at Lowe’s not Home Depot.

        1. Jennifer*

          I agree. I have made a point of trying to buy more from black-owned business. I learned a lot of business owners are afraid to state that they are black-owned on social media because it results in a lot of racist abuse. But many changed their minds on blackout Tuesday.

          Companies could make an effort to use black-owned businesses when possible as vendors.

        2. Melody Pond*

          I’m not familiar with the difference you’re referring to, between Lowe’s and Home Depot. Is Lowe’s doing a better job at equity and inclusion? Would you mind explaining?

          1. ThatGirl*

            Lowe’s CEO is black – one of the few out there – and the company reaffirmed their commitment to equality a couple weeks ago and are giving $25m in grants to minority owned businesses. The retired Home Depot co-founder, on the other hand, has donated big bucks to our current president in the past.

            (It’s a little more nuanced since both companies are part of PACs that donate to both political parties, but that’s what people are focusing on.)

          2. Ohlaurdy*

            Lowe’s has a black CEO and has (so far) put its money where its mouth is by planning to invest $25m in minority-owned businesses. Home Depot’s co-founder donated millions to the 2016 Trump campaign.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      I would say “most” of what we’re seeing from corporations right now is virtue signaling and trend hopping. As you said, many of these companies don’t have black employees at high levels and a lot don’t even have lower level employees from this demographic. It’s disingenuous, and I’ve been deleting every single one of these insulting ass emails.

      Until hiring practices change and companies make a true effort to retain minority employees like Alison correctly pointed out above, this shit will be all talk and nothing will change.

      1. Anon Anon*

        I agree. I do think it’s most. I think there are some exceptions (Ben & Jerry’s for example), but most are virtue signaling. The dangerous part is that I think many don’t think they are.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yeah, Ben & Jerry’s has been about this life long before it became “cool,” and they got a lot of shit for it, too. Now these same people who used to complain about their donations to black charities are hashtagging about black lives mattering, and it’s laughable.

          If these companies really give a damn, move in silence and do the work without trying to get public accolades.

          1. lmgtfy*

            ben & jerrys has significantly contributed to the subjugation of palestine and its people (a simple google search will show as much)

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              That’s unfortunate. I don’t ice cream from them, so I hope the people who do vote with their money.

            2. Coffee Cup*

              I just went to read up a bit on that, and while I understand and agree with the activism around the issue, saying that they “significantly contributed” is a bit much, unless I am missing some information.

              1. lmgtfy*

                i think the homey, hippie, “resistance” cult of personality around them (that they actively cultivate) contributes to how significant it is; it’s not like raytheon selling weapons in the middle east or something, which is (while not okay) to be expected because they’re a sh*t company regardless

                1. Natalie*

                  Seems like the big difference is that one of the companies sells *weapons* and the other one sells ice cream.

          2. Kiki*

            Right, I think that the reason a lot of these statements ring hollow is because we know that until two weeks ago, this stuff was not even a blip on the companies’ radar.

        2. zora*

          Oh no, NONE of these companies think they are virtue signaling. That’s the thing, white supremacy is so deeply ingrained. Any individual in a company writing these statements is completely genuine in thinking this is the right thing to do, it just hasn’t occurred that there is a much more deeply-rooted problem that they haven’t even noticed.

    3. Today's OP*

      This is what prompted me to ask the question. I’ve seen so many companies post on social media, but no other statements about what else they’re doing to make the company more inclusive. I want to believe that my company is doing more than I can see, but I want to be armed with ideas for further action if it turns out they’re paying lip service with a post on Instagram.
      I also work in a sector that has a more balanced work force at the lower levels, so I’ve asked HR a question about what we’re doing to support and promote more people to leadership roles.

      1. DinoGirl*

        I do want to add to this point that our staff Demanded statements be issued, fast, and management was reluctant for this reason- didn’t want it to be hollow and a plan for real change takes more time. It’s interesting to see the perspectives on this here.

    4. Wendyroo*

      And that’s exactly the problem. If leadership isn’t diverse, neither is the company. I don’t care how many black receptionists and janitors work there. If bipoc aren’t empowered to make decisions and contribute in a meaningful way, imo it doesn’t count.

  4. hayling*

    My company is launching “affinity groups” for all different types of people–this is something they piloted earlier in the year but it’s just picking up now. Here’s the description if you want to pitch to your company:

    Affinity Groups are created and run by employees who share a common community or identity, and they play a vital role in ensuring an inclusive environment where all are valued and empowered to succeed.

    Affinity Groups create space for employees to develop relationships and share experiences, voice concerns and solve problems, and plan events and activities that promote awareness & professional growth.

    The program assists these groups by offering financial and organizational support, as well as access to decision-makers. The program also facilitates open communication from Affinity Groups to leadership regarding employee/community issues, needs, and ideas.

        1. Anon Anon*

          I think for me it also has the danger of pigeon holing employees. If you have no people of color in your organization’s leadership then what is even the point in meeting as a group to discuss your challenges, etc? That to me just becomes a whining session. I mean I’m not interested in just meeting with a group of women none of which who can help me move up the ladder and develop the skills I need to get that next promotion or to get on track to join the leadership team myself.

          1. Elisabeth M*

            I can see it being positive if it’s well structured and well framed. What I like about it, in theory at least: 1) it encourages members of the company to organize in a grassroots way around common needs and perspectives, based on what they perceive from their role on the ground; 2) it formalizes lines of communication between employee groups and leadership so that leadership is less unaware of the experiences of various groups within the company. In both cases it’s addressing the problem of leadership making assumptions (shooting in the dark) about what their team really needs.

            I don’t see it as pigeon-holing people, because folks can choose to form their own groups based on identities that they feel are in need of a collective voice. I don’t see it as a whine session, because the groups can choose to spend their time identifying common issues, problem-solving, and formulating strategic proposals. I guess it could be cliquish or unproductive depending on the company culture, but I can imagine the opposite outcome as well.

            I’m really curious to hear from the OP how it shakes out in practice.

            1. Anon Anon*

              I think the key for me is how structured these groups would be and what the specific professional development opportunities are available. I guess I’ve been burned by women’s groups that were advertised as a why to enhance and build your professional skills that I felt were really just gripe sessions and didn’t change anything.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            I was involved in starting a group like this within my company. Ours was for women. Some women felt like you, and no one wanted the group to be a place where we could hold a bitch session about work.

            You actually have to get involved to create the change you want to see. Ours was started by women who were in lower levels of management at the time. We got executive buy-in from our division to start and support the program locally, and within 2 years the program was implemented at the corporate level and has full support of the CEO. The current program doesn’t look the same as what we started, but the fundamental needs we identified within our division are being met, and we’re carrying on a lot of the things we initiated 5 years ago.

            Not only that, we were successful in getting corporate parental leave policies changed, and some other policy things. We have women in executive roles that were all completely male before.

            We had to get some male exec involvement to get things done initially, but now that we have female executives, we have women in the roles to help speak for our org and provide sponsorship to other women coming up the ladder.

            Some people don’t like it, and you’ll always have someone from the majority group pissing on your party (i.e. the guy on Yammer who wants to know when we’ll sponsor the college “men in construction” day), but I think it has been a great thing and in my experience, really did make some changes to the culture and policies.

          3. Kes*

            So, my work has these and I do think it can be useful. In my case I’m in the one for women and there are women in upper levels, just not as many as men. Having events to network can provide support generally and also we have had a mentorship program, for example, where I was mentored by someone at a higher level than myself and also was a mentor to someone more junior.
            Also, to Alison’s frequent point of raising issues as a group, I think it’s likely easier for the leaders of xyz affinity group to raise issues than just speaking up as a random employee. However in my experience, meetings are less focused on complaining about issues and more about connecting with those in the same group for support and networking and spending time with other women in the company vs our usual day-to-day being one of fewer women in a field that skews heavily male.

          4. Death By Procedure*

            Anon Anon, this is exactly the problem with diversity groups: “I’m not interested in just meeting with a group of women none of which who can help me move up the ladder and develop the skills I need to get that next promotion or to get on track to join the leadership team myself.”

            Unless these groups have allies in the levels of power, usually white or asian men in my field, no real change will happen.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, no. Members of marginalized groups often want spaces where they can discuss issues unique to them among themselves — it’s a way to talk about, for example, sexism or racism with other people who are experiencing it and share tactics, discuss approaches, formulate proposals, etc. It might not be for you, but they’re certainly not akin to high school cliques.

          1. Anon Anon*

            But, I would assume that these kind of groups would have be handled with great care. And be highly structured. I would assume the function of providing a space to discuss unique issues to them also would mean providing the members of the group the professional development resources and mentorship to address those issues and to advance within the organization.

            I guess I can see how this could quickly spiral out of hand, especially if there is not a member of the team who is in a senior leadership role within the organization.

            1. Jennifer*

              I do get what you’re saying. Leadership could view it as “Well, they have their little group. Now they can’t complain.” And then do nothing about the real issues raised. However, if done well, I think it could help.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                This would be my concern. I have never worked for a company that paid attention to anything an affinity group brought up. I don’t think that’s a unique experience, either.

                1. Jennifer*

                  I haven’t either, honestly, but it sounds like they are really trying at hayling’s company.

                2. AnotherAlison*

                  I am not a person of color and my experience is only with a women’s group (which has since branched off with groups supporting other underrepresented groups), but I believe the reason that the women’s affinity group at my work was able to be successful is that while it was grass roots from one division, the COO had a personal interest in the group for personal reasons. I mean, the problems have existed forever, and the people at the bottom keep working away to find solutions, but it takes one person at the top to say the issue is important to them to really get things changed. I am not trying to explain that this is how you form a group that makes a difference, because I think ours was a bit serendipitous and not an easy set of circumstances to replicate for any company and all types of affinity groups, but I wanted to share why I thought ours did have some clout.

                3. anon for this*

                  My company doesn’t exactly have affinity groups, but it does have a women in tech group. One of the things the women in tech group does, for instance, is lead a question and answer session about the quarterly earnings call. It has some higher-level sponsors (guys, fwiw) who make themselves available for discussion and questions. Men and women attend. This is in addition to outreach and mentorship for women. The opportunity to interact more directly with higher-ups in the company and focus on learning more about the financials of the company is really useful.

          2. Adrienne*

            This thread is getting…weird.

            Affinity groups, otherwise called, Employee Resource Groups or ERGs can be extremely beneficial to a diverse organization.

          3. hayling*

            Thank you for adding context, Alison! I was surprised that there was a negative reaction. I feel like my employer really takes diversity seriously and we had a really meaningful all-hands last week about BLM and I think the Affinity Groups are a great program.

          1. Lucy*

            That’s not at all what the commenter is describing. I’m a person of color, and if I had a group where employees of my background could come together and talk about racism that we have experienced, I would be much happier at my job. Instead, I’ve had to navigate some really difficult conversations on my own.
            When you say “separate but equal,” I assume you are referring to American segregation in the 20th century. As you likely know, segregation was not actually equal; it put people of color, especially black people, at a significant disadvantage, and it was based off of racist myths such as the idea that black people would give white people diseases. Before you invoke that history in this discussion, please ask yourself why you think an established group where people of color can talk about racism in the workplace in any way resembles anti-black segregation.
            I don’t want to assume what your race/background is, but I know that I have had this conversation over and over again with white people, since I was a child. I have found that a lot of people have an initial reaction of discomfort because they were taught that the best way to be anti-racist is to be colorblind. That attitude often ignores the legitimate ways that people of color are still being left out of the workplace. A group that allows a collective to have a voice while also fostering camaraderie is in no way equivalent to a “separate but equal” policy.

            1. Star*

              I was composing this comment in my head, and then scrolled down and found that you’ve written it and better than my version as well. *concurs heartily*

          2. un-pleased*

            I mean, the whole point there is that the Supreme Court in the Brown v, Board decision w as saying that even if things were equal ++and they were not++, segregation would not be acceptable. The de jure and de facto segregation for the purpose of subjugation of part of the population they were talking about is a very, very different beast than a corporate or academic affinity group which allows people a space to talk about how they experience identity related challenges and discuss change measure.

          3. Rhythm of the Night*

            Like Allison said above, those of us in minority or less privileged groups need to come together to share our own frustrations, tactics, and more. It’s not separate but equal (which privileges the powerful), it’s taking our own space to take care from those in power. It’s community care and protection.

        1. Today's OP*

          This is interesting! The name ‘Affinity Groups’ does feel a little icky to me too. But I used to work in a company that had ‘Employee Networks’ that did a similar job and were fairly well regarded and attended.
          I’ve seen this type of network work well, but it’s not my place to set one up for a group that I’m not part of.

          1. Lynn*

            Yes! “Affinity” is such a weird word to use for this! An “affinity” group sounds like a place where people would get together to discuss their hobbies, not issues of equality in the workplace.

            1. Elisabeth M*

              It makes sense to me. I hear it as “what we have in common,” which could be anything. I like that it’s so open-ended. You could form a group around any commonality, any shared identity, which means it’s flexible enough to fit any employee need over the life of the company, and that strikes me as cool.

      1. Elizabeth*

        Affinity groups in the workplace seem to me to be an outgrowth of affinity groups that have existed on university campuses for decades: Black Student Unions, Jewish Student Associations/Hillel, Muslim Student Associations.

        When done well, it can be a good place to make new friends who may have similar life experiences, especially for freshman. Though note I said “may”, obviously belonging to specific group does not mean you will have anything in common with other people in that group.

