my coworker’s white fragility is getting in the way of DEI discussions, and other questions about race

It’s part two of our discussion with Michelle Silverthorn! Michelle is the founder and CEO of Inclusion Nation, a recognized keynote speaker on inclusion and belonging, and the author of the best-selling book, Authentic Diversity: How to Change the Workplace for Good. Sign up for Monday Mornings with Michelle, her weekly newsletter with practical steps for allyship at work.

She answered one round of questions on Monday and she’s back today to tackle round two. With that, I’m handing it over to Michelle….

1. Should I talk to my boss about the biases I see on our team?

I’m leaving my current position in a few months for graduate school and while I’ve mostly enjoyed the job and been treated well, there are a couple things that I feel could be improved. Namely, some low-key racism that might not be apparent to my supervisor. She’s a liberal, middle-aged white woman, and I’ve noticed in the last two years that the people on our team who get opportunities to speak at conferences, lead meetings, manage projects, and eventually step into leadership roles tend to also be white. We have a very diverse team, so it feels even more apparent when these opportunities go first to white members of the team (I am a woman of color, for the record). While these individuals do end up doing a good job, it feels as if the people of color on the team are missing out on opportunities for career development. I’m also not the only person to have noticed this, another woman of color on my team who was hired recently brought this up during a conversation and wanted my advice.

I would like to maintain a relationship with my supervisor since I respect her insights in our field and I see her as an ongoing mentor, but I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t make her aware of the optics. Should I bring this up with my boss as I’m leaving and if so, what would be the best way to do that? I want to stress that this is a person who has made an effort to address equity in the work we do so she does care about this issue, but even the most well-intentioned white people can perpetuate racist systems.

I talk a lot about microaggressions, both what to do when you commit them and what to do when you experience them. One of the steps I share for people who experience microaggressions is to ask yourself whether this is the one that you want to speak up about. Many people experience numerous microaggressions every day, week, month depending on where they work and live. We don’t speak up about all of them — we choose when and where and why. Is this person willing to listen? Am I in a position right now where I’m ready to speak? If I am ready to speak, what do I say if they want me to teach them? Will this impact my relationship with this person if I speak up? What will happen to my reputation at this company? What impact will this have on my career? What about other people in my community — what happens if I say nothing? Every one of those considerations can go through someone’s mind before they decide to respond to a microaggression.

Now to you. From the perspective of someone who believes in an inclusive and equitable workplace for everyone, I would love, in a vacuum, if you could have a conversation with this supervisor about the actions she is taking that harm her goal of racial equity. I also think, in the abstract, she would like to be made aware of whether she is making progress toward the goal of racial equity. But conversations don’t take place in a vacuum and people don’t exist in the abstract. Only you can weigh questions like the ones I asked in the first paragraph and decide for yourself where your priorities lie.

The challenge is even more problematic when you are a person of color. It shouldn’t always be on people of color to point out the racism at work. Unfortunately, many times, it is. Many times, nothing will change unless one of us says something. But you and I also know that when people of color speak up about racism, the backlash can be swift and painful. People who we thought were genuinely committed to the work of justice are the ones who push back and say things like, “I don’t see color” and “This has nothing to do with race.” Then you are seen as a troublemaker. As spreading discord. Your competency is doubted. Your ability to rise in the organization is put into question because you’re not a “team player.” It can be difficult for anyone to speak up when they see discrimination, harassment, and racism, but for those of us who don’t enjoy the privilege of having our experiences be believed, it can feel almost impossible.

It is your choice where you balance it. I hope when you look at my favorite legal phrase, “the totality of the circumstances,” your balance tilts in favor of speaking up.

If you do choose to say something, please don’t save it for right when you’re about to leave. If this is a conversation you would like her to listen to, I would have a meeting prior to your departure so you can have any follow-up conversations as needed. I would point out your concerns without naming anyone else without their permission. And if she pushes back or denies, I would emphasize these are your observations, thoughts, and perspectives. Tie the conversation back to what you have seen in her work for equity and point out that you would like to continue supporting her. I always encourage people to speak to the other person’s expressed values when they want to have someone change behavior that is harmful. If she asks for advice, suggest that she start by looking at the data of who gets promotions, what evaluations say about employees of color, and what clients or customers those employees of color have access to. I can’t promise there won’t be pushback from her or repercussions for you. That’s why I urge you to weigh who you are, who this mentor is, and what you’d like to get out of the conversation. But remember. You are leaving. That means you have a certain power and privilege that other people of color still employed at the company do not have. It is your choice how you wield it.

2. Balancing inclusion with getting buy-in on candidates

I’m a manager of a small team within a larger unit, and I’m hiring at least one role and potentially two (both vacancies due to people leaving). Our culture is strong overall, this is the best team I’ve ever worked for, we promote internally, the work is demanding but intellectually stimulating and meaningful, and the pay and benefits are competitive for our sector and region. However, we’re in a very competitive industry in a high cost-of-living city, and our environment is very complex — which means that when we hire people, it’s really important to hire people who want to stay and grow. On-boarding new people is very time-consuming for the whole team, not just the hiring manager, so we try to have strong buy-in from everyone who participates in the interview process.

I recently brought someone in for a second interview with my colleagues from our team’s leadership, and while they agree that he has very strong experience that is aligned and transferable, they are concerned that he won’t have the right orientation / won’t be happy and stay. I’m noticing a pattern that my management colleagues seem to always have a “gut instinct” about candidates who don’t fit the typical identities for our field, and many of the people who departed our larger team in the aftermath of COVID have been women of color in particular. While we know there are no unicorn candidates, we definitely seem more willing to be flexible on the must-haves when the candidate fits a particular profile.

In our leadership team, there is a firm stated commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, but a lot of variation in people’s alignment with those principles in their day to day work.

How do I balance the need to have buy-in around candidates with the need to advocate for better inclusion? And is my desire to bring in candidates with broader experience and representing more diverse communities at odds with the business needs of our unit (i.e., we have a good sense of the type of candidate who stays and grows, but that candidate looks like the rest of the team). I also don’t want to bring in candidates when the other leaders in our team aren’t convinced, both because I think it’s a crappy thing to join a team where people doubt your abilities and because I don’t want the typical “bumps in the road” during on-boarding to turn into “see! I told you he wasn’t a good fit!”

I’m thrilled that you have found a team that you enjoy working with, that is delivering results, and that provides stimulating and meaningful work for you. I wish that for everyone! However, you also wrote that many of the people who left your team after Covid were women of color. That’s concerning to me. You didn’t share why they left but it appears to me the inference drawn in your letter is that since they didn’t stay, other people with similar identities and backgrounds wouldn’t stay either.

But what else changed in your workplace after Covid that would have led to the departures? Covid was especially devastating for communities of color, for a variety of reasons. The reasons those women left may not have been because of your organization; it could also have been because of a pandemic that was ruining communities, including theirs, and priorities that changed for many people, including them.