        There are a couple problems with affinity groups in the workplace. One is that you really need to have a large, and already diverse, workforce for these groups to form. Second, it groups people by race, ethnicity, religion, etc, which can open up issues of discrimination. Third, in my experience, it puts the onus on these groups to create an inclusive environment for themselves, an not on the bosses, who should be the one ensuring an inclusive environment.

        Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of the idea.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          There are a couple problems with affinity groups in the workplace. One is that you really need to have a large, and already diverse, workforce for these groups to form. Second, it groups people by race, ethnicity, religion, etc, which can open up issues of discrimination. Third, in my experience, it puts the onus on these groups to create an inclusive environment for themselves, an not on the bosses, who should be the one ensuring an inclusive environment.

          These are my biggest issues with them in the workplace. I was tangentially involved with my school’s BSU when I was in college and it was great, but most of the companies I’ve worked for don’t even have a handful of black employees in the same location, so how in the world would such a group form and thrive, you know? And I totally agree with your point about companies essentially putting the onus of correcting systemic racial disparities in the workplace on the backs of the marginalized people working there, which is foul.

      2. Another worker bee*

        When I was in graduate school (in an extremely male dominated field), our department and the 3 adjacent departments had a women’s group. There were about 15 of us out of 300 total students, and most of them were people I would not have met randomly because I was actually the ONLY female in my subprogram. We did have some token effort at being mentored ourselves by senior female faculty members, etc. but mostly, we did a lot of outreach – in hopes that future generations of physical science grad students will be more than 5% female. And also, I just appreciated having the camaraderie of other women in science and social events that were designed with women in mind. So many of the social activities and perks in fields like that are designed by men, for men.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          My first formal exposure to women in STEM outreach was in 9th grade in the early 90s, and as a women majoring in engineering and having things like SWE around. My engineering school had an administrator for women and underrepresented minorities even back then. I take it for granted that these programs exist and have a positive impact. In 2020, it’s so weird to me that people are suspicious of such things.

      3. Namelesscommentator*

        My gut negativity is because it feels like it’s a form of marginalization. “Have these conversations privately so others don’t have to be burdened By your reality.”

        I think it needs to be paired with active reporting to the whole group, sensitivity trainings, etc..

        And perhaps most importantly, a stipend for the work on DEI and in affinity groups that is all too often uncompensated.

    1. Elisabeth M*

      That sounds really interesting. It makes me wonder how the communication between the affinity group and the leadership is facilitated … what that process looks like.

      1. Grits McGee*

        We have affinity groups at my federal agency that sound very similar to what hayling’s workplace is doing. The groups can streamline communication to our agency head via the affinity group coordinator, who is a senior official, but I don’t know how much effect that has had on the overall diversity of our agency.

        1. Elisabeth M*

          It really does depend on leadership being willing to take proposals seriously, doesn’t it! Otherwise it’s just a token gesture on the part of leadership, which is gross. But Hayling’s scenario sounds legit in that they are investing actual dollars into the groups – that bodes well!

          1. Grits McGee*

            Definitely- our leadership put the kibosh on any public programs related to topics that seemed likely to get the attention of the current administration, which meant the cancellation of some planned events by the affinity groups.

        2. Emi.*

          We call them “Advisory Committees” at my agency and each one of them has a “senior champion” who may or may not belong to the identity the group is organized around.

      2. DinoGirl*

        I think this is crucial. Our experience with affinity groups has been challenging, but not because I think they’re a bad idea…I think they’re a great idea, but only if management truly wants to give them an ear and there’s some established way that works. As a middle-manager I’ve struggled with how to get this initiative working better.

    2. hayling*

      I should note that every Affinity Group gets up to $10k/year for events, professional development, etc., so my employer is definitely putting their money where their mouth is.

    3. beanie gee*

      Perhaps your description is missing some detail or context that the rest of us are missing.

      You’re dividing people up into their identity groups to make them feel more included?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No, they’re recognizing that racism and sexism are real (not pretending to be color blind or so forth) and offering people who want it a place where they can talk and organize with people who share a similar identity and likely a similar set of challenges within the company.

        1. ambivalent*

          But if it’s only for people who want to join, can, for example, a white person join an ethnic association group for example? Presumably no? But then, that sounds like exclusion? How “ethnic” would you have to be? I am mixed race and I do find these associations off-putting. I have a colleague who told me there was an ethnic association for a certain Asian group, that was excluding people from the same country of origin unless they were ethnically pure (of course they argued it was about cultural differences, but it doesn’t seem like that to me, since discrimination of this group is well known in this country). Isn’t this in seriously dangerous territory?

          1. UKDancer*

            In our company you can absolutely join any network you wish and they welcome allies. So I’m in the BAME network to support my BAME staff and learn to be a better manager. I’ve never known them exclude anyone. My understanding is that the company won’t fund any network which operates exclusions but I don’t know the detail.

      2. Bostonian*

        Nobody’s being divided. They are groups that are open to anyone who wants to participate.

        And at my company, that means anyone, including allies. The events that these groups sponsor are thoughtful and engaging. It includes everything from external speakers coming in to talk about a specific topic, panel events, networking events, and career development events. Again, anyone can attend these events because we want our allies to be informed and included in the conversation, as well. The people who show up are the ones that want to make a difference.

        I’m actually a little taken aback at how many people think affinity groups are a bad idea. Maybe you just haven’t seen them in their intended form? I encourage you to read “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?”

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Right? People think this is a bad idea?

          Like yours, our women’s group involved everyone, not just women. We intentionally invited men to attend our events. They don’t understand the issues if they aren’t informed.

          As for “dividing people into groups”, no, that’s what was already happening. The men were socializing and networking in their own groups, and the 10% of the office that was female were left out of the professional network all together. I would love it if all the men and women networked together. We do, and we’re building it more and more, but the affinity group helps raise awareness to the men that women should be included in their offsite events and also teaches everyone how to interact professionally with people of all genders. This is a world where people assume Alison won’t go to XYZ event because I had kids and wouldn’t even extend the invitation. Now, people are learning that women can have the same childcare arrangements at home as the men and we can and want to do things outside of the office. It takes things like that to get us to the next step where affinity groups and special programs aren’t needed.

          1. Quill*

            Groups that are opt-in rather than opt out are usually better in terms of inclusion, but sometimes the entire point of ethnicity, gender, or other marginalized group specific gatherings is to go around people who would shut down discussion of equal treatment, knowingly or unknowingly.

        2. UKDancer*

          My company does something similar. These are open to anyone including allies and they are voluntary not obligatory. We have them for various groups alongside an established trade union. They run events, organise activities and help their members with career development (mentoring, reviewing job applications etc).

          They are very well regarded and the chairs meet regularly with the CEO and the management board of the company to discuss issues. Each network has a board member who is their designated point of contact / champion and it seems to work very well from my experience.

        3. Anononon*

          Yes, I’m confused by the backlash well. In my local bar association (for a major US city), there are a number of affinity groups based on religion, race, and ethnicity. They all play major roles in supporting the legal community and providing for opportunities both to lawyers and law school students.

    4. I Need a Screen Name*

      Some people will see it as self-segregation, but these types of groups have been very beneficial to their memberships in various other venues, such as student & professional groups. They encourage honesty, provide support, and give people a structured place to focus on the work/study without performing the “appropriate/reassuring” behaviors often required by the dominant social group.

    5. Littleteapotshortandstout*

      My (large) company has these, but they’re called Employee Resource Groups. They all have a sponsor who is not necessarily a member of the community, but is a senior manager in the company and therefore can help elevate ideas or push through solutions. So far, they have been successful in advising leadership on various topics, developing training and language, establishing internships and other placement programs, etc. I personally think they’re a positive addition to the workplace, as they allow a community to have a much bigger voice as a group than they would have as individuals. And that can create much needed change.

    6. Jennifer*

      I don’t understand why the reaction to this is so negative. It’s easier sometimes for minorities to speak up about issues that are troubling them when they are in a room with people that look like them and perhaps have experienced the same thing. Sometimes when the issue of racism is brought up in a room with a white majority, the first instinct is for people to get defensive and dismissive. This way if there is an issue that needs to be addressed, the affinity group can discuss it, come up with an action plan, and present it to decision-makers with a united front, instead of as the lone black employee in the room.

      TLDR You don’t have to be included in everything.

          1. Important Moi*

            Charitably speaking it’s an uncomfortable blindspot for some people. Groups for the existence for people who are something other than cis gendered heterosexual white men are somehow problematic in ways people can’t articulate? I don’t have the energy today.

            1. Jennifer*

              Oh, gotcha.

              I think what people don’t get is that nearly every C-Suite, country club, golf course, (and maybe high-end strip club) is an exclusive space for wealthy white men. They have had their own version of these “affinity groups” for centuries. To a lesser extent, white women have had these advantages as well, not to mention that they were able to benefit from white supremacy for years, even if they didn’t have all the benefits of white men. People that don’t look like them organizing in secret has always been viewed as a threat.

              1. Star*

                I think what people don’t get is that nearly every C-Suite, country club, golf course, (and maybe high-end strip club) is an exclusive space for wealthy white men. They have had their own version of these “affinity groups” for centuries.

                This, highlighted and underlined.

              2. Anon Anon*

                I get that. I think my hesitation isn’t that I don’t think the concept isn’t good with support, resources, and the buy-in from the organization, it’s just that I think it would be easy for an organization to to create affinity groups, but not bother to listen to any of the feedback received or provide professional development resources.

                Basically, I am very wary of organizations that virtue signal and/or create programs to give the impression of diversity, but don’t actually act to provide real opportunities for advancement and empowerment.

                1. Important Moi*

                  It is easy for an organization to to create affinity groups, but not bother to listen to any of the feedback received or provide professional development resources. Yes, that can happen.
                  How long do you need to study the possibility that it won’t be successful and come up with all infinite ways to guarantee failure won’t happen before you stop feeling hesitant?

                  Worrying that successful outcomes can’t be guaranteed can be used as justification to do nothing. Maybe you’re not doing that, but I’ve heard this line of reasoning before.

            2. Chinese American*

              I think that’s an unkind and somewhat dismissive assumption. Chinese American here, and my instinctive reaction was that the affinity groups idea feels a bit pigeonhole-y and I doubt that leadership will actually listen to things the groups say, it feels like lip service to make them feel like they’re being supportive. Some of the objections I saw in this thread were along similar lines of thinking. My experience is that people tend to form these groups informally anyways – we don’t need a company-sanctioned forum. I see that hayling clarified later that there’s a specific 10k budget given to them for development and to me, that shows that the company is actually backing up what they’re saying and it might not be just lip service after all. If done right, I think these groups can be a good thing for sure! But I’m not straight, white, or male (I am cis though) and my initial reaction was very mixed and leaning towards negative.

              1. Important Moi*

                I am not sorry for my phrasing.

                You say ” If done right, I think these groups can be a good thing for sure!”

                I’d like examples of affinity groups doing things wrong.

                1. Chinese American*

                  I was more thinking of a space between wrong and right – ineffectiveness. The company thinking just having the group is enough and not actually listening or changing, but because they’ve got these groups, they think they’ve done enough. But as for an actual negative effect, I’ve had racial affinity groups used to push the idea that an institution was diverse and woke and instead it just made me and others feel very self conscious about not being white. It wasn’t the affinity groups themselves that did it, but the larger institution, but it has made me more skeptical of ones that are company organized and not more grassroots.

              2. Jennifer*

                “I think that’s an unkind and somewhat dismissive assumption.”

                It’s not an assumption. It’s what I’ve witnessed with my own eyes. It doesn’t mean that it applies to every white person, but I’m not going to put a disclaimer above every comment.

                I do see your point, but I also think the minority experience is different depending on which minority group you belong to, and I was speaking specifically about anti-black racism, which is what I’ve experienced.

                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  I do see your point, but I also think the minority experience is different depending on which minority group you belong to, and I was speaking specifically about anti-black racism, which is what I’ve experienced.

                  Because this bears repeating.

                2. Chinese American*

                  Fair enough – it’s a common enough reason for the reaction, I think it just felt weird to me because it wasn’t my reason for my reaction. I absolutely agree that the minority experience is different depending on the minority and can only speak to my own – I’m sorry if it felt like I was trying to undermine your experiences or anything along those lines!

      1. Office Chic*

        Hallelujah and thank you for breaking it down like this! I think that often white people have trouble understanding the benefit of spaces that don’t have them in it. I get the fact that at least one commenter has been “burned” by women’s groups in the past. But without these groups throughout the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s (and beyond), opportunities for women would be nowhere near what they are today. That was the benefit of spaces in which women could speak freely about personal and professional issues without worrying about men’s reactions. Similarly, black people often want a space in which we don’t have to worry about how white people are going to react (and often overreact) to everything we say.

        1. Littorally*


          And affinity groups can be highly effective in pushing for change within the organization. Concerted, unified group effort > individual piecemeal efforts.

          I understand that some affinity groups may not act in effective ways, but the idea that they should not exist because minority/underrepresented groups within the company should not have the extra opportunities to network and help each other is so strange to me. Particularly the people trying to cite segregation and act as though employees in affinity groups don’t also interact with their colleagues in the office on a daily basis.

      2. Chinese American*

        I’ve put some of this in my response to Important Moi as well, but I’m WOC and my initial reaction was negative because in my experience, we tend to informally organize anyways. Once the company tries to formalize it, it can start to feel a bit weird and forced and pigeonholing. Like, thanks, but we didn’t need your approval to do this? hayling has since given some concrete details on fiscal support for these groups, which makes me feel better about it, but initially, I wasn’t feeling that optimistic about them.

        1. Chinese American*

          To be clear, what I’m trying to say is that I think there are valid reasons to have a negative reaction to the idea of company sponsored affinity groups that don’t mean you’re against inclusion or not realizing your white privilege or something. I’m more skeptical that companies will do it right.

        2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          “Once the company tries to formalize it, it can start to feel a bit weird and forced and pigeonholing.”

          Have you any experience with that happening, or is this just a worry you would have?

          1. Chinese American*

            It’s based off my general experiences with naturally gravitating towards people who share my cultural experiences and forming groups based on that versus feeling forced or pressured to do so. It’s not like it’s a harsh pressure, but in various settings, I’ve had authority figures give me a vibe of “It’s okay to be Asian and celebrate your culture” and I end up feeling pigeonholed. I actually tend to feel women’s groups do it better – I’ve never gotten the pigeonholing feeling from them.
            Obviously, this isn’t a universal experience and I can’t speak to how other BIPOC expérience it, but the idea that the negative reaction results from reluctance to give space to marginalized groups did feel invalidating to my personal experience.

      3. Anony vas Normandy*

        I really think it’s a control issue. When I was in high school, most of the Black kids socialized with each other and with the very few other non-white students. White students were able to look at that and say “we’re choosing not to socialize with THEM.” But in college, white students got big mad about the Black Student Alliance, NASA, etc, because they were being “excluded.” I believe that white students were fine with (or at least able to ignore) a racial divide as long as it was their choice; but when POC made the choice white students couldn’t handle it.

    7. MMe Defarge*

      I think it sounds a bit as if they ar giving a space for people to meet and share and do activities – but where is the commitment for top management to do the work on themselves to open up decision making to diverse viewpoints. You can get your CEO to wear rainbow laces (or whatever) and it can feel like a great victory, but as the top level thinking continues to be white, cis-het male in character, the affinity groups can be a separate place, and not part of the core of the organisation.
      (ask me how I know)

    8. VI Guy*

      We have something similar, although they are called Advisory Groups. There are three, for POC, women / non-binary, and PWD (people with disabilities). The groups meet to discuss ways in which the workplace might improve, and they are also a resource for senior leadership when they are developing policies and want advice. The groups also lead the planning for related events, essentially educational opportunities, and have dedicated resources to help with this.

      The groups encourage allies to join, and it seems to work well. As someone who is in a couple of the groups, I find that they are well respected and appreciated by senior leadership, which was influenced from the start by senior leaders being assigned a group that they advocate for. I appreciate the allies, as they are open to our suggestions and support us in achieving them.

      These are not at all cliques or bitch sessions! They are welcoming, smart, influential groups of people who are making a difference with policy. I wish that they had more influence in creating equality and inclusivity, yet they are a good foundation.

      1. VI Guy*

        As a specific example:
        We developed a list of volunteers from the groups to be part of hiring committees. If someone was planning to hire, then they could ask someone on the list to be an equal member of the committee. Some people will likely complain about this being a token person – a disabled person, POC, and/or woman / non-binary just for show – and yet it allows us to have direct input on how to make hiring processes more equitable. I had a colleague ask me if I felt like a token for volunteering, and I pointed out that my workplace is often supportive and better than most. I want more people like me, from those groups, so if I’m part of the hiring process then hopefully it is more fair and they are more likely to be successful, and if they see me happily working there then they will want to join.

        This suggestion may not work for every workplace, and I feel the need to say that because there are some people commenting here who seem to be dismissive of ‘special treatment’, yet I took my job because I saw people like me during the hiring process and I could see that they were happy so I could be too.

    9. Anonandon*

      I hate it too- my company does this and I especially hate that one of the affinity groups is a bible studies group. Basically the message is that if people of color experience harassment then we’ll give them a support group. Not if people of color experience harassment, we’ll take it seriously and make changes, or even we’re proud of our POC and are committed to their personal development.

    10. AdvocatingAsAGroup*

      I mentioned in the post above how pre-buyout company had a comprehensive strategy for elevating women and poc to leadership positions (these are not the only groups incidentally).

      Affinity groups were a critical part of this strategy. Without affinity groups, this strategy would not have been as successful as it was.

      A second piece of this though, was the affiliate allied groups. Pretty much every affiliate group also had an associated group for allies who could provide mentorship and learning as well as help with planning and advocacy.

  5. Jennifer*

    I just saw a discussion about this on social media and someone mentioned that you should post jobs where black people are more likely to see them, like with HBCUs or other organizations for black professionals. Hiring managers complain that HR only sends white applicants, but are you acting intentionally to bring in more diverse applicants?

    And Alison is correct, don’t just hire a black person and throw them into an environment where they will have to deal with racist microaggressions, don’t feel comfortable speaking up when they have issues, and have no opportunities to advance (if that’s something they want). Think of it as an opportunity to transform the organization as a whole, not just bringing in more black employees.

    1. JokeyJules*

      my company is doing something similar. Theyre making initiatives to broaden their job posting info to ensure it reaches more people, but also making a much larger efforts to work with Boys and Girls Club and reaching out to schools with higher populations of people of color to do mentorships, internships, or general outreach. Our field is extremely white, and i appreciate that they noticed that and are working on trying to change that, even if it isnt within the company.

        1. Captain Raymond Holt*

          Let’s say that Llama grooming is overwhelmingly White. This group is trying to get BIPOC into llama grooming in general, but not specifically Llama Systems Inc. They want to get people who may not consider llama grooming as a career exposure to the field.

          1. Jennifer*

            But there are qualified llama groomers already out there who are having trouble breaking into the field because they are black. What is the company doing to reach out to those people? What are they doing to help the few black llama groomers already there? The outreach to schools is good, don’t get me wrong, but I wonder if it’s being done as a way to check the diversity box but not create real change within the company’s walls.

    2. Today's OP*

      This is a great actionable point. Thank you. I don’t personally have responsibility for hiring at the moment, but I’ll keep your suggestion in mind in case it becomes relevant in future.

  6. Dust Bunny*

    Diversity at all levels. My workplace is pretty diverse, but we also have a significant percentage of women and minorities in higher-level, graduate-degreed positions, in tech positions, etc.

  7. juliebulie*

    OP, I admire you for challenging your employer to put its money where its mouth is. For the last few years, my employer has made a lot of PR noise in social media about “diversity.” The company does have a “diverse” employee base, but only because it has locations on almost every continent.

    At my location, there is “diversity” mainly because of contractors and visas. Many races and ethnicities are represented; but of actual employees, I can think of only two African-Americans (out of hundreds) and both of them are gone now.

    The company is now saying that they’re going to “take a new look at the situation,” and I am going to pay attention and ask about the outcome if it isn’t reported in a few months. Talk is cheap, and my employer is thrifty.

    1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “The company does have a “diverse” employee base, but only because it has locations on almost every continent.”

      I’m reminded of an argument about diversity in a forum for a sport that is very white in the US and Western Europe, and this one guy kept chiming in about how so many Asian people do the sport where he was (Thailand) and I’d be saying “We’re talking about the West” and he’d keep coming back if we didn’t specify that in every single comment. So annoying. Oh, and he was a white Australian who’d moved to Thailand so said he was used to racism because of that experience but had overcome it.

      1. Avasarala*

        Oh man if I had a nickel for every time people used Asians in Asia, or white people in Asia, as examples of diversity, especially in the sense of “OK we can check this box” or “I know what you [poc/minority in your own country] have experienced”.

  8. CaptLunch*

    workplaces where people truly feel included; receive feedback, opportunities, and mentorship; feel safe speaking up and their voices are truly heard; and their careers thrive….

  9. HailRobonia*

    I just keep thinking of the executive director in my office who gives a lot of lip service to diversity – he is supposedly an expert in inter-cultural communication and teaches seminars on it – but has said some incredibly racist things. E.g. asking one of my coworkers who is originally from Jamaica to sing happy birthday in “Jamaican” and when she explained they speak English in Jamaica he doubled down and said “you know, JAMAICAN” and did a weird head bob.

    (She, of course, was fluent in Jamaican Patois as well as “standard” English).

    1. Today's OP*

      Whoa! I would have been stunned to see that . Did anyone say anything in the moment? Or escalate afterwards? I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll speak up in this type of situation if I ever experience it, to stay silent is to be complicit.

    2. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      I was at a dinner once where the host kept asking the Indians in attendance how to say Merry Christmas in their language (which in their case was Hindi). They kept replying “Merry Christmas” and it went back and forth until we distracted the host with some duties. It never occurred to the host that Hindus don’t celebrate Christmas. Sigh

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        That is absolutely horrific!

        It so happens that I was in India for Christmas once, and all sorts of Indians wished me a “happy birthday”, which I thought was rather sweet.

  10. Knitter*

    Hiring a diverse workforce without making sure the workplace is safe for BIPOCs is simply window dressing. Going hand in hand with hiring practices that increase diversity, the companies need to make sure policies are inclusive and staff have an inclusive mindset. There are a number of diversity consulting organizations that will help with that.
    If the company isn’t safe, then each new hire in a diversity initiative will have the additional burden of calling out biases in the workplace or burning out under the exhaustion of managing their response to microaggressions, etc. To think that a white-lead company is someone’s best option also shows a bias.

    So I’d also ask if the company is reviewing their policies for inclusivity or hiring a BIPOC owned company to review the policies and provide training.

    1. The Original K.*

      Correct. It does nothing if BIPOC are working at a place but can’t raise issues without being penalized. I’ve dealt with this myself and I know I’m not alone (lots of people are airing out these issues on social media).

    2. Today's OP*

      Thank you. I’ve asked about more training in unconscious bias and cultural competency, but reviewing policies is a great one to add.

      1. Savannnah*

        You may want to look more at cultural humility frameworks vs competency b/c competency centers the normative.

        1. knitter*

          Cultural humility frameworks are new to me, but the quick google search I did showed me that this is a process/concept I need to incorporate in to my work asap. Do you have any preferred resources?

          1. Savannnah*

            Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia are the two doctors who developed the concept- much of the work comes from a clinical space but is easily applied to other work contexts. I’d start with them and there is also a great ted talk by Juliana Mosley, Ph.D. that applies the framework to a larger context.

            1. knitter*

              Thanks! I found their original 1998 article and some other resources. I’ll look into the TED talk.

    3. Star*

      This, so much. I used to call the situation of being hired/accepted into an unsafe situation so the people running the org could pride themselves as being made a “freckle”. We need and deserve more than being put into that position.

    4. Consultant Catie*

      I also think that along with hiring a diverse workforce, it’s important to promote that diverse workforce through the ranks, and make sure that they’re comfortable and part of the team at every step of the way. I know a lot of people who leave because their cohort doesn’t get them, especially as they get promoted.

      The Big 4 firm I’m at hires a really diverse junior practitioner class every year, but there’s a reason why the Senior Manager and Partner levels aren’t nearly as diverse as the junior levels.

  11. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs*

    Salary transparency, publish salary ranges for job openings, and not asking applicants for salary histories! Inequities in pay perpetuate themselves due to bias (conscious or not), plus women and people of color are often penalized for trying to negotiate. Salary transparency across the company helps to expose those discrepancies and puts pressure on the company to fix them, and providing salary ranges in job postings and not asking candidates for salary histories helps hires avoid being underpaid in their new job based on pay inequities in their last job. These are clear, actionable policies that any company can implement now if they truly care about workplace equity.

    1. Anon Anon*

      I definitely think that these things would help. At least with the pay inequities. Of course, it doesn’t help with the fact that women and/or people of color rarely end up in senior leadership positions. But, it’s a good start.

    2. Quill*

      Complete salary transparency is a help here, I’m noticing the publishing world blowing the heck up about the difference in advances between debut white male authors vs. proven authors of color. Not to mention female authors of color and the subsequent justifications on how much is spent marketing, which correlate to author identity a lot more strongly than they seem to correlate to genre or actual data about which books have sold well…

    3. Today's OP*

      Yes! This is something the company does on certain roles, but not all. Unsurprisingly, the higher level the role, the less transparency there is.

    4. Verde*

      All of this, plus making educational requirements not be an “only” – as in Bachelor’s Degree in XXX required. We use them as a guideline, with “or the equivalent combination of education and experience to do the job” language added. At my org, there are four directors, and two of us (one white, one not) have GEDs. Which doesn’t interfere with either of us being really good at what we do and having really great knowledge for our positions.

    5. No name here.*

      Female, non-black POC here. Just piping up to day that the salary history question is SUCH a huge issue. Get rid of it! Before I understood that I could refuse to answer those types of questions (though, you know, not answering them does have consequences)*, it held me back and significantly weaken my negotiating power.

      * Also, I never had a mentor to teach me how to push back on these things. I picked it up from this blog! So, uh, thanks Alison. :)

  12. beanie gee*

    Thank you OP for aiming to hold your company accountable! So many companies are going for the easy PR moves without really thinking about their own institutional racism.

    1. Today's OP*

      That’s what’s prompted me to speak up, so many companies are talking the talk but I’d like to see mine do a bit more of walking the walk.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Yes! Also: this is a much nicer way putting the issue than in the angry rant-question I sent Alison on a similar subject.

  13. Retail not Retail*

    My job site is diverse and we had a big thing about “respect” in january, but I pointed out to my supervisor that the PR faces are white.

    The people making the place run are black, and so are the faces you see at certain places but the social media stars this year are not black.