What I would like you to do is what I call a Dig Deep Data Dive into your employee base. Ready? Let’s go.

In the past year and a half, what have you noticed about departures? Who else is leaving and why? You can’t rely on exit interviews to tell you all the reasons people are leaving, but what patterns are those departures showing you? When you do your engagement surveys, are you able to break the results down by identity group — as much as you can — to get a better intersectional understanding of how people in each department and at each level feel about this organization? If 90% of people on Team A love this experience, but the 10% of Team A who don’t love it are from a similar identity group, then that tells me more than the 90% who say this is all great.

I also want you to look at the people who you did bring on who may not have fit your ideal candidate slate. You said you were flexible on must-haves. But were your leaders more willing to mentor certain people, socialize with them, train them, give them second chances, or access to work? Looking at your data and the people who were absolute perfect fits, did they all stay? Or did some of them leave as well and why?

Keep going! Let’s do another Dig Deep Data Dive into what it means to have a “firm stated commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.” I would love each of those leaders to set out how they walk the talk. It does not, especially in this post-SFFA age, have to always be about hiring. Who are you promoting? What client bases are you working with? What researchers are you using? Who are you sending to conferences? What are you sharing on your social media? Who are your contractors and vendors? What does inclusion look like in product design?

Last Dig Deep. If “gut instinct” matters this much, then give cultural fit a number or a rating during the interview process. Let’s measure how much gut instinct actually matters in the decision process. I rank this person a 10 on cultural fit and here’s why. I rank this person a 6 on cultural fit but a 10 on industry experience and here’s why. I rank this person a 4 on logical reasoning but a 9 on cultural fit and here’s why. And when you have your interview discussions afterward, and someone wants to start with, “Well, I’ll just say what everyone’s thinking,” you instead have the data from these interview reports to counter that.

Please note. I haven’t suggested you change anything at all yet about your culture or your on-boarding process. But I do suggest you evaluate what it means to commit to inclusion at every level of your organization and what actions you can take so if you do hire someone, they can stay and succeed.

3. My coworker’s white fragility is getting in the way of DEI discussions

How does one handle a coworker who gets overly defensive about racism during DEI policy meetings? My company just hired a DEI specialist. I’m in the working group meant to make DEI policy recommendations, along with “Beth,” “Meg,” and “Jo.” So far, the group meetings have involved our specialist “Laurie” having his ideas talked over by Beth the whole time.

Our first meeting, Laurie proposed changing some words in the employee handbook — and Beth launched into a 15-minute speech about how much anti-racist language she uses every day. Our second meeting, Laurie said he was disappointed in low attendance at his anti-racism training — Beth immediately started rambling about how she couldn’t make it due to needing child care, and our company should offer free child care if it really values equity. I’m dreading the third meeting; Beth’s white fragility is pulling all the air out of the room.

Beth is, like me, a white woman who has been here about three years, in a different division. Laurie hasn’t tried to interrupt her, but Laurie’s both the on-paper team lead, and the only entry-level person on the team. He’s also only been here a few months and he’s the only Black man in the ~100-person company, so it’s understandable why he’s been bowled over by Beth.

I recognize the much bigger problem here around leadership hiring a single Black employee and expecting him to fix everything while giving him no power to do so, but I’m trying to focus on the things I can change. So: should I say something to Beth after the next meeting? Should I try to say something during the next meeting? Should I discuss this with Meg (the most senior person on the team) before I go to Beth? Should I talk with my manager? Should I talk to Laurie about all this? Would I be trampling over Laurie if I did any of those?

Oh Laurie. Confession time: I have never liked Little Women because 10-year-old Michelle despised love triangles. And so it has continued 30 years later. (Don’t @ me that it’s not a love triangle. The 10-year-old heart wants what it wants. Also #justiceforamy.)

First, let’s rename Laurie. We’re going to call him T’Challa, another fictional male character who finds himself caught between the love of two rock star women. (Yes, I’m conflating Storm in the comics and Nakia in the movies, I know!) T’Challa needs your support and allyship. The only Black man in a 100-person company? And he’s an entry-level hire in charge of DEI? You and I both can see all the red flags around that one. Please start by talking with T’Challa. Give him the agency to decide what he wants to do when running his meetings. You can share your observations with him, ask him if there’s anything he’d like you to do, and suggest some ways that you could assist. He now has the power to determine what way he would like to go, and he knows that you trust him to lead that work.

One suggestion is for him to set ground rules for discussions: limit sharing time, allow others an opportunity to speak, share ideas in writing prior to the meeting, respond to the questions being asked. Another idea is to rotate who leads the discussion; this would also be helpful so T’Challa doesn’t always feel like he has to generate all of the ideas in this working group. Last, if T’Challa agrees that it would support the work, you could talk directly to Beth in-person or on a phone call. In that conversation, I would say something like this: “I know how much this work matters to you but when you share so much of your own experiences, it distracts us from the main goal of this group which is to provide actionable solutions that T’Challa and our teams can put into place. I want us all to be focused on that.”

{ 216 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi. A request to white commenters: please do not center your own experiences or feelings in this discussion; it’s not the place for it. I will be removing comments if necessary today. Thank you.

    1. 3DogNight*

      This is my comment, as well. I have found DEI training to be incredibly eye opening to me. I am female and white, and while women in general experience microaggressions, not to the level that women (and men) of any kind of color do. This learning has helped me see when I’m doing this (yikes!), and how to change it. I really, really appreciate these types of columns, so thank you Alison!

      1. mb*

        Agreed – I find this very helpful and try to remind myself to always hear others out and not get defensive or make it about me.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I love how in the last one she didn’t have the OP be the white savior and step in with her own ideas. She said talk to T’Challa and see how he wants to handle it.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes! The answer was very specific, but also broadly applicable to other situations.
        The same for her answer to #2 as well – use your data!

      2. Michelle Silverthorn*

        I love your username, Pastor Petty. And T’Challa doesn’t have a lot of power here; I worry about his ability to succeed at the job so any support she can offer is certainly needed.

      3. Paulina*

        Absolutely — the lead has to be empowered to be the lead. Especially important when the efforts have been put at a disadvantage by hiring the lead as an entry-level position (and worse still if everyone knows it’s entry level). This person needs to have authority. We’ve had similar mistakes where I work, in hiring (or trying to hire) at too low a level for the authority and experience that we need an EDI-focused position to have.

    3. Still an admin*

      Me too! We have a fairly new DEI director and in the 2 years he has been here, I still don’t know what he is doing or why or, as I learned to say from Michelle and Alison, what success would look like. Every so often there have been “listening sessions”. She has given me some language to probe more and maybe get something concrete out of the guy!