    We haven’t said a thing, not even a tepid milquetoast comment.

    You need a degree and/or experience for the cool job, but only a BS. There is no reason to be as lopsided as we are. (I wonder if we’re majority black tbh. Our presidents have all been white but there are some black people squirreled away in the offices.)

  14. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Our president/CEO is a pretty WASP-y dude – think David Strathairn (because I do, every time I see him speak). He sent out an email just the other day that had a bit in it that really surprised me. (Specifics fudged slightly for obscurity.)

    “In 2019, minorities represented 28% of the population of the state of Teapotia. At Teapot Healthcare, our minority team members are 26.5% of our total workforce. We are increasing our efforts to have Teapot Healthcare’s racial and ethnic representation at least mirror that of the state.”

    Like, I would not have been surprised (or pleased) had the third sentence been some sort of back-patting on being Really Close – the actual “but that’s not enough, we can and should be doing better” was not what I expected to read at ALL.

    This is also the same guy though who, at a town hall, was asked why we don’t randomly drug test employees more often and replied that random drug testing doesn’t foster the sense of trust that he would like to have with the staff of Teapot Healthcare, so as long as he continues to be the president of the org, drug testing will only happen under very specific circumstances as proscribed in the employee handbook and never ever just randomly. So I guess he continues to surprise me in positive ways.

    1. Anononon*

      The other question, though, is what is the percentage of BIPOC in leadership roles? My workplace is somewhat diverse (though not what it could be), but as soon as you start looking at supervisor/manager, and up, it’s all white people.

  15. Hei Hei the Chicken from Moana*

    My question is related – how can we help mentor our younger BIPOC colleagues without making them feel singled out? I might have phrased this poorly, and I apologize for that.

    1. Wendyroo*

      Mentorships are so few and far between, it’s really not singling someone out to offer the same opportunities that others have always had access to. It might even feel awkward at first, but think of it as a two-way street. They learn from your experience and guidance, but you can learn from their different perspectives, experiences, and fresh ideas too. Signed, a black woman from the south

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This. Reach out to these employees and invite them for lunch. Talk to them, ask them what kinds of things they’d be interested in doing at the company. Then make it a point to include them in meetings and development opportunities that align with their interests and goals. Try to gauge their comfort-level at your company, and if they bring up issues, listen to them and work to fix them.

        The things you do for non-black employees are the exact same things you can do for the black ones.

    2. iNot*

      I’m a WOC and all of my mentors has come from informal relationships with other WOC (and women in general). In several cases, they were women I already admired, and they just struck up a convo with me. Simply inviting someone junior for a cup of coffee (or virtual tea) and getting to know their aspirations, sharing your journey, and letting them know you’re available to answer questions and provide mentorship is one approach. Starting a mentoring program through your office and encouraging people to join is another. I think the key to not making people feel singled out is providing that same opportunity to everyone (because some are not going to take you up on the offer). However, I appreciated being singled out in some cases because navigating work can be a challenge and knowing someone wanted to mentor me help provide a sense of comfort.

      1. Wendyroo*

        Jealous. I’m 30 and I have never worked at a company with another WOC in a leadership position. Literally not a single one. Is your company hiring? Lol

    3. Kiki*

      One major thing to do is to spend time talking to and learning about all your junior colleagues. It’s really easy to gravitate to employees like yourself and with similar interests. We all do it, it’s a natural thing, but in the workplace, it’s important to take the extra effort to create relationships with people who you are not similar to. I am the only woman of color engineer on my team. I don’t like video games or sports, but most of my colleagues do. I make the effort to learn enough about video games and sports to keep conversations going. I have had to spend time engaging with things I wouldn’t ordinarily so I can relate to my coworkers, but very rarely is that effort returned. It meant a lot to me as a junior engineer when my team lead asked what my favorite movie was and then watched it over the weekend so he could talk to me about it. It’s important for people in the majority and with power to reach out to folks unlike them and actually take the time to listen and learn, even when it’s not as easy as talking to Karen about Game of Thrones or Mike about Fantasy Football.

    4. SA*

      Younger WOC here (graduated a year ago). Most if not all of the people I work closely with are white so this may not specifically answer what you’re asking, but something that’s been helpful is how my relatively older colleagues have encouraged me to share feedback and specifically note where I’ve felt discriminated against. I think many POC and women are encouraged to grin and bear it in the face of discriminatory practices, but being told and feeling like I actually was safe enough to share these things (which I know is not always the case) was been a huge relief in the last couple weeks.

  16. MollyG*

    I don’t think you can. Either upper management is committed to diversity, or they are not. Methods to increase diversity are well known in the literature by now. If they want to take those actions they will without any prodding. If they just want to play lip service, then your prodding will just antagonize them. I suggest keeping your head down (unless specifically asked) and see what they do.

    1. Today's OP*

      I suspect that if I keep my head down, to see what they do, they’ll do nothing. If nothing changes, nothing changes! I’m only one person, and I’m not expecting radical change overnight. But by using my voice (when I benefit from white privilege that means I won’t be penalized for it) I can draw attention to places where the company could be doing better. And if nothing changes, I will at least know that I spoke up when others stayed silent, and they were therefore complicit in keeping everything the same.

      1. Yamikuronue*

        My company is straight-up asking the employees for what we’d like to see done, I came here to get some good ideas to throw at them.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Get people to become aware of their biases. Assuming your company’s leadership is serious, this can have massive impact. Visit for ideas.

          If the company is not serious, this may not help much.

    2. UKDancer*

      No I think you have to keep prodding or nothing will change.

      In 1968 the sewing machinists at the Dagenham Ford works in the UK went on strike because they were paid less than the men doing comparable work. They got their jobs regraded and eventually got a pay rise. Their action was one of the contributory factors behind the Equal Pay Amendment Act 1970. If you don’t try and change things, things won’t change. If you try and press for change, who knows what you might achieve.

      If you’re white then I think it’s particularly important to use the privilege you have to tackle unfairness and build the culture you want to see. So I speak up when I see things that I think are discriminatory and unfair because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror.

    3. Frankie Bergstein*

      No, no – I disagree completely! A friend of mine brought it up to her boss, who brought it up to his boss – and they had one of the most productive discussions on race in the work place she has ever experienced. She is a WoC, like me, and has been in a lot of spaces where these types of serious discussions have occurred. It can work to push your leadership – it really can!

  17. Adrienne*

    What you said about equity is extremely important, Alison. True, captial E, Equality is only possible when equity is present.

  18. Lucy Holmes*

    I worked at a charity that had a very impressive diversity and inclusion strategy and approach. It wasn’t perfect – they themselves recognised they had a long way to go, but they had (e.g.) no gender wage gap, a number of discrete programmes to support particular groups of employees, and 9 thriving (and prize-winning!) diversity networks. A few things seemed to have really kick-started their work.
    1: Employees who were willing to do some work to push management through all available channels (e.g. asking to attend meetings, requesting data and policies, forming small networks and approaching collectively, developing clear demands to present management etc). They also found very senior allies to sponsor the work, pushing for change from the bottom and the top simultaneously.
    2. An organisational D&I strategy – a roadmap that set out where they wanted to get to, with some SMART measurable goals as well as core principles.
    3. Educating, inspiring and mobilising a large number of staff. I mentioned their 9 networks – they’re all run by staff member volunteers and they organise events (both social and educational, like lunch and learns). This is only possible because the charity made it policy to allow all employees a certain number of days to attend network events, and network coordinators additional days for admin. That’s real investment.
    4. A full overhaul of policies to ensure they are inclusive. As Alison says, it’s not enough to chase diversity if you are not also fully including all staff and supporting them all to be their true self at work.
    5. Train your allies. They had optional training available to all staff (both e-learning and in person) to learn about their colleagues. E.g. I attended brilliant lunch and learn sessions run by trans colleagues, by two hijabi colleagues, and by colleagues with lived experience of homelessness. They were a chance to learn the basics, ask silly questions in a safe space, and a nice social chance to get to know people better.
    They’re by no means perfect, but when I was there 40% of the executive team were out LGBTQ+, 60% were women, and they just hired a Black chief executive.

  19. Employment Lawyer*

    Change requires people. Steps to take:

    1) Do things, in your own work (mentoring, reaching out, talking to your manager about potential hires, etc.)

    2) Volunteer to serve on committees or otherwise get involved in your company infrastructure w/r/t hiring, diversity, social media, etc. Nobody likes committees or meetings, but that is how big places tend to work. Does your company recruit? If so, does it recruit from any HBCUs? Can you get involved in making that happen, by joining the “where we recruit” committee? Etc.

    3) “Writing to HR to take them to account” is probably on the bottom of the effectiveness list, also w/ higher risk, so keep that in mind.

    And on that note: The somewhat delicate issue here, to me, is your choice of words: not “help” or “join” or “pitch in” or anything similar, but rather the more confrontational “hold to account.”

    The choice is entirely yours. But as a rule the “change from the inside” technique requires you to get inside first. You may find it somewhat more effective if you approach this with the assumption that they are acting in good faith and are interested in doing the right thing, than if you approach this with the assumption that they are acting in bad faith, disinterested in real change, just trying to look good socially, etc.

    1. Today's OP*

      Thank you for the practical advice.

      And thank you for your point about the tone of my question. You’re right that I have assumed the worst! The exec board at my company is exclusively white, with one woman. And although customers have asked questions about our approach to diversity on the social media post I mentioned, they have not been answered. Plus, the environment I work in is not visibly diverse. All of this has led me to assume that nothing is being done in the background to change the status quo.

      I will definitely consider your approach in future though. I’m really conscious that I don’t want to just shout ‘you should do better’ and then not change my own behaviour. I agree with you in that it requires people, and action, so I hope to find some opportunities like you suggest.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        Maybe they are racists! Maybe they are deniers! I don’t know that either way.

        But the fact that nothing has been done does NOT mean they won’t, or even that they don’t want to. However far you go, you need to start moving sometime and absent a radical coup change takes a bit of time.

        I can tell you that many companies want:

        1) specific steps

        2) that “feel” possible (not firing CEO or radically changing product focus, etc.)

        3) with low risk of getting pilloried on social media. Despite the “everyone should try!” rhetoric there is often a moblike focus on those who DO try but don’t make it far enough for the group to be satisfied. (Look at right now: Many of the people getting skewered are, in terms of national average, well on the anti-racism team. They’re pilloried for not being far enough on the team. But nobody bothers going after companies like yours, often.) Oddly enough it can be safer not to do anything at all, cogent persuasion needs to analyze that.

        4) With reasonable financial cost, probably a bit more pointed of an issue during CV.

        These types of things ARE NOT OBVIOUS TO MANY PEOPLE!!! I mean, sure: I have heard of HCBUs and you have too, and I know that a lot of really smart people go to them. But John Doe the CEO does not read twitter or bell hooks or racism101 dot com . And despite the thread here which is filled with people who DO read that stuff, he probably doesn’t know what an HCBU is and has probably never met a single CEO who ever recruited there in his life. Etc.

        Don’t assume he would refuse to do something until he knows why he should do it.

        1. WhatAMaroon*

          An example of things not being obvious. Last year it dawned on me that I was one of the lowest paid managers in my group even though by all metrics I was one of the highest performing. So I went digging and found out everyone in my group at my level’s salary. And when I typed it out and sorted it I realized most of the people of color were at the lower end of the list. So I went and told my grandboss and I pointed out that the optics were not great that that was true. And my grandboss, who is a white dude, candidly told me that until I’d pointed it out he hadn’t even noticed that pattern. Because people’s race was just not on his radar the same way because as a white dude he doesn’t think about it every moment of every day. What made me consider him an ally is that he took that information and what I pointed out and when promotions and raises happened this year he used that point to fight to make it right. And he told me that part of what he used to make the case along with our group meriting it and having the performance to back it up is what I shared.

    2. Alice*

      Thanks for the tips “Employment Lawyer.” I especially appreciate the choice of words. In these difficult conversations, language is everything.

  20. Jennifer*

    Also, I noticed sometimes white employees will notice that their company has started doing the absolute bare minimum when it comes to diversity and they all start patting themselves on the back and singing their company’s praises, without any input from the few black employees that work there.

    Creating an environment where black employees feel comfortable speaking up and not getting defensive when they say something you weren’t expecting can really change your point of view.

    1. Today's OP*

      Ooh yes! We have to be so open to listening and learning, this is not a ‘tick box’ exercise!

    2. Kiki*

      Yes, this has been so frustrating the last few weeks! BIPOC employees had to push our leadership so hard to agree to make any statement and after two weeks when they finally did it, it was soooooo underwhelming and yet the Slack channel was blowing up with praise for our director “taking a stand.” He tweeted “BLM,” he didn’t even fully spell out the words!!!! The barest of minimums.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        My boss only went so far as to refer to the “Black Lives Matter Movement” in our terrible public statement as a name, not a fact.

    3. Wenchie*

      I was noticing that this week with the #ShutDownSTEM/#ShutDownAcademia programming. Well-intentioned white people in my workplace were patting themselves on the back for their awareness, but our colleagues of color were largely silent. I know it’s not their job to educate us, but I also want to know what they find problematic in our workplace so that we can address it.

      1. Important Moi*

        Honestly, take a look at your colleagues. Pick the one who you think would be most amenable to answer the question and ask. I would prefer a one on one conservation alone. They may not like that you asked. They may not like that you assumed they were approachable. Don’t let the lack of a guarantee of a pleasant conversation stop you.

        1. Important Moi*

          Also, honestly, someone may tell you there are plenty of resources on internet at your disposal as well, because there are. This site actually posted stuff recently.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            Yes! So many people have written about these topics!

            And also… I’m learning a ton of nuance from what my BIPOC friends and colleagues are posting to social media, ESPECIALLY under the “friends only” privacy settings. If you don’t have any social media contacts like that, then a) please do a LOT of reading online before you approach a specific individual for more information, and b) find some outspoken anti-racists and just read what they have to say for a while. Don’t respond, just read.

      2. Jennifer*

        Maybe suggest a forum where POCs can express their point of view without fear of reprisal, similar to the affinity groups someone referenced above.

    4. ArtsNerd*

      Yes! I’ve been ‘talked to’ for expressing frustration as a white anti-racist. Even using the most soothing, gentle, ego coddling methods of suggesting change are met with fierce defensiveness and digging in if they’re not ignored altogether. You can call yourself ‘progressive’ all you want; that doesn’t mean it’s true.

  21. Rachel Marron*

    When it comes to recruiting some of the ways the company I work for is looking to increase inclusivity include: expanding where we post our jobs, having hiring drives or attending job fairs in areas with a large BIPOC population, reaching out to professional groups and associations for black people in our industry and hiring an independent consultant who will look at our hiring process as it is now and how we can do better. There will also be an anonymous survey for black employees to fill out to gauge our experience with the company.

    One other thing your company can do: when it comes to promotions or succession planning, make sure the process is inclusive. The company I work for is very big on promoting from within and having a succession plan in place when possible. To that end when employees are close to retirement age or have made it known that they are looking to leave or work elsewhere we look within first for a replacement. If there (an) individual(s) who are qualified, they go through an interview process like they would for a normal job and if they pass that and show initiative and get above average on their performance reviews, they are groomed for the new role and given an offer (with an understanding that it might take time for term to get the new job). If no one is qualified within the company we look externally when the job is about to be vacant. We currently have 13 roles across the company identified for succession planning. The company has been looking at ways to increase diversity. To that end, the company has pulled the offers of the promised promotions for 8 of the 12 individuals who are not BIPOC. Those will no longer be eligible for those jobs now or in the future and the company has committed to filling each of those 8 spots with BIPOC. The company has also done away with many of the qualifications in the succession planning process to make things more equitable so now individuals who would otherwise be excluded due to “not being qualified” can be offered the roles. In addition the company is looking into ways we can recruit and support external BIPOC candidates, so if any of the 8 spots can’t be filled from within we can have a more inclusive external hiring process for these jobs and others. One individual in my divison quit when their offer was pulled and I have heard of another in a different division and while I am disappointed at that, among the senior leadership this new process has overwhelming support and we will be modeling this to our staff so hopefully they can also be supportive and see how the company is committed to change.

    1. Zeddington G.*

      Your company rescinded offers only because the employee wasn’t black? Those employees can never have the job even if they apply under the new process you are developing and are the most qualified again? You won’t fill the jobs with a qualified employee unless they are black and will keep searching until you find someone who is the correct race? I’m sorry but I would quit too and I’m surprised all 8 haven’t resigned along with anyone else who works there. I’m a POC and I think this is absolutely out there. They are ways to make a more diverse work environment but this is not how.

      1. VI Guy*

        Yes, any process that limits success to minorities only fosters the impression that they wouldn’t be able to achieve success based on merit. Makes me furious!

        1. Zeddington G.*

          Not only that, but you can’t take jons or offers away from people just because their skin isn’t the right colour. I’m a POC and there are definitely problems with racism and bias and there are things places can do to have a more diverse work environment. But taking away a job from someone who is qualified just because they aren’t the race you want is not the way. The things OP mentioned in her first paragraph are valid and they should bring in an expert to help. But I would be livid if my job or promotion was yanked because I wasn’t the race that HR or whoever wanted. If this was reversed there would be a huge outcry. You are right VI Guy, it perpetuates a stereotype and what Rachel’s company is doing is wrong and not helpful in so many ways.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        The idea was on the right track, but the execution went left and leaves much to be desired.

        1. Professor X*

          I noticed how the OP said the eight who had the offers taken were not BIPOC. That could mean they are still POC who aren’t black or indigenous and/or women and/or LGBTQ+and/or diabled and/or not Christian. So it very well could be that OP’s work took jobs away from other minorities/diverse people. No matter what taking the jobs away was not right but it is extra insidious to me if this was the case. I can’t believe any competent HR person would sign off on a policy like this.

            1. Callie*

              In my understanding BIPOC stands for ‘Black and Indigenous People of Color’. So as an example, Asians, South Asians, some Latinx or Middle Eastern persons who aren’t white (but also are not Black nor Indigenous) would not fall under this definition. Professor X may be going under my understanding as well.

                1. Kay*

                  Whether or not the definition only included black and indigenous people or all people of color, the point still stands. My sister is white but she is a woman who is blind. I’m white but I’m white but I’m also queer. While I in no way am comparing myself to the struggles of non-white persons, I do just want to point out that there are forms of diversity not related to race. And any of those 8 could be queer, disabled, a religious minority etc.

                2. Jennifer*

                  @Kay – I’m aware of that but the question was about racism and improving diversity as it relating to race.

                3. Cat*

                  Not always – people use it both ways. Sometimes it’s used to highlight the unique struggles faced by Black and Indigenous people in the U.S. specifically.

                4. nonegiven*

                  I thought POC included Black and Indigenous. It leaves out disability, gender, sexuality, and religion, though.

            2. Zeddington G.*

              There are those like myself who are not white but are also neither black or indigenous. We are people of colour but not black or indigenous people of colour.

              1. Jennifer*

                Then you’re in luck because BIPOC includes you too. The first link when you google it.

                1. Jennifer*

                  @Molly Maybe she misunderstands what it stands for as well. I can only speak to what the true definition is.

            3. Rachel Marron*

              We have intention for those roles to be filled by Black or Indigenous employees, in light of the current events. I am a black woman and I wholeheartedly support this new commitment as a long time coming

    2. Jennifer*

      This was a good idea but this plan should have been made before offers were made to those other 8 candidates.

      I don’t have a problem with setting aside roles to be filled by black people. If you don’t think roles have been set aside for centuries specifically for white people, whether it was explicitly stated or not, you’re kidding yourselves. This is how we end up with companies that are 96% white, or higher. This is about righting past wrongs.

      An example would be how the co-founder of Reddit resigned and asked the board to hire a qualified black person in his place. You have to be intentional sometimes about diversity or it won’t happen.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This was a good idea but this plan should have been made before offers were made to those other 8 candidates.

        Yup. I wish somebody would snatch my promised promotion away and think I’m supposed to sit there and smile while it happens, lol. I’d be cursing everybody out on my way to another job.

    3. Business Catto*

      “To that end, the company has pulled the offers of the promised promotions for 8 of the 12 individuals who are not BIPOC.”

      WHAT??! What did you tell the candidates who had their offers yanked out from under them?

      1. Picard*

        I would be livid and probably walking my way out to a lawyer if this happened to me (and I’m of different ethnicity although I “pass”.

        In the US I think it would also be questionable legally to pull a job for skin color!

    4. ...*

      hmm well you can probably count on the fact that all 8 of those people will quit and are certainly job hunting right now.

    5. CatMintCat*

      They’ve just been told that they have no future prospects of advancement within the company, no matter what? Of course they quit!

  22. Matilda Jefferies*

    My organization has just announced a partnership with a career development organization for Black youth, which includes a commitment to hiring and training young Black professionals. We’re also apparently reviewing upcoming marketing campaigns and charity partner programs to “ensure they are representative of our diverse populations.”

    So far so good, but I will wait to see what actually comes of it before I get too optimistic. I also have questions about the Board of Directors and senior leadership: the BoD has five white people and only one POC; and also five men and one woman. Senior leadership is the same in terms of racial diversity (5/6 of them are white), and a bit better in terms of gender diversity (2/6 are women!)

    I’m actually going to go down this rabbit hole for a few minutes, and see if I can find someone to pass along a suggestion to TPTB. It’s great that we’re creating internship opportunities, but less great if women and POC do not see themselves reflected at the top levels.

    1. Today's OP*

      We have the same commitment in marketing too! It’s a step in the right direction but there’s so much more to be done isn’t there.

  23. AvonLady Barksdale*

    My co-worker and I were discussing this the other day. Our company is small and serves an industry that is historically and predominantly made of old white guys; it’s also really insular, to an extent I never knew until I started my current job. Co-worker and I are the first women hired in a long time and two of the few women in higher positions at the company. Great, right?

    Well, no. Because all of the inclusion stopped when we were hired. We are not supported, not mentored, not given special opportunities. We are not called upon to represent the company at a higher level. When I did get an unusual opportunity to present at a big event that got a ton of press (I was quoted in several national news outlets), the CEO did not send out an email to the rest of the company (we don’t get this type of press very often) nor did he even take five minutes to acknowledge my work or praise me in any way. Instead, he made me feel like I had to be put back in my place for stepping out of my lane or something. To make matters worse, our male counterpart gets tons of kudos, gets regularly sent to conferences, and has spoken on panels as a representative of the company.

    We have tried to speak up and assert ourselves but we are consistently shot down. I have never been in a position where I felt this demoralized. I bet that if I ever said this to my boss, he would tell me I’m being ridiculous. I am also currently in a position where I don’t want to get laid off, so I play the game and I hate it (I am job searching HARD, make no mistake).

    What would make it better? Time set aside to mentor and include us. Acknowledgement that we were hired not just for our skills but because it’s time for the industry to make a change, and in order to make that change, they want our input. Ask us what they can do to include us more. Give us projects in which we’ll shine. Be intentional about making change, and understand that the change doesn’t happen once you get women or POC on the payroll. But first and foremost, don’t tell us we’re “wrong” or “missing the point” when we bring up a different perspective.

    For my part, I have tried to be an open door for junior colleagues, and I have evidence that it’s appreciated by them. People feel comfortable talking to me. I encourage them. I show interest in their interests. I’m not in a particularly powerful role, but I do what I can.

  24. thee epidemiologist*

    I was once the only non-White, non-Christian person working at a nonprofit and my position was the sort where there’s hours of rote, unchallenging work and no opportunity to advance (I ended up leaving to go back to school and change my field). So I agree with Alison that getting diverse employees in the door isn’t exactly enough – you need to be ready to mentor and to think about how you can grow that employee into leadership positions where they have input on the direction of the organization.

    Also specifically for nonprofits: you cannot effectively do outreach to minority communities if your staff doesn’t look like the community you want to serve. You think you can, but there will always be cultural/community aspects you didn’t know about. I’ve worked places that talked all day about wanting to reach Black constituents but didn’t have a single Black employee who knew the community.

    And finally, think hard about your workplace culture. Is it the sort of place that will grumble about political correctness if you acknowledge that not everyone celebrates Christmas? If a POC employee has a complaint about racism in the workplace, will they be told they’re being too sensitive? Those are hard questions and a bad culture can be hard to change, but they’re things you need to think about if you truly care about diversity and inclusion.

    1. Verde*

      This x 1000.

      Holidays are a good one to discuss for sure – lots to unpack there in terms of who takes which days off, celebrating Christmas only, and so on. At my org, for our office staff, most everyone has float holidays to use as/when they choose. Our direct services are 24/7, so staff who work on the official holidays get paid extra, and will switch with each other to accommodate different holidays from the standard set. Also, providing enough vacation time so that time off can be taken when preferred.

      1. thee epidemiologist*

        Float holidays are a great idea – normally I just have to use PTO to take my religious holidays off.

  25. Anonymous Educator*

    Instead of waiting to find out what the company is doing (which is fine to do, but you’ve already asked about that), maybe do something yourself? Start talking to your fellow employees about what you all should do to make your workplace more justice-oriented, equitable, and inclusive. Start really thinking about what you all have done to make your workplace not appealing to candidates of color. It’s not about white guilt. It’s about examining actual behaviors (microaggressions and macroaggresions) you’ve noticed and can actively change in the culture.

    You may worry people will accuse you of “virtue signaling” or having “white guilt,” but it isn’t better to do nothing. Do what you know is right. You say your company is not very diverse, but there are probably some people of color at your company. What are they saying? If they’re saying nothing, why do you think they don’t feel comfortable speaking out (don’t ask them—that’s emotional labor they may not want to give)? Do some self-reflection, do some reading. Don’t burden your PoC colleagues with coming up with solutions. But if they do propose solutions, listen and elevate/amplify those.

    1. Today's OP*

      Thank you. This is great advice, and very practical, which is what I was hoping for! Your comment also echoes a lot of the sentiments I’ve read in the last week or so. I’m definitely feeling like doing something is better than doing nothing and I’m very conscious that I will not speak over or speak for my black and POC colleagues. But I am open and listening, and willing to use my voice/privilege to make any changes that I can.

  26. Gregorio*

    In terms of inclusion, on a person-to-person level I’ve observed (as a minority) people tend to make ‘work friends’ with people who usually look like them. I acknowledge nobody is owed friendship or friendship shouldn’t be forced, but if you have minority colleagues/team members it wouldn’t hurt to get coffee with them or invite them to lunch occasionally. Making all feel included and not ‘othered’ helps makes minorities feel they are genuinely wanted there.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      This is very important. One of the main reasons I ended up feeling comfortable in my current role as the only black face in the department was that my all white colleagues bent over backwards to include me in conversations and outings when I visited the office and traveled with them for our industry conference. If they hadn’t, I probably would not still be here a year later.