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        From the air quotes to the word choice in that last sentence, this comment is a lot. Have you asked to have a conversation with the director to see if he can share the mission, goals, and what success looks like with you? I’m certain that he would be happy to (as we all would) have somoene interetsed in his work.

  2. Eliot Waugh*

    Michelle, your time on this is so appreciated.

    Speaking of white fragility, in Part 1, white commenters were asked not to center their own voices in the comments. But that still occured, including a lot of really obvious white fragility, insistence that BIPOC people need to be kind and polite in order to maintain allies, and even straight up denial of racism as a problem (though that got pushback).

    This time can the other white folks here PLEASE not center your voices and especially not center your fragility? Please?

    1. 3DogNight*

      I’m going to ask the dumb, but real, question here. When you say don’t center your comments, does that mean to not speak of your experience? I understand the “don’t be racist” part, but the don’t center your comments isn’t clicking for me.

      1. Eliot Waugh*

        Essentially, not making the discussion about OUR feelings and experiences as white people. Beth in letter #3 is detailing the conversation and centering her own voice, for example.

        In Part 1, a bunch of comments centered how white commenters would feel about the signage (that clearly came from a workshop and was not directed at the LW) and how upset they’d be, with no consideration for why the signage existed in the first place.

        1. king of the pond*

          I want to thank you for smacking some sense into me, and hopefully others. You shouldn’t have to be the White fragility police, but it’s highly appreciated.

      2. Phoenix*

        Using the example of the signs mentioned in one of the questions in part 1, imagine a hypothetical white person commenting on that part of that question.

        Commenting, “this verbiage is unhelpful” is centering the experience of the commenter. It is normal to center one’s own experience when commenting; it is also normal to expect people who are not experts to NOT center their own experience in discussions outside of their realm of expertise. White people are not experts in the overall efficacy of DEI initiatives unless they have specific, unusual experience.

        Asking, “what purpose do these signs serve, in context?” is de-centering the experience of the commenter and leaving room for the experiences of others. Asking for other perspectives is acknowledging that other perspectives both exist and might be more relevant than one’s own.

        As a general principle, “de-centering one’s own experience” means proactively considering, leaving room for, or seeking others’ perspectives above considering one’s own. It means critically analyzing the situation and identifying when one’s own perspective might not be the most important, relevant, or educated.

      3. Jaybeetee*

        I’m not a Zoomer, but I actually quite like Zoomer lingo as applied to this issue: we are not the main character.

        Beth, for instance, seems to be treating these DEI workshops as “The Episode of the Beth Show Where Beth Learns Abouts Racism.” She’s making the workshops about her struggles, her feelings, her defensiveness, her efforts to be a good person.

        But more accurately, those workshops should be the T’Challa show. Beth is a supporting character in that show. She shouldn’t be monologuing or chewing the scenery.

        In terms of this comment section – we as white people can certainly comment. But we need to remember we’re supporting characters here. This isn’t our show, and our thoughts, feelings, reflections, and learning experiences shouldn’t be the main focus. How I feel about The Alleged Sign isn’t the most important thing here.

    2. NotTheSameAaron*

      Just a question, what do you mean by “center your voices”? I’m not familiar with this term.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Don’t make our white voices the center (dominant) part of the conversation, for once. Alison is asking us to hang back and not comment as much so that other voices get a chance to share their experiences.

      2. Potato Potato*

        Generally “center your voices” is a catch-all term that describes changing the subject to focus on your own experiences.

        For example, if the topic is how Mac users can’t download this software, it’d be centering my voice if I tried to talk about how Windows users found this software to use.

    3. Caliente*

      I mean, do they know how? The first comment defended – and was about – Beth’s childcare claim so…

      1. boof*

        I think it’s been removed? (I was checking because I remembered the comment but couldn’t recall the race of the poster being identified one way or another, but I agree it was focusing on something that Wasn’t The Point)

        1. boof*

          Ahha – it was moved the bottom with a tag! Makes sense. Just putting this here if other folks are wondering.

    4. k*

      I’m removing this, but the original comment you’re referring to was removed because that commenter is a known troll here. – Alison

    1. Green beans*

      A simple, “Thank you, Beth, but we’ve got a full agenda and we really need to stay on track. Can we return to [topic]?” would work just as well.

      The white fragility is an issue but it doesn’t have to be The Issue (that is, the issue that is addressed to fix things.) Beth shouldn’t be derailing any meetings with tangents, regardless of the reasoning, and it is perfectly reasonable to politely cut someone off to ask them to return to agenda.

      (OP, if there’s no agenda, maybe talk to T’challa about helping him to develop one and offer to be timekeeper, since he’ll be leading the meeting and thus needs to focus on that.)

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’d feel the temptation, too, but that risks causing problems that T’Challa has to deal with or undermining him further. It’s super important to talk to T’Challa about how to best support him and not to make decisions on his behalf.

  3. starsaphire*

    Yeah, Beth needs to be muzzled. I wonder if she’s deliberately derailing these meetings?

    I know it sounds all conspiracy-theory of me, but it does happen.

      1. pally*

        Most likely.
        We have a Beth here. I think her ‘tactic’ is deflection so as not to feel blamed for anything. Thing is, no one is blaming her for anything. Can’t convince her of that, unfortunately.

        1. ferrina*

          I’ve met that person (or rather, quite a few of them). If they feel like they are being accused of anything, they immediately excuse/deflect/suck all the air out of the room so they can convince themselves that they didn’t actually do anything wrong.

          Michelle’s advice of an agenda and ground rules is perfect. And it gives a perfect set-up for teh OP to step up as and ally and say “Hey Beth, I just want to be mindful of the ground rules. I’d love to get to the next agenda item- T’Challa, can you speak to what the itinerary is for the next training?”
          (giving a specific request for information to immediately change the subject back to the topic at hand)

          1. Carmen*

            In the meetings I facilitate I use “ground rules” and “parking lot”. If I were T’challa I would acknowledge Beth’s remarks and say something to the effect of “let’s put that issue/concept/thought here in the parking lot to be addressed at another meeting”.

            1. Media Monkey*

              totally this. The “parking lot” is so useful for stopping derailing people. makes them feeling like they are being heard and their thoughts captured but allows you to move on!

        2. Lea*

          I have a coworker who wants things to be about him and win conversations. Very annoying and comes across fairly mansplainy but I don’t think he means anything by it?

          Still very irritating to deal with a Beth!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      She might be, but it’s at least as likely she’s just run-of-the-mill clueless and self-centered, and being pushed to face her cozy assumptions is making her uncomfortable so she’s (probably not even consciously) trying to claw back some of the victimhood. Like every white guy I know who now thinks he can’t open his mouth because someone “might take it wrong” instead of acknowledging that he’s been, generally speaking, privileged all along. It’s a lot more comfortable to be the put-upon party.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        This. While I never acted exactly like Beth, when I was younger I had some absolutely Not Great reactions to perceived criticism that I cringe to think about now. It doesn’t sound like Beth is being specifically called out in any of these sessions, but if she *feels* criticized, and she’s not used to sitting with those feelings… cue defensive rants.