    2. Today's OP*

      This seems so simple! But I bet it’s often overlooked. Thank you for pointing it out.

      1. WhatAMaroon*

        Also something person to person, is making an effort to learn and pronounce your colleagues names correctly and only use a nickname if you’ve been invited to use it. My name is unfamiliar to most white people but phonetic and I’m happy to re-pronounce multiple times to help someone learn how to say it. It is incredibly othering when people I’ve worked together with for a long time can’t figure out how to say my name. If I can figure out how to say your name with hipster spelling I feel confident you can learn to say mine.

  27. SDSmith82*

    I work for a large international organization that has always been diverse, but has been setting up the groups since 2018ish the groups and have the discussions. Honestly, some of the discussions are so awkward that they feel forced. Before all this new awareness it was more about what you did at work then who you are, and I can honestly say I liked that. Now, it’s more about “who/what you are” and where you fit in, rather than what level you perform at.

    It actually seemed more fair before. I’m in an industry that was at the forefront of empowering women and all people, regardless of color/orientation/religion from way back, so the new awareness and attempts to make those standout really just seem out of place.

    I am a woman of mixed backgrounds (50% native american), but that’s not what identifies me, and never has been. I’d rather be known for my accomplishments than my heritage. But maybe that’s just my take on it.

    1. Star*

      I’d rather be known for my accomplishments than my heritage.

      Wouldn’t we all? But unfortunately people often overlook our accomplishments because of our heritage (see AvonLady Barksdale’s comment above for a clearly described example) and we can’t ignore the role people’s reactions to our heritage plays in that omission when trying to point it out and ameliorate it.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        THIS. The inference that black people who want diversity in corporate America are just itching to be tokens is problematic as hell.

  28. Cafe au Lait*

    I’ve often wondered what would happen if companies moved to a double blind resume screen during the initial hiring process. After HR screens for the basic qualification, they’ll assign every application and resume a unique identifier. Managers, unable to look at the name, would be forced to look at the strengths on the resume.

    Here’s an example: a company wants a Teapot Specification Liaison between their engineers and sales team. The role relies heavily on weeding out engineering jargon and rewording tech heavy speak into everyday language. It’s required that the role have 3-5 years of experience in liaison experience.

    Jane Smith applies. She has five years of working on a teapot engineering team. Occasionally she has projects where she acted as a teapot liaison, but it wasn’t her primary role. She’s done a good job on the individual projects, but as the liaison projects averaged a year between one to the other, her experience is elementary at best.

    Latisha Taylor has two years of experience working as a academic advisor. Every single day she’s helping students break down academic jargon and how to structure their course loads around requirements. Once a month she meets with the Dean’s office and updates the Dean and other administrators on trends she sees with students. Regularly she works on projects where she rewrites jargon heavy guidelines with more streamlined wording.

    If names were left on the applications, it’s very easy for managers to give into their implicit biases and think “Oh, Jane Smith has the better experience! She works in teapot engineering. She’s done some projects that have required a liaison role.”

    Latisha Taylor is passed over as she only has two years of experience and none as a teapot specification liaison.

    What if instead, the manager sees this:

    Candidate 2345678:
    * 5 years experience engineering.
    * 4 teapot liaison projects.
    * Two projects have been implemented at a higher level.

    Candidate 8642975:
    * 2 years experience academic advising.
    * Daily experience translating jargon heavy information into everyday common wording.
    * Monthly meetings with administrators.
    * 8 projects have been incorporated into the school’s website.

    Who appears to be the better candidate on paper?

    Don’t believe me? Read up on blind auditions used for hiring musicians in orchestras. Performing behind caused a 50% increase in women being advanced to the next round. Here’s a Guardian article about the practice:

    1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I want to add something that may come across the wrong way, but frankly if there are two people with close to similar strengths, and one comes from a background of privilege and the other with less advantages, as a generalization the latter is likely to be a higher-performer in the long-run. They’ve faced all sorts of challenges.

      As an example, you’re interviewing two people and they are equally impressive in terms of their work accomplishment and what they seem capable of right now. For both it’s would be their third job out of school. One went to Harvard and the other a not-well-known state school. I suspect that, if there are differences, the latter will be more impressive on the job.

      (PS I went to Harvard).

      1. TL -*

        But you have no idea what people have experienced by their resume. You can make some generalizations like a POC has experienced barriers and racism because they are a POC and a white person has not – but you have no idea of economic, social, family, mental, or physical hardships (plenty of rich kids go to state schools and yes, some poor kids go to Harvard, for one example.)

        Privilege is not additive; it’s intersectional. The only thing you know for sure about a person who went to Harvard or UMass is that they went to Harvard or UMass.

    2. Today's OP*

      I’ve heard of companies using this approach, but I’m not involved in hiring at my company, so I’m not sure if we do. Like other resources shared here, I’ll save this in case it is something I can use later. Thank you.

    3. lazy intellectual*

      This is a really good point, but I can see it backfiring in one way. People might still be discriminated at the interview stage.

      1. Alice*

        At least they would get an interview. That’s already better odds than most experience now.

    4. LemonLyman*

      I think that works if the recruiting is balanced. But the issue is that often recruiting is aimed (intentionally or not) toward white candidates. Companies need to be more intentional to advertise toward BIPOC candidates.

  29. Lady Heather*

    Alison is right in that diversity is not enough, there also needs to be inclusion and equity – but don’t mistake diversity, equity and inclusion as only relating to race! Because it’s not true – but more than that, because it’s not helpful for any category. ‘Curing’ racism without ‘curing’ ableism would mean racism is only cured until a study claims that some races are more intelligent or have ‘better’ genes than others. Specifically to ableism, people of colour often have worse health situations because of factors like access to healthcare, means to pay for healthcare and good food, bias in medicine, and being shot at by police. More broadly, as a whole, women of colour face more discrimination than white women or black men do; LGBT POCs face more harassment than LGBT whites or straight POCs.
    Intersectionality is important, and we can’t overthrow a system by only focusing on one ‘ism’ without addressing the systemic intolerance that’s behind all it.

    One ‘trick’ I’ve used (at acquaintances who say their company is very diverse, not at my own employers) is this:
    Conversational Partner: our company is very diverse and inclusive and we don’t discriminate at all. Other employers might but we’re not one of them.
    Lady Heather: oh, how many of your senior software developers are [marginalized group]?
    CP: One in five!
    LH: is that good?
    CP: Yes, only one in 4-5 of IT graduates is [member of group].
    LH: But where did the rest go?
    CP: Huh?
    LH: Other companies don’t promote [group] to senior positions?
    CP: No, but we do!
    LH: But if 1 in 5 grads is [group], and most companies only have 1 in 25 [group] in senior positions, that’d leave a large amount of skilled [group] in not-senior positions.
    CP: I guess that’s true.
    LH: And you are only hiring 1 in 5 [group]. Which is a start, but a simple deduction will show you that there’s a lot of under-utilized skilled [group] out there; if you truly weren’t discriminating, wouldn’t you be hiring them – members of [group] – disproportionately?

    (In other words: in a world where marginalized groups exist and are discriminated against, an organization that doesn’t discriminate has more women as senior staff than men, more people of colour as senior staff than the national/regional percentage of people of colour, etc.)
    My phrasing is convoluted – sorry, it’s hard to translate. You might make this point to HR, if they give you a ‘we’re inclusive!’ line.

  30. Anon*

    If it’s OK, I’d like to throw out a question about how to promote diversity in hiring. I was part of a discussion at my company earlier this week where it was suggested that we require hiring managers to interview at least one minority candidate. Aside from the obvious issues of how we would even know the race of the candidate, I kept thinking that that could not possibly be legal. It is my understanding that you cannot factor race into hiring decisions, either to favor or to exclude minorities, so how do you go about deliberately building a racially diverse workforce when you can’t specifically hire with that in mind?

    1. Jennifer*

      That was kind of addressed above. You can post jobs where black people are more likely to see them, like with HBCUs, organizations for black professionals, etc. I have also seen job postings that said something like “minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.”

      The idea of “at least one minority candidate” sounds problematic to me. It sounds like trying to just check a box and say “well, we tried” if more minorities aren’t hired.

      1. Kiki*

        The idea of requiring at least minority candidate sounds problematic to me as well and like it would probably be used to cover asses more than bring about change. I do think it is important, though, to be aware when your hiring pool or interview pool is not diverse. If you only interview 5 white candidates, the solution is not to seek out just one BIPOC to interview before you move forward. You have to take the time to look at your hiring process systemically– why *did* only 5 white people make it to this round? Why isn’t the applicant pool more diverse? How can we make sure our job application is reaching everyone who would be interested? How can we ensure our job application isn’t turning people off or is inaccessible to people?

        1. Kiki*

          There is a company in my area that is really terrible to work at as a BIPOC. It’s pretty widely known through the grapevine/whisper networks/friends. If they were to implement a policy like Anon’s company is considering, it may help some, but ultimately they would probably use it as a checkbox, like Jennifer said, and not delve deeper into their true issues. A lot of potential candidates are opting out of applying because it is known to be so terrible to work there

      2. BluntBunny*

        I disagree bringing in more more people to the next stage gives them more opportunity to shine. It’s what the NFL had to do because there are so few black owners however they used it as a simple tick box exercise and continued to hire the white men they wanted. As a WOC I think it could be helpful interviewing more people from different backgrounds may help you overcome unconscious biases. But what would be even better is having diverse HR and recruitment team. Also hiring managers and management having diversity and inclusion training. Also when you look at the resumes bear in mind that some students have had to work while studying to be able to afford college and that would have had an impact on grades. That grades don’t necessarily show their knowledge rather how much time they had to study. I put students with a first with no work experience on par with students with work experience and a 2:1.

    2. UKDancer*

      Our company has adopted name blind recruitment. There have been some studies showing that applicants with names that clearly indicate a BAME identity are less frequently invited to interview than applicants with more typically “white” names even where the level of suitability is identical. So my company removes the applicant names from forms before they are evaluated to reduce the likelihood of unconscious bias.

      1. VI Guy*

        They should also aim to remove other identifying information, which in some places might include address and school name.

    3. Persephone Underground*

      I think there’s nothing wrong with *including* additional people based on race in the interview stage- that doesn’t indicate hiring based on it, or rejecting other candidates based on it. If it’s blind, you keep interviewing until you get a minority candidate! If you aren’t interviewing any maybe there’s a problem with your recruiting strategy. And I believe this concept only works when it’s a viable candidate, as in, someone who could really do the job. Checking a box doesn’t count. When done right the technique apparently does work to increase diversity.

  31. Chinese American*

    Please stop *talking* about how diverse you are. In my experience, it just ends up highlighting to people that they’re marginalized. As an example, I grew up in a very white town and my college was more diverse, but they also very much tried to foster an image of themselves as diverse, and the consensus of people at the Asian student organization I went to is that it just fostered a rift and put us into groups. We felt pigeonholed and tokenized. I felt more comfortable in my super white high school because I could just *be Asian* in the ways I chose to be without it have it sort of pointed out. To be clear, I actually like my college, and I generally think they‘re well-meaning and they’re genuinely trying to do the right thing. The tokenization wasn’t a drastic issue for me – it’s not like I felt constantly uncomfortable there or had a lingering sense of malaise over this, it’s more of a vague feeling that occasionally became something that I consciously noticed. But one environment was better for me than the other and I feel like it’s worth pointing out.
    Do diversity without being performative about it.

  32. BIPOC sib in HR*

    My sibling (we’re both BIPOC) heads up the diversity, equity and inclusion team at a company whose ownership is famously not Team BIPOC. So you can imagine the impossible battle they’re having, esp. now that the 95% white leadership team thinks racism can be solved in a couple days.

    When the company hadn’t issued any internal statement about recent events, they told me having two white, male execs email the white Big Boss that something needed to be said helped push him to action.

    So LW, if you have the time, you might consider 1) finding out if there is a diversity, equity, inclusion head at your company; 2) meeting with them to find out what DEI initiatives and policies they’re trying to enact, and 3) if you agree with those efforts, writing your execs to urge them to invest and back those plans ASAP. You may not think you have the capital to do so, but these efforts need all the support they can get from white employees.

  33. AnonyBlondie*

    I’m struggling with this in my company as well. We recently held an online forum where some leaders and employees shared their experiences and feelings about the recent events. (Don’t get me started on asking BIPOC folks to reveal their trauma to an audience!) I believe the CEO is very sincere about his desire for unity and diversity within the company.
    However, 9 out of 10 on our executive leadership team is white. The one POC just came on last month, and he replaced a white man. I really believe if you want to see if companies are walking the talk when it comes to D&I, look at their ELT.

  34. Justin*

    Black guy who researches and teaches on race and whiteness specifically to white folks who want to figure out how to do better outside of the immediate (donation, etc.).

    Speak to the POC (and particularly Black, right now) folks who have worked for you and seek their input, while ensuring that leadership will not retaliate. Find conclusive changes necessary.

    Next time you have a job opening, ask why your pool may not be diverse. Review your marketing/space/etc to ensure it’s not just “diverse” but a place that POC will feel centered and not peripheral.

    Get your leadership to engage deeply in the literature – “we don’t have time” they’ll say, but they do if they actually care – and commit to concrete collective action.

    And as Alison said, diversity means nothing if the space isn’t equal.