        The whole thing with white fragility is that most white people are in fact aware that Racism Is Bad And Racists Are Bad People. But with that awareness, many of us white people start feeling *real* uncomfortable when our own potential biases and blind spots get pointed out – and nearly all of us have them. And unfortunately, it’s pretty well impossible to examine those biases if you (general) can’t get past the “are you saying I’m racist??” reaction.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I think trying to make it out to be some malicious conspiracy takes away from the fact that this is actually an extremely common thing to encounter in these kinds of conversations! And quite often from people who genuinely believe they are in favor of DEI improvements.

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think it matters. And it can be helpful to assume good faith while pushing back on the behavior.

      Even if does become clear that that’s what is going on, it still is more useful to focus on the behavior. It’s a LOT easier to point to specific items, to show that it’s happening (how do you “prove” what is going on in someone’s head?), and to avoid derailing arguments.

      “I’m not racist!” “OK, you still need to stop interrupting T’Challa”
      “I have Black friends!” “OK, you still need to use the updated documents”

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah. ‘I understand, Beth, but we aren’t talking about childcare issues right now. Can we get back to T’Challa’s discussion of how we can make the handbook more inclusive?’

    3. MicroManagered*

      Yeah, Beth needs to be muzzled.

      This is really dehumanizing language. Choose another word next time, please.

    4. DomesticAbuseSurvivor*

      Can we please not suggest that a woman is ‘muzzled’ for standing up for her rights? We wouldn’t be suggesting a man be muzzled for standing up for his…

      1. tinyhipsterboy*

        I think it’s a fair point about the terminology, but let’s not frame someone derailing a discussion of racism as her simply standing up for her rights.

      2. Wonder Woman's Tiara*

        I also dislike the term ‘muzzled’, but Beth is not standing up for her rights, she’s standing up to make herself the centre of attention.

    5. Delphine*

      I’d say it’s just defensiveness. It’s a common reaction and human nature. But it’s not helpful in the least and she should be corrected.

  4. BecauseHigherEd*

    LW 3 – When I first read this, I assumed it was a *class*, and it was only on the second reading that I realized this was supposed to be a working group. I think you have a lot more power than you realize here–in addition to all that was mentioned above, you are perfectly within your rights to just say, “Sorry, we have a lot to cover, maybe we can circle back to this at the end.” or “I hear you, but I’m curious what others think. Laurie/T’Challa, I think you had something on the agenda about this?” If she can’t agree to ground rules and does nothing but derail the conversations, I think there’s a strong argument to be made for having her removed from the group, especially because *you are paying for a DEI specialist and she is undermining the work of that specialist.*

    1. Luva*

      You’d certainly be “within your rights” to say that, but being an ally requires working with the DEI lead, not working towards your own agenda (which might undermine his work as much as what Beth’s doing). The advice to coordinate with T’Challa is more likely to support his work than just doing what you personally think is best (LW3 isn’t a DEI expert, after all, and should defer to T’Challa’s expertise anyway).

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        I think BecauseHigherEd meant getting back on T’Challa’s schedule, not switching to her own.

  5. CRM*

    I absolutely love how Michelle’s advice on #2. The outcome of this analysis and critically thinking about their hiring practices will be beneficial not only for diverse candidates/employees (which is extremely important), but will likely benefit all new hires regardless of their background! It’s excellent proof on how prioritizing DEI lifts the organization as a whole.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      I am taking this specific advice back to our Director of DEI as well. I think asking these questions before making changes on assumption can help in more areas than just hiring.

    2. ferrina*

      Also really important for promotion practices. Look at who is asking for promotions, who is petitioning for their direct reports to be promoted (and which direct reports get an advocate), and who the promotions go to. Some basic demographic data should be easy to look at, and that can be used as a jumping off point to see why those numbers are occurring.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I was confused by the suggestion to have a specific “culture fit” rating for candidates. Is that a genuine suggestion to include “culture fit” in a candidate’s evaluation, or is it meant to be a tool for forcing bias to the surface for discussion?

          1. Sleve*

            Culture fit can be a genuinely useful tool when assessed against specific criteria. If your workplace has banned jokes, for example, you could add “Makes humourous comments” to your evaluation criteria. Or on a more realistic note, if your workplace does a lot of pair programming, “Enjoys teamwork” might be a good item to assess for culture fit.

            “Wears items of clothing that I don’t know the name of” is an example of something that might pass under the radar disguised as “culture fit”, but which wouldn’t be able to sneak into consideration if “culture fit” is assessed via a list of explicitly named criteria.

    3. AskJeeves*

      Agreed. I also think it’s important to consider the *why* and not just the *what.* The company has created its own kind of “culture fit” tautology — the people who are successful at the company fit the profile, because the company values people who fit the profile. I would bet there is differential treatment happening on many levels, even unconsciously.

  6. Alice*

    Ah DEI meetings. When I had an issue like that I instituted some strict rules and to my surprise even senior people followed them – people had to “raise their hand” since the meetings were over Zoom and I would call on them, junior people gave input first, you had to talk about the topic on hand and if you went off topic I’d cut you off. Naming these behaviors helped a lot, and I was ruthless about enforcing them or interrupting if need be, after too many meetings like the ones youre describing.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I like these rules a lot, and setting them up ahead of time makes it so much easier when it’s time to enforce them. I’m sad that T’Challa doesn’t have enough authority here to likely make real changes, but he probably has enough within that space to create and enforce rules like this in a meeting he’s running. It sounds like he’s pretty junior, though, so may have a hard time enforcing them. It can be scary to do that when you’re a new/junior worker (especially one that’s different from the rest of the company!) and even more so when people are acting like Beth.

      LW could suggest rules like this and, if he’s on board, they could help enforce them and hopefully get others on board with enforcement.

      1. Alice*

        I was mid level when I implemented these rules, and it was a little nervewracking, but the meetings were getting so derailed I had no choice. I figured that since I was the DEI chair I could run meetings how I wanted to, regardless of seniority, and T’Challa can have that attitude. It would be a great help if LW can help enforce though.

    2. birb*

      I have never ever attended any kind of DEI or even SEL training with a rule that allowed junior employees to take priority, but wow, what a fantastic norm to set in meetings where power imbalances and past trauma are so relevant.

      1. Michelle Silverthorn*

        With the right parameters, it can be very powerful. And it stops the senior person from speaking first, and all the junior people feeling that they have to nod and agree even if they don’t.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Yes. I make sure not to speak first in my own meetings with my direct reports – most of them early career employees – for that very reason.