    1. Justin*

      I’m gonna add, your leadership will be visible on your website somewhere. If it’s very white, little about statements will matter to someone interested in a longterm leadership role. Seek out concrete ways to encourage promotion and development, any policies (hair, attire, etc) that might not seem racial but are, any screening practices, and so on.

      There’s always a lot that can be done. The people with power need to do it. I commend you for wanting to hold their feet to the fire.

    2. HRArwy*

      As a Black Woman and one that conducts a lot of human rights investigations it’s very frustrating to see how white the human rights, legal and academic areas that study this are and that’s the root of the problem. So many people are theorizing and dishing out solutions that don’t get to the root of the the problem and are used as poorly secured band-aids.

      One thing I would say is when someone brings forward a complaint of racial discrimination i’t is 100% important to understand that racism isn’t BIG, LOUD and IN YOUR FACE as you’d believe. It’s subtle. It’s as subtle as People Manager giving a lower raise to a Black employee year-over-year even though their work is praised. It’s People Managers not being willing to equally accommodate employees and treating some like children when it comes to start times even though there are no performance issues.

      My own experience with racism in the workplace wasn’t all that remarkable it was a co-worker telling me that I was so smart and talent but that my hair (natural) was pretty but unprofessional. That’s racism. And that’s the racism that people are often dealing with.

      What companies can do? Address systemic issues, get diverse opinions on policies and processes etc… and if you have a diversity problem – you probably have a cultural problem. Find it.

  35. Publishing Dude*

    And then you get fired. Or mentally classed as a trouble-maker.

    Call me a cynic if you like, but many of the comments here, and other AAM posts/scripts, and elsewhere seem designed to convince managers that whoever brings them to the manager’s attention is a cheeky so-and-so who has too much time on their hands. The blunt truth is that corporations are all about profits, not diversity. They don’t really care about political/social issues, at least until they start to affect the bottom line. If they ever do.

    The same problem persists at a lower level. You cannot fix long-standing problems by penalising people who are not directly responsible for the problems. You’ll poison your workforce’s attitude to both their managers and their co-workers if you do anything that suggests the newly-promoted person had an unfair advantage. (And yes, I’m perfectly aware of the irony).

    There’s a strong cultural gap between the people who actually do the work and the jobsworths that think they have the right to tell us what to do (HR, I’m looking at you). A person who has the skills to do [whatever] will win over his critics very quickly, once he (or she) proves himself. I’ve seen it happen. A person who arrives with the impression, often totally unfair, that they were only chosen to meet some diversity requirement is going to be crippled before he can prove himself. And everyone else will either be hostile – openly or covertly – or shy away, for fear of causing offense and then getting fired.

    People get hired because managers think they can do the job. No one in any sane industry gives much of a d*** about them personally, just what they can do for the company.

    If you feel that diversity is important, make a reasonable case for it. For example:

    YOU: We can make a black-led superhero movie.
    THEM: Black-led superhero movies don’t earn themselves out.
    YOU: Black Panther made bank!
    THEM: Good point. Draw up a proposal.

    Or you could keep talking about diversity and inclusion, which pretty much guarantees people will either pay little more than lip service to the concept or shy away from it altogether.

    Sorry for being so harsh – the place I work is constantly roiled by kerfuffles about diversity and other issues that explode into the light, cause a lot of disruption and then fade away again with little real change – but I think it has to be said.

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      I’m sorry, I’ve reread this comment a couple times and I can’t tell what exactly you are trying to say in response to the original question.

      > People get hired because managers think they can do the job.

      That’s precisely the problem – who managers think can do the job, and whether they are right about that or whether their implicit biases are factoring into their decision

      Again, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

      1. Jennifer*

        I think they are saying that raising this issue to leadership could result in reprisals. Many corporations don’t care about diversity until it starts to affect their bottom line, so the OP should present the issue in a way that shows how improving diversity will benefit them. If that doesn’t happy, it’s likely they’ll just continue to pay lip service to the issue until it’s no longer trendy.

        It’s a cynical take, but there’s a lot of truth there.

        1. POC BUY BOOKS FYI*

          That’s very generous. I think this person is saying that hiring a non-white person is viewed as “penalizing” white people, and so they create a hostile work environment to push them out. Because there’s no way a person of color got hired on their own merit, HR is just trying to fill a diversity quota.

          Just to be perfectly clear, this is a justification for discrimination.

      1. Daria*

        Also came here to say that being an organization that doesn’t care about diversity, equity, and inclusion actually DOES impact the bottom line. Think about all of the talent, good ideas, and creativity that companies that are mostly white are missing out on by only or mostly hiring people who look like them or have the same background and experiences as them. Or leadership and innovation companies are missing out on when their POC employees aren’t mentored or promoted within their organizations. Or how companies are missing opportunities to make products and services for a diverse customer base. Or how much harder it is to do good work when you’re dealing with stressful and even traumatic micro and macro aggressions from your coworkers and supervisors.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          Or how many companies put out something publicly that is unintentionally extremely offensive to a certain group. (Looking at you, Gucci.)

    2. Savannnah*

      “And then you get fired. Or mentally classed as a trouble-maker.”
      The least white folks can do.

      1. zora*

        Yes, this. If I as a white person am not willing to face some sacrifice to dismantle white supremacy, then I’m not doing enough. Getting fired would be awful, but not as awful as being murdered by a police officer.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I got into serious trouble for pointing out unequal pay at one firm. Like threatening my career serious. I’d do it again if I had to. I’m not allowing inequality to go by in silence.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          (Btw am a member of several marginalised groups, but have the privilege of holding higher level jobs)

  36. Lauren*

    Could there a monthly automatic dashboard of demographics across the company? You set it up at the HR level and there are SAAS options that do it all for you as a subscription. Maybe recommending one that collects the data for you based on HR info.

    It could also be flagging things too …
    – 2% of black employees are in management / 40% of black employees are in a position to be promoted to management based on XYZ factors.
    – 60% of POC have negative review language vs. 18% of white employees. – X has been with the company for 12 years and hasn’t been promoted
    – Y is at Z’s level of experience, but 12% less salary than counterparts

    The flags force the company to see it and correct if they choose to, or at least question the flag. Sometimes, the discrepancy is warranted, other times – its systematic BS either racism or gender BUT also would help address just plain bad management not paying attention to keeping good employees happy and getting market rate / promotions on time.

  37. Persephone Underground*

    I’ve heard of several issues around hiring that can help- one is simply removing names from resumes before they’re seen by the hiring managers to remove unconscious bias in the pre-interview stage. Another was called the “draft rule” where you must interview at least one viable candidate of color and at least one viable female candidate (not just anyone to meet a quota, someone you consider worth an interview) for every open position. Both of these measures have positive track records.

    Also, as a woman in a heavily male field, it’s important to be aware of common pitfalls and cultural disconnects. Don’t treat us “carefully”, but know that you’re more likely to get the best out of woman employees for example if you make an effort to draw out their opinions instead of waiting for them to speak up spontaneously (because we’re, as a group, conditioned to be less forward), or look out for signs they’re being steamrolled and circle back to make sure they have a chance to speak. I’ve personally had fewer problems with that then with feeling reluctant to ask questions for fear of looking incompetent, where a man might be more likely to just ask.

    I suppose on a management level that means it’s important to read up on common cultural areas where certain groups get disadvantaged in the office and try to adjust the culture to make room for differences in these things.

    Also, rigid management leads to general non-inclusion in a lot of subtle ways, so try to avoid “majority rules” or “average” solutions (e.g. don’t vote on office chair models and only order the winning one- taller and shorter people have differing needs, and shorter=(often) women so…).

    At my job, for example, during a particular crunch period we were allowed to take a company paid Uber home if we stayed after 9 at my office, but my bus stopped running at 7 and it got dark at 6:30, so if I wanted to just work two hours late (not until 9, but say 8) I would have to take a different and less-safe feeling bus and train route home after dark. When I approached management about it they did understand that as the only woman on the team I have different concerns. Ultimately the exception wasn’t approved but my boss wasn’t thrilled and said he would not care if I just left in time for my bus, more or less saying screw the extra hours if they won’t accommodate me (I’m salaried). This of course wasn’t ideal, it technically disadvantaged me slightly, but I did feel a bit better knowing my immediate manager did try on my behalf and wouldn’t hold it against me if I worked late less often. But it would have been better if they’d just relaxed the policy either case-by-case or for everyone.

    So yeah- push for general flexibility in workplace policies and real actions to include different communication styles at the management levels.

    1. Persephone Underground*

      Agh, sorry for the rambly wall-of-text! Hope there’s something helpful in there in any case.

    2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “I’ve heard of several issues around hiring that can help- one is simply removing names from resumes before they’re seen by the hiring managers to remove unconscious bias in the pre-interview stage. ”

      I’ve heard that too.

      And I want to add that it’s sad that it comes to that – having to do that shows a lack of commitment to diversity and lack of recognition to bias. Here’s an example – say my company wants a more diverse workforce and I agree that’s a good thing, even though I’m full of unconscious biases. If I can be made to recognize my bias, then even if I can’t overcome it on a unconscious level, it’s to a be a no-brainer to at least move someone with a stereotypically black name forward in the process if they seem vaguely close to other people. It’s like duh – that’s such an easy step to take.

      Hiding names makes sense if the hiring managers are literally incapable of *trying* to correct for their own biases. I mean dude, the company says you need to hire more BIPOC and you’re not going to consciously try to correct your biases. WTF – that’s a pretty low bar you’ve set for yourself.

      I’ve got all sorts of biases myself, but for the ones I’m aware of I at least try to go the opposite direction.

      1. anon for this*

        First off, I agree with you…. but… Too many people will not recognize their own biases. My aunt just wrote a whole screed about how the 1960s really advanced race relations and how she has some black friends, so all is right with the world and we’re fine. Changing her heart or mind is more than Jesus can manage at this time (she’s very culturally Christian) so I really don’t want to rely on her internal changemaking in a workplace — I’d rather rely on the mechanics of removing names and allowing people the barest chance to be judged on their actual qualifications. At least then the resume makes it to a small group of people, often, and one person has a harder time throwing it in the trash unilaterally. People think they’re objective, and evidence shows that people unconsciously change *the qualifications they think are important for a job* based on race and gender of applicants, and then rationalize after the fact.

        As one of the Harvard Business Review article linked above ( says, metrics and accountability are important because they take things out of the “hearts and minds” realm to the measurable results realm.

  38. animaniactoo*

    A good example of the kind of thing that Alison is referencing here – equality in opportunities, perks, etc. happening, NOT just the “face” of the workforce showed up recently with Bon Appetit where the highly prized diverse workforce is not being treated the same across the board. From smallish potatoes stuff like a lack of interest in articles focusing on specific cuisines to really big potatoes stuff like BIPOC employees not being paid (or paid nearly as much) to appear in how-to and other videos on the website as their white counterparts. It was recently highlighted within the company and the editor-in-chief had to resign over it, and a lot of the white contributors have started refusing to record videos until their BIPOC counterparts are paid (the same).

    1. Quill*

      Been following that somewhat, it’s really shed light on some labor issues I wasn’t as aware of.

    2. PX*

      Ugh. Been so sad about it as well, but hope it will lead to some real change. Conde Nast is notorius for being pretty racist though, so they’ll probably slap a band-aid on it and keep on going.

      One great take-away I saw from that though was that being able to freely talk about salary information with peers was a great way for some of the BIPOC to realise just how much they were being underpaid and raise a fuss about it.

      So you can think about that too OP: fostering a culture where staff either all know they are being paid equitably, or making sure people know they are allowed to talk about it.

  39. Magenta*

    I’m a woman of Indian descent [not white passing at all with an Indian first and last name] and I am both openly Hindu and openly gay. At my previous workplace I was offered a job into the lowest tier of management. It was 2 levels above the job I was doing. There was no job search or process and I was just asked. My ‘new’ boss and my ‘old boss and others like the VP and the director all said they saw so much potential in me and were confident in my abilities. I was naive because I truly thought they meant it. I wasn’t ready to be a manager or to do that promotion and it was clear I was in over my head. I didn’t get any support and I was only put there to be the token not white / not male / not straight / religious minority employee so the company and the higher ups could tout diversity and pat themselves on the back. It was hurtful and stressful and I ended up getting fired because everything went south. I’m sure the higher ups use it as a reason to discriminate too. I screwed up with managing my staff because I had no support and none of them had any idea why I was truly promoted. They just thought I lied or was incompetent. I don’t have any proof either. I ended up switching to a different industry although to get away from what happened because of how public my crash and burn was. I had to see a therapist because I was so stressed. The job I took was a lower pay and title than the job I had before my promotion.

    The point of my story is that companies need to avoid tokenism and they need to support their diverse employees in their jobs. I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on my worse enemy.

    1. Kiki*

      I’m so sorry this happened to you! A lot of companies do this– they hire BIPOC and offer them little to no support and sparse resources, then when things go poorly they spend zero time thinking about how THEY failed, instead they blame the person they set up to fail. It’s infuriating.

    2. Alice*

      Thanks for sharing your experience Magenta. I am truly sorry that it happened to you, but thankful that we get to learn from this.

  40. Persephone Underground*

    Oh, also post salary bands in your ads to reduce gender and racial pay gaps. I think this also gets rid of the implication that you don’t need this salary to survive/ money isn’t important, which just isn’t true for plenty of groups.

  41. VI Guy*

    Bystander intervention training.
    Make it the company culture that people are encouraged to speak up when they see something wrong, especially when it is happening to someone else. Try to take some of the burden away from the minority groups.

  42. AnotherSarah*

    I sit on a committee that advises our institution about equity and inclusion issues, and I think, frankly, that we do a bad job of it (the advising and the overall culture). Part of it is that there is a tendency to point to the lack of candidates coming from underrepresented backgrounds–without thinking about why that is and what we are doing to add to the problem. So thought #1 is to actively promote initiatives (which don’t have to originate with my org; they can come from outside with us signing on) that help underrepresented group members enter and thrive in our fields. #2, we don’t look at the overall area–we’re located in an area of the country not known for its racial or ethnic (or religious, for that matter) diversity. For me, it was a tough decision to come here, and it’s worse for people from other underrepresented groups. So point #2 is that the org/company must work with the municipality/county to identify and rectify factors that perpetuate inequity and unequal access–are housing prices so high that homeownership is unattainable for people without inherited family money? Are there no places that serve minoritized populations–cultural centers, religious institutions, social services, etc.? Are there places to go to get needed goods and services? (Hair salons are a sore spot in my region–I and others I know wait until we travel to get a suitable haircut.) The org can’t *fix* these things, at least not alone, but it’s necessary to figure out, if you’re not getting applicants from underrepresented groups at all levels, or if people are turning down offers, why.

    Those are two things I think can be very beneficial for recruiting and maintaining a truly diverse and inclusive workforce–neither has to do with the org in particular, but rather larger forces, which is where my org (and many others, I suspect) kind of throws up its hands as if there’s nothing to be done.

  43. Jennifer*

    And please, please, please, don’t ask black people to tell all of their racist stories or police harassment stories so that you can educate yourself. Racial trauma is a real thing. Some people may share willingly but others don’t have the energy. We are tired.

    There are great resources where you can look up stories like that for yourself.

    1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      My org is usually pretty good on these issues. We had an organizational consultant come in who I think is frankly worse than the org as a whole, and he was setting up task forces for various topics, and he tapped me to lead the inclusion team. I’m the highest ranking black person in our US operations, but have no particular expertise or expressed interest in that topic. I was like WTF? I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was being polite asking me.

      Similar my org is having some discussions about BLM now, which is fine. But I’m not interested – our org culture is so much better than the US as a whole on race that I’d rather not talk about racism at work – it’s a place of respite for me from living it. I actually entered an all staff-meeting called by our CEO recently that was on this topic, though some of us hadn’t realized it. When I saw the topic I waved to the camera (it was a video call) and left the meeting. I did send some brief written comments but just don’t want to deal with it at work.

      It’s excellent when companies truly try to improve, and mine is. But it should not be burden to people of excluded groups already on the job unless they want to help.

      1. Jennifer*

        +1 Yes, these groups and meetings should be optional and people who choose not to join should not be pressured to. If you’re not black, imagine having to stand in a room full of people you don’t know or that have been insensitive toward you in the past and having to tell a story about one of the most traumatic incidents of your life.

    2. lazy intellectual*


      Also, don’t interrogate immigrants or children of immigrants about their origin stories. You can ask “where are you from?” but accept the information they volunteer. Not all immigration stories are happy and some are traumatizing. Also, not all children of immigrants know a ton of stuff about their parents’ home countries.

  44. My Two Cents*

    One small, but concrete, thing I promote vocally in my field: Think critically about what formal education is actually, truly required for a job. I work in a field that has roots in academia, and many people default to making advanced degrees a requirement for positions. In many cases, if you think critically about it, that degree is not strictly necessary and could be substituted with relevant experience, skills, and knowledge in XYZ. But it’s an efficient (biased) shortcut.

    Why on earth would a low-level coordinator NEED to have an MA (or even a BA, in some cases) to even be considered for the job? If she had other experience in program coordination and the skills you need, that should be sufficient. For any degree – BA, MA, PhD: What skills are actually needed, and might there be ways that someone can prove their research skills or domain expertise in other ways? Make your requirements inclusive, and take the time and effort to screen for experience, rather than this shortcut, biased proxy.

    By making higher education a default, you are privileging those who can afford higher education. It’s not entirely a racial bias, and it’s just one, small piece of hiring. But it’s a built-in systemic bias that could be very easily undone.

    1. lazy intellectual*

      This is a great point. Also, if you provide internships, provide sufficient funding for the area you live in. So if it’s in a HCOL area, like NY or DC, PLEASE pay more than $15/hr.

      1. My Two Cents*

        Yes! This is important too. Unpaid internships are a massive bias, but under-paid internships are a major problem too.

    2. George*


      This is excellent! Along those lines, there are many people (particularly mothers) who have trouble finding employment due to the need for part-time work. Lots of white-collar jobs could be part-time, or would even be BETTER part-time (like when there’s extra work, but not quite enough for another full-timer), but those options are seldom considered.

      This disproportionately impacts those with health issues and single parents (last I checked the demographics, this would be disproportionately POC) – but also mothers in general. Obviously, if a full-time person is really needed, that’s one thing, but I’ve seen managers who are happy to accommodate a part-time position – but nobody ever tells that to HR.

    3. ArtsNerd*

      I just quietly deleted the BA from the job postings I’m the hiring manager for, and my boss (who I’d previously argued with over this) hasn’t noticed yet. I have yet to come across an office job that requires a Bachelor’s degree, unless it’s as a step to a credentialing degree, like a JD or MD.

  45. Jules the First*

    During lockdown, my employer has laid on a series of inspirational speakers (mostly athletes) for weekly events. They’ve done ok with gender balance, but so far all the speakers are white. Does anyone have wording that I (white) could use to bring this up usefully with the (white) organiser of the talk series?

    1. kt*

      One way I’ve approached this is to simply send in a list of people you’d like to hear. “Hi! I’ve noticed that our speakers have all been white, and it seems to me we’re missing out on a ton of inspiring material from (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H….). It would be great to invite some of these folks too!” Honestly, in my experience that is usually enough of a nudge, as the organizer looks at it and notices the obvious with some chagrin and embarrassment… and also gets a list of speakers so 1/3 of their job is done.

      And make sure you’re paying the speakers! Don’t ask a Black person to inspire you for free, especially at a time like this.

    2. Jackalope*

      Also, don’t have a member of a minority group there to talk solely about oppression and racism (or sexism, or whatever). It can be a helpful thing for them to contribute on, but perhaps in a work setting they’d rather contribute their knowledge on the best possible llama grooming technique, or the pros and cons of different metals for tea spouts. Don’t set up the dichotomy of POC staff being there for nothing other than thoughts on race.

  46. PX*

    One of the things I am currently appreciating about my current workplace is they are communicating clearly about what steps they are taking to increase the diversity within the company, which includes raising the targets they already have for levels of represntation at different levels, and making financial contributions. They already support some HBCUs and I believe recruit quite a lot from them which helps.

    They are also not afraid to fire people who make racists/other-“ist” statements at work, and communicate clearly that a person was fired for making those kinds of statements. It says to me that the company actually mean it when they say they want this to be a place where everyone feels comfortable.

    Personally, I really love the idea of having specific leadership/mentorship opportunities specifically for BIPOC in a company, and might be an idea I take to them as I know we have some development programs within the company.

    I know once you hit a certain level in the company, you have to take implicit bias training, so that’s also an idea you can suggest. And certainly having blind screening for any open positions is a good idea as well, as well as really critically thinking about whether all the criteria you have on a job opening needs to be there (university degree for example).

    But as others have said, none of the above matters if your company culture doesnt also change. There needs to be real willingness from top-down to make your company somewhere that BIPOC feel comfortable working, because otherwise you may recruit a few, but they will end up leaving due to feel unsupported and frustrated.

  47. Miss Muffet*

    Do they have a diverse hiring committee, especially for positions in leadership? Some companies are specifically making sure that there is a diverse group interviewing so that people don’t continue to just keep hiring other versions of themselves. I think this is a pretty easy commitment to make that should actually wield some results.

    1. anonforthis*

      Yep. Otherwise you get “we’re not sure they are going to fit in here” and/or “wait, can you explain 400 years of history to me right now in 2.5 minutes?”

  48. DashDash*

    Throwing this out there: I’ve learned recently that a lot of companies (…ok, every. single. company. who responded to our RFP) think “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy” and “Non-Discrimination in Hiring” policies are the same.

    They are not – and making sure your company is clear on that can help.

  49. lazy intellectual*

    This is a small thing, but really make sure there is transparency in how employees are evaluated and no double standards. This is important in general, but usually ambiguous standards for hiring and employee evaluations “conveniently” result in – surprise! – white people and men reaping all the promotions, raises, etc.

  50. PX*

    Sorry to double post but I also forgot one of the most important points: money talks, and studies show companies with more diverse workforces, but most importantly, diverse leaders actually have better performance on the stock market and often have better long term performance. So if it helps to frame it in a business/money/capitalist context, tell them its actually better for them as a company to be more diverse.

  51. George*

    Obviously, at this time we are probably mostly attuned to diversity and equity in terms of race. However, given that these posts tend to be about for a long time and there are multiple aspects to inclusion (gender identity, ability, religion, etc), I am going to comment on a gender aspect from my own experience.

    I work in a very male dominated field, and this is reflected in the workplace. However, the company says it is committed to diversity. So, at the most basic level, I have been pushing to have women interviewers included as much as possible… Even if they have to be pulled in from different teams or areas of the company. This is because we are supposed to be committed to a culture of respect, and it is hard to identify gender-respect issues if only men are interviewing the (mostly male) candidates.

  52. IndoMex*

    I’m a non-White, non-Black, woman of color. The organization where I work serves a large BIPOC population (think education, social work, service type field) but our workforce (a couple of hundred people) and particularly our leadership are almost all white. I can think of maybe three Black people. And there is one Black man who is always used as a token in anything that calls for “diversity” or needs a person on video (he has incredible camera presence and energy, but after a dozen videos of him, they need to find a new star!). The president of the org (old white man) sent a letter talking about the police shootings, saying our org stands for social justice, and proclaiming that he and the board stands behind employees and those we serve from all walks of life. In a recent all org meeting, he said that someone asked him if we might do diversity training for staff. He said he feels diversity training is better used more as a reaction to an particular incident and that he thinks it’s each individuals responsibility to educated themselves. I agree and disagree with this. But it sounds like there really won’t be any internal changes or conversation moving forward. If there is, it wasn’t shared with us.

    However, my biggest concern right now is that our staff does not reflect those we are serving which means that our mostly white staff are making decisions and creating resources from their well-meaning but biased and white privileged perspective. I want to send a letter to the president to point this out and ask (tell my thought about?) what could be done to improve this. I’ve got a jumbled rough draft started but I’m at a loss for a clear approach. And I’m nervous to send it so I want it to be thoughtful and clear in my letter.

    Any advice on what I could say? Or talking points? I’m not super influential so I can’t lean on management or leadership credibility. I don’t want to ask my boss for advice because he is the one Black man I mentioned and I don’t wish to add more to this stress. He’s going to be leading a talk next week on serving men of color (!!!). He has enough going on.


    1. Important Moi*

      You’ve posted so late in the day. Way fewer new posts appear at this point of the day. Maybe post this in its entirety to the Friday free for all (earlier in the day) for suggestions.

    2. WellRed*

      “He said he feels diversity training is better used more as a reaction to an particular incident and that he thinks it’s each individuals responsibility to educated themselves.”
      That sounds frustrating.
      If you are reactionary, then it means damage has been done (George Floyd, we’re reacting, but he’s dead, there’s no changing that). Also, in the history of humankind, I think we’ve shown that individuals suck at educating themselves, particularly if they either don’t recognize themselves as part of the problem, or just don’t care because it could never happen to them.

      1. IndoMex*

        Or don’t even recognize that they should be educated (or don’t know where to start).

        Thanks for your thoughts. I will try to post again during open thread to get more input.

  53. Alex*

    Doesn’t making hiring decisions based on race, gender or disability fit the very definition of discrimination?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Claiming to be “color blind” does not mean your actions are “not racist.”

    2. anonforthis*

      That upholds the status quo, which has a ton of implicit bias built into it, and sustains existing power structures. We’ll need to do better than that.

    3. Today's OP*

      This is exactly what companies are doing though. The fact that leadership decisions are filled with people who all look alike and come from the same background. It might be an unconscious decision, but it’s still a decision that’s been made.

  54. BluntBunny*

    I would like to see my company post as much about during black history month as they do pride month and women’s day. And for those people to not just be black people. Also when they have talked about diversity in the past it seems to always be focused on gender as companies over a certain size have to publish their pay gap and how many women in leadership roles rather than race. I would also look to see if you can influence dress code like allowing black women to have their natural hair. Also how to report racism.

  55. Lurky BunBun*

    Hi Allison, I am wondering if I may request, at a later date so as not to hijack this thread, a post or Ask the Readers about how employers define and measure diversity and inclusion, and other people’s thoughts on what constitues a diverse workforce. Many thanks!

  56. Bricolage on the Brink*

    I just wanted to share a book recommendation – “Erasing Institutional Bias: How to Create Systemic Change for Organizational Inclusion” by Tiffany Jana and Ashley Diaz Mejias, both people of color.

    While the title is a bit of an overstatement, it lays out clear steps any individual can take to start pushing for changes to enhance inclusion within their organization, and clues readers into phenomena along a number of different dimensions of bias. I really appreciated the focus on first getting much clearer on personal goals and commitments, a focus on data (broadly defined), and building coalitions/allies to help make change happen. I also consider it to be “newbie” friendly – you don’t need deep familiarity with the concepts and forms of bias outlined to learn from the text.

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