  7. Worldwalker*

    I think part of the problem with Laurie (or T’Challa) is that , according to the letter, he’s “the only entry-level person on the team.” That means he has no capital. He’s the new guy. The fact that he’s black makes it worse, especially in a company that apparently has no black employees except him (why???), but the lack of political capital is a huge issue. It means he has no standing to do much of anything except talk, and maybe make suggestions that will be roundly ignored. It would be bad if he looked like the CEO’s brother; it’s worse as it is. Some of this is structural — the LW can’t make him not the new guy, for instance. But everyone who supports his role should spend some of *their* capital on supporting his initiatives. Let management (and Laurie) know that you support him and what he wants to do. Make sure they know that “real employees” (those who have been there longer) have his back. It won’t fix everything, but it’ll help.

    Giving lip service to DEI by hiring one guy with neither authority nor political capital and telling him to fix everything is another huge problem. That smacks of shoving the DEI situation off on one guy who can’t do anything about it and saying “hey, we did something, look at Laurie over there” and doing nothing further. Particularly, doing nothing substantive.

    1. Caliente*

      Yea, if I were T’challa, when asked to do this I would been like HELLS NO. The fact that they even asked him to spearhead it is ridiculous. Like, they probably hired only hired a black guy so they could start this group.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I can’t imagine that T’Challa will stay for long, knowing that he’s been set up to fail. I hate how often this exact situation happens in corporate America.

        1. Bookmark*

          Yeah, T’Challa has absolutely been set up for failure here. That’s why Michelle’s advice to be supportive of him and ask him what would be helpful for her to do is so important. I think LW should also be prepared to speak up in his defense when he starts getting criticism for lack of accomplishments (and consider whether Meg might be on board to do so as well). In my experience these criticisms are likely to start in conversations between more senior people when T’Challa’s not around. Helping him document what he has accomplished and what institutional barriers are out of his control to solve will be helpful both if your organization decides they actually want to take this seriously, and help T’Challa find a new job when he’s ready to move on. Depending on who he reports to and how actually supportive they are, you might even offer to be a supplementary reference for him if he decides he needs to move on. I’ve seen people in these roles get screwed when looking for their next job because their boss was only interested in producing results that would look good in the year end report.

      2. Amaya*

        I wouldn’t put it past them. If not so he could run the group, then probably to boost their diversity points to their leadership. I’m a black woman in a very male white/asian dominated field (IT-related). The number of times I have been asked to facilitate DEI activities or groups because I’m the only “diverse” employee they have is just astounding. I left my last job in January in part because I was being asked to volunteer my time for this constantly for no extra pay or recognition, mind you. Ironically I moved to a new company in my area that’s known to be conservative and very anti-woke and it’s about 10x more diverse than my last company, even with all their pledges to diversity. The cherry on top is nobody actually cares about DEI here so I don’t get asked to do extra work about it anymore!

    2. Zephy*

      Make sure they know that “real employees” (those who have been there longer) have his back.

      Sure, but maybe don’t say it like that.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Hence the quotes. It’s like “Was that your ‘wife’ I saw you with at the club?” You can be certain it wasn’t someone they were married to. Possibly not even human.

        It’s likely — because it’s like that so, so often — that people higher up in the company, and even Beth and her ilk, don’t see the entry-level employee as “real” in the same way as, say, the LW. He’s a newbie and he’s doing a job that I strongly suspect they think doesn’t need to be done (otherwise why would they have hired someone at that level and given him no authority to actually DO the job?). Those people need to know that the employees whom they think matter — the ones who have been there a while and are doing things, like sales, that they can understand; the “real employees” in their eyes — support this too.

    3. Mill Miker*

      Someone senior needs to lend him some authority, either by moderating the meetings themselves, or by reminding everyone at the start of the meetings that he’s running the meeting and therefore in charge. Or starting with moderation and transition over the course of a few meetings, whatever T’Challa prefers.

      Race aside, the new guy has no authority of their own until someone with the authority to grant authority publicly grants it, and maybe makes a show of backing it up.

      1. I Have RBF*


        When the “new guy” has to try to build DEI out of nothing, he really, really needs an executive sponsor to get behind him and lend his authority. Like a VP level sponsor.

        Then they, or other managers, can say “T’Challa is our point person on DEI. We want people to take his meetings seriously, so we are going to set some ground rules so that people don’t derail these important meetings.” Then the exec sets up talking time and turn rules for everyone except T’Challa, who is leading the meetings.

        A new person in a DEI role absolutely needs an strong executive backer, or they will fail, and be miserable.

    4. nm*

      It’s exhausting that when you’re the 1 “diverse person” in the room suddenly all the labor is on you to fix racism/etc in the workplace. To borrow a phrase I’ve seen in disability activism, “nothing about us without us” doesn’t mean “we will do 100% of the work alone and u don’t have to think a single difficult thought bb”

      1. Potato Potato*

        Also, being a member of the minority group doesn’t automatically give you equalizing superpowers. In order to shape a whole group, you either need authority/capital or allies (preferably both).

      2. sulky-anne*

        I find that voluntary DEI groups tend to mostly be made up of the people who are experiencing the most inequity on the first place. Now, it is good that the company recognizes the need to hire someone with expertise in this kind of work, but if they haven’t given him any real authority or support from leadership, I’m skeptical that they are open to real change.

    5. Ally McBeal*

      Yeah, I’m genuinely horrified that OP’s company thought that an entry-level hire is appropriate for a DEI position. That’s a very clear signal that nothing is going to change among leadership ranks, which means there’s very little chance that ANY change will happen. Even 5 years ago it was commonly accepted that DEI leads should ideally be C-level or at least report directly to the CEO.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        I hope T’Challa only took this job as some sort of stop-gap until he could find something better and is actively looking to GTFO. This will not end well for him, sadly.

  8. Name*

    I know of some people who protest when DEI initiatives or programs are put out in their workplace. Shortly after, I read an article (see below) about how DEI programs do great on diversity and equity. They don’t focus as much on the inclusion and that’s where you’ll get the Beth’s of the world to get on board. You could probably Google and find some other good articles about it.–inclusion-why-should-we-care-and-what-should-we-do/?sh=ba0e261faa60

    1. Zombeyonce*

      “But according to the White Men’s Leadership Study, a study of white men and DEI, nearly 70% report feeling “forgotten” by diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.” -the article (which is def worth a read, thanks for sharing, Name)

      This is probably controversial, but I see little reason for DEI work to include much hand-holding of white men to make them feel better about other people finally getting the chances they’ve had their whole lives. That’s something for them to work out in therapy, not in DEI work. I do see value in “inviting them to the conversation” but there is so much fragility and unwillingness to understand perspectives other than their own that initiatives like these are exhausting. (The US political situation of the last decade has not helped matters, either.)

      While the I in DEI means “inclusion”, I see much more value in trying to get marginalized people included in the group, and far, far less in making the people who are already a part of the group feel like they still fit. That can be something that should be done, sure, but there’s so much other incredibly important work that needs to be done first and DEI is notoriously understaffed and under-resourced. Spending effort on telling white men what they should already know and support seems like a misallocation of time and resources. Give them a reading list and move on.

      There’s a slippery slope argument to be made when suggesting that we spend a lot of time trying to get white men to feel engaged in DEI efforts so they can support the work and initiatives when it seems to have very little ROI, except in rare and exceptional cases. The article also says, “According to one study, 42% of white cis-gendered men believe that DEI is “extremely important.”” Then it’s time they get their butts in gear and stop expecting everyone else to do the work for them. We need them for DEI initiatives to work, but where’s the line of how much effort we put in for them at the detriment of others? In a perfect world, we’d have time for it all, but this is not a perfect world.

      1. AskJeeves*

        Saying you’ve been “forgotten” in DEI as a white man is a funny construct. The entire point is that it’s not about you!

        1. ArtsNerd*

          But when you think about it, isn’t decentering white men worse oppression than anything actually marginalized people experience?

      2. ArtsNerd*

        I see little reason for DEI work to include much hand-holding of white men to make them feel better about other people finally getting the chances they’ve had their whole lives.

        On a philosophical level, I’m right there with you. On a practical level, too many people in positions to actually effect the necessary changes for DEI work are white men, whose buy-in we need to be successful. It’s… a problem.

      3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I think it’s a balancing act. In many male-dominated industries, companies may be 60%, 70%, even 80% male, with numbers even more extreme if we’re looking at managers and senior leadership. Do I want to spend my DEI energy explaining that straight white cis male is “life on easy mode”? Not really. But if that’s what’s necessary to get most of the company on board with DEI initiatives, I think it’s worth putting at least some time into. Certainly any initiative that is supported by ~10% of employees and 0% of senior leadership seems unlikely to be effective.

        To your point about inclusion, I, as a lone person or even a member of a committee, cannot singlehandedly make employees of color feel included.

        I certainly don’t want to center white male voices in DEI, but the white men aren’t going anywhere, and I’d rather bring them along in the work, if possible, even if that means I spend a lot of time explaining things that seem pretty basic to me.

  9. learnedthehardway*

    For OP #2, I didn’t feel that she was concerned about whether Black women would leave and that she needed to avoid hiring that demographic, but rather that the she was concerned that hiring managers / senior executives in the organization were making it an uncomfortable place for Black women to BE, which was why they were leaving. This tracks with her observation that hiring managers / senior execs are more “concerned” about candidates who are diverse.

    I think – if you have the capital to do so – that it would be something to call out to the head of HR (or the CHRO and your manager, if you are a level or two down). This is something that is going to take a policy shift to deal with, and it is going to require education and leadership support to correct.

    It’s possible this is a manifestation of unconscious biases, or it could be closet (ie. deliberate but disguised) racism / sexism / etc., or it could be a mix. Whichever it is, there’s a high likelihood that people will be defensive about it – the ones who are unconscious of their biases will be in denial, and quite likely upset at the suggestion. The ones who are closeted bigots will be defensive and will probably double down on why their “concerns” are legitimate.

    So, you likely need to start with good data and observations to demonstrate there are trends, do some education with people on why “concerns” are less justified than they think, talk about the organizational gains that diversity would bring (there are many), and have a policy that enforces diversity in hiring, etc. etc. That needs someone at a leadership level to sponsor it.

    What you can do as a hiring manager is really advocate for the particular candidates you feel are the right ones, and blow any “concerns” raised up as they occur. Point out that people are individuals (if someone mentions that too many Black women left after COVID – or point out that the Black community was disproportionately affected due to socio-economic issues), point out the strengths that your preferred candidate has relative to other candidates, argue for diversity when you have a really strong candidate), etc. etc.

    1. ferrina*

      Easy step- get excited about a candidate. Be specific about why they would be a great fit. Instead of starting the buy-in conversation in a neutral tone, go in saying “I’m really excited about this person. They’ve got excellent track records in A, B and even C, and I see a lot of potential for them at this company. What are you seeing?”

      That way when the “gut instinct” comes up, you’ve got a strong standing to push back. “I’d love to really explore that. This person is such a strong candidate, I would hate to pass them over without an equally strong reason. What do you think is driving this gut instinct?” If they can’t place it, you can even say “I know they don’t fit our typical candidate profile. I wonder if some familiarity bias is at play? You know, where we look for people that match the superficial criteria, like how they look or dress or speak, rather than the qualifications. I’ve done some reading on that as I prep for these interviews- I could send you an article if you like.”
      If you have the right rapport and say it in a friendly tone, I’ve actually had this pretty well received. Part of the trick is to say it once and move on, so the person has the chance to hide any embarrassment.

      Caveat: Don’t get excited about a candidate you aren’t actually excited about. That will undermine your credibility. But it sounds like these are candidates OP is really excited about.

  10. Warrior Princess Xena*

    For OP #2, would it be possible to initially introduce resumes/cover letters to your team in a blind format? I believe yesterday someone mentioned having HR not see the names of the people they hired, leading to significant increases in women being hired. Obviously this would eventually break down at the “meet the candidate in person” stage but it might be helpful to track the data between who your team is excited to meet/talk to initially vs their reaction to them when they meet in person. Perhaps setting up initial framing of “this is Bob, the guy who knows how to do Java AND C#” so they have that in their heads when they meet candidates might also help?

    1. Zombeyonce*

      My department does this and more and it’s great. Our team diversity has gone way up since we started the practice. They figure out the hiring committee for a position, then identify a small group of people to handle the resumes. Names, graduation years, college names, addresses, and anything else that could lead to bias is redacted. The redacted resumes are then given to the hiring committee.

      They still see all the necessary info, like skills and years of experience, but all the bias about “ooh, they went to an Ivy” and “what an interesting name” is removed from the equation,and first interviews are always phone screenings, which can also remove a decent amount of bias (though not all). The hiring committee has meetings after interviews to talk through each candidate and, while there can still be new biases introduced, it’s a great time to call out any biased comments. (I have spent many a meeting telling people that statements about a candidate “fitting in with the culture” need to be delved into. The candidate has a sense of humor and our team jokes a lot and posts silly gifs in Slack? Great. The candidate seems like they’d have similar political views as the majority of the team? No, let’s not go there.)

      It’s a lot of work to do this, but exceedingly worth it. Now to get the full company’s buy-in and make the HR software that spits out resumes redact this stuff on its own…

      1. Michelle Silverthorn*

        I love that this has been working for your department! So many people don’t even try it because they think it won’t work for them. It can work if people are trained up on how it works and it gets the right support, and as you point out in those hiring committee discussions, recognize that the anonymous resumes aren’t the end of the bias interrupting process; only the start.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        When I did some interviews for a company trying to reduce bias, our interview write-ups didn’t include names or pronouns, just “TC” (“The Candidate”). It felt a bit silly, but the numbers showed it actually made a difference.

  11. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #3 As a mixed race woman (the term I’ve long preferred) I wish that white people would just shut the fuck up for once in DEI discussions. It too often ends up with them taking up most of the time talking about their experiences and feelings. Especially white middle class women liberals. Just for once shut the fuck up, let us talk for a while and listen to what we experience and what we want to change, instead of what you think.

    When racism is tabled on the agenda stop diverting away from this and making it all about you. Yes it’s miserable feeling fat-shamed or mum-tracked or forced back into the office (and women of colour have all this plus racism) and these should be discussed at another time, but in this meeting let us finally concentrate on talking about racism without white women interrupting about how hard your life is too. Sometimes we need to talk about problems you don’t share.

    1. londonedit*

      Yep, I’m a white woman and I agree. A while ago my book club read Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, and one woman in the group just Did. Not. Get. It. All she wanted to talk about at our group discussion was how she doesn’t see colour and she’s never been racist and she was offended by the fact that this book was saying white people can’t talk about race. Perfectly proving the entire argument of the book. It was incredibly frustrating.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I always hope that people like that wake up in the middle of the night at some point in a panic, having the reality of what they’ve been doing crashing down on them…and then immediately stop being so obtuse.

        Is there a word or phrase for people distracting from the problem discussed by bringing up other topics that might seem related (to them) but don’t need to be a part of the discussion? We need something better than “let’s put that in the parking lot” but I can’t think of anything.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          The term is “derailing.” Another applicable term is “Whataboutism.”

          T’Challa: We need to talk about diversity in this workplace.

          Beth: Whatabout expensive childcare and how it leads to mommy-tracking and glass ceilings??

          Like cool, yes, that’s important too. But it’s not the current topic.

          1. Michelle Silverthorn*

            There’s a wonderful article by Autumn Brown on the internet that talks about re-railing a conversation on racism that’s derailed. I reccommend it.

      2. Anonomatopoeia*

        I think often, like most days, about the section of the Letter from a Birmingham Jail (Possibly we all know this text well, but just in case: MLK, written actually from jail, made up of about 95% good points even though some of them feel a little wonky now because we use different language to talk about race, or because we’ve changed the legality of various things) that talks about white moderates, which I think is a similar group to white liberal middle-class women. It comes up a couple of places in the letter, but what I think about often is a section about how it’s harder for him to deal with the problem of the white moderate than to deal with physical abuse or threats or just people who rail against integrated schools or water fountains or whatever, because that’s where he runs into what we now call tone policing. He says, basically, they (white moderates) do want [he uses a different word for Black] people to do well, but they just would rather no one did protests because they are IDK gauche or icky; also, they are in favor in principle of equity, but all of the necessary work of getting there is in some way ugly or low-class or otherwise unpleasant, and they would rather [Black] people just wait until everyone loves each other better or something. They are mad about the demonstrations (in Birmingham), but they are unwilling to take any action to dismantle the issues and systems that make the demonstrations necessary. And so on.

        I think about this a lot partly because oh hi, I am a middle-class middle-aged white woman — not especially moderate but I feel like I’m never the less the group about whom he was speaking and that’s uncomfortable but I oughtta listen up — and partly because it pisses me off that it’s been sixty years — SIXTY. YEARS. The US is 247 years old, so, a quarter of the nation’s history — and if someone did a light copy edit to update the language and polish up the examples a little, it could have been written last week and somehow a lot of my peers are still like yes, let’s be the white moderates in this story. We demonstrably SUCK at solving this problem in the preferred way of the white moderate, so I feel like it should be just completely obvious that we should be all in on letting Black demonstrators, thinkers, leaders, and colleagues drive this conversation (and be standing by to support in whatever way is useful, if any), and yet, we are not.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      White women need to not only shut up and listen, but also BELIEVE. Because so many of them will smile, nod, and then say “they’re exaggerating” or “they’re overreacting” “they just see the world with a chip on their shoulder” and other stuff like that.
      And I’m over it. So, so over it. Listen and BELIEVE other people’s experiences, even if you don’t understand or can’t relate, it is still very real.

      1. I Have RBF*


        If a non-white person tells you about an incident of racism, believe them. If anything, their retelling is probably understated, because for them it’s just Tuesday.

        Don’t try to solve it, or explain it, or minimize it. Acknowledge that it sucks.

      2. Clare*

        White women are insanely bad at this, and not just in discussions around racism, either. They’re also highly dismissive of other white women reporting things like workplace sexism, or medical issues. I bring this up not to re-centre white women, but to point out that the problem is extremely deep. We need to work out the root cause of whatever is causing it before we’ll be able to figure out a way to properly counter it. I’ve come to the conclusion that unless we do, we won’t be able to get them to actually believe the experiences of people of colour – instead of smiling and nodding as their eyes burn LIAR into your forehead.

        Unfortunately, I have absolutely no clue what the root cause is. Anybody who’s figured it out please let me know, I’d love to move on to being able to counter whatever-it-is and having some useful discussions with these people.

        1. 1LFTW*

          My guess would be it’s some version of the Just World Fallacy. If I can tell myself that other people experience misfortune because they did something wrong, then all I have to do is do everything right, and nothing bad will ever happen to me!

          I’ve had luck asking awkward questions: “Wow, are you really saying that Jane *deserved* to (bad thing that happened to Jane?” If it’s someone who’s trying, they’ll usually back down and apologize. But if the person doubles down, I’ve flat-out said, “If you’ve truly never experienced discrimination/harassment/serious illness/misfortune of any kind, it’s because you’ve been lucky, I hope your luck continues to hold.” This does tend to end the conversation, but people who are still wedded to the Just World Fallacy aren’t ready to be anyone’s allies.

        2. MsSolo (UK)*

          I think it comes from the patriarchy setting women against each other, combined with American Capitalism’s myth of Individualism (and western society in general, but it’s a named thing in America). Women, and especially white women, are raised to disbelieve each other’s voices unless a (white) man is confirming the experience. And our own voices, which I think is why the Beth’s of this world get so strident about centering their own experience, because she’s still only half convinced her own experience is real, and wants someone to validate it for her. I think you get it more in white women than other races because of the absence of other prejudice against them, so it’s just this one big “you must compete with each other, you cannot trust each other, you cannot trust yourself, ask your nearest man for validation today” patriarchal message with minimal scope for other forms of solidarity to alleviate it (because solidarity is a trap! If you’re just good enough and pretty enough and smart enough you don’t need it! Don’t let those other women drag you down when a man could do it for you!).

          In terms of fixing it, you can’t, for everyone, but I do think DEI training, even with women like Beth in it, does gradually erode the desperate fear that everything everyone else is saying is about beating you at the competition you don’t know how to opt out of. If you can enforce “this is a space where we believe each other” firmly enough that white women eventually start to see that other people aren’t setting traps for them, that believing doesn’t have negative individual consequences, but positive communal consequences, then you start to see movement. Even if at first they’re internally sceptical, but have to follow the rule of being outwardly believing, like positive affirmations and banning negative self-talk, it does, gradually, become self-fulfilling.

          This education and mindset shift has to happen at an organisational level, though. Not only to avoid placing the responsibility on T’Challa and other minorities, but because it requires staff to be empowered to enforce it both within meetings and outside of them (so no leaving the DEI session to go gossip with other white women about how they don’t believe what everyone said inside the meeting). And these policies shouldn’t be about white women, about making it feel safe to believe, they should be about making it actually safe to speak up; teaching white women the benefit of solidarity is a fringe benefit, in the same way that pay transparency benefits everyone, that ending toxic masculinity benefits everyone. But an organisation that’s hired it’s only black employee in an entry level role to run DEI sessions is not committed to making it safe to speak up, so will not see the fringe benefits of that action either.

    3. anon24*

      This baffles me. I’m a white woman, and when someone starts talking about race and lived experiences, I shut my stupid mouth, open my ears and brain, and do not open my mouth unless my input is specifically asked for. I am not going to speak over someone whose experiences are more important and relevant than mine because that in itself feels racist and minimizing.

      1. White person*

        Not totally relevant to LW3 (because Michele’s advice to follow T’Challa’s lead is the most important there), but white women like you and me are in a pretty good position to corral our own group when it’s derailing.

        I’ve had some success doing this in particular work conversations, and it does help that I’m also a white woman.

  12. She of Many Hats*

    Personally, I don’t think Beth is ready to be on a DEI development group. She sounds like someone who feels the world must be made ideal for her then if any one else benefits, she’s done her DEI duty.

    I would speak with the senior person in this group about reassigning Beth to a committee or group that better meets Beth’s expectations of inclusivity such as a Women/Mothers In The Workplace ERG type group. Reassigning Beth removes a TON of micro/macro aggressions from T’Challa’s plate, makes room for someone who really wants the organization to walk the talk, and helps keep the focus on the goals at hand.

    1. Generic Name*

      Maybe so, but perhaps T’Challa really values her input/perspective. This is still going around T’Challa rather than asking him what you can do to support him/his efforts.

  13. Insert Pun Here*

    I think it’s really key to get people to state what they mean by “not a culture fit.” Sometimes it’s a totally valid observation—e.g., “candidate says they prefer a fast-paced job and we are not that.” And sometimes it’s like… this person is Just A Little Too [whatever characteristic/demographic I don’t like.]

    I also think that if you want people to stay and grow in your org, you need to be upfront and clear, starting in the interview and continuing while they’re employed with you, about opportunities to grow and progress. And you need to structure your compensation/raises so that your employees don’t have to go elsewhere to get a raise.

    1. Wintermute*

      This is an excellent point. “culture fit” is a suspect term for sure, it isn’t a dog whistle– it has plenty of legitimate use to mean what it says in a non-biased manner– but it should raise your suspicions a little and make you dig.

      Things like “do we take initiative or stay in our lane?” or “how much autonomy are people expected and allowed to exercise?” Those are all very legitimate culture questions that can indicate a bad fit. Someone who is used to sticking to the letter of procedures and having little autonomy to break rules to get a good outcome will be seen as a miserable jobsworth in a place that expects you to be helpful more than they expect you to be devoted to the letter of procedure, for instance.

      But you nailed it– it’s quite often a “I can’t put my finder on it but she doesn’t look or act like like she could be my granddaughter and this confuses and frightens me”

    2. Generic Name*

      I agree. I left a company that touted their “unique culture” and cultural fit was a big deal in hiring. Turns out the culture is basically “frat house” and potty humor and sexual harassment are tolerated and even encouraged. That “gut feeling” the hiring managers rely so heavily on? I can all but guarantee that feeling is the feeling of comfort and familiarity they have with others of their race/gender/class.

  14. A Penguin!*

    I’m not denying there’s plenty wrong with the situation, but it’s clear to me they hired him explicitly to work on this and this type of work is what he signed up for – he’s described as their just hired DEI specialist. I’m not sure how you get hired as a DEI specialist and then say no to doing DEI work.

  15. Sparkles McFadden*

    The answer for question #2 is so thoughtful and thorough I am forwarding a link to just about everyone I know. The first person to get the link will be an ex-boss who said “There’s no way to look at things like this in an analytical way so everybody needs to stop talking about it.”

    (Also, 100% agree on the Little Women commentary.)

  16. H.Regalis*

    T’Challa needs your support and allyship.

    Most definitely. An entry level new hire put in charge of “fixing” DEI for an entire company where he’s the only black man in the entire place? This is a set-up-to-fail nightmare of a job. It doesn’t sound like he has any actual power to change anything. LW, whatever you can do to help him with stopping Beth from sucking all the air out of the room, please do.

      1. H.Regalis*

        Agreed. It doesn’t sound like T’Challa has the power to change a lightbulb, much less enact the kind of policy changes he’s being tasked with creating.

  17. Michelle Smith*

    I teared up a little bit reading about Laurie/T’Challa’s experience and the horrible position he’s been put in. I am so grateful that people are making these observations and are willing to speak up about it. That work is not easy, but having people to back you up is HUGE.

    1. birb*

      Seriously, OPs description of his role is so impossible and bizarre, I’d honestly be curious to see how they described his position in the job posting and interview.

    1. Pita Chips*

      No argument from me there. A lot of people’s live would improve dramatically with free or more affordable and convenient child care.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        It would have put me firmly into my current state of “okay then find out” about 8-10 years sooner. Having to balance “availability and affordability of childcare” definitely put me in a few employment situations that I would no longer tolerate if they were to show up today.

        Not like Laurie can do much about it though.

      1. Exhausted Electricity*

        yeah it’s “Valid Point, Totally Off Topic”. If Beth wanted to have that be a topic of discussion she could’ve asked to have a “how do we keep it equitable” conversation outside of the meeting with a set topic.

      2. OnyxChimney*

        Is it really detailing when the discussion was “Why is attendance so low” and one answer is “because a lot of people, me included, have childcare conflicts during that time slot?”

        1. Observer*

          Is it really detailing when the discussion was “Why is attendance so low” and one answer is “because a lot of people, me included, have childcare conflicts during that time slot?”

          If that were what happened, that would be one thing. But you don’t need a 15 minute rant to make that point.

          Although I would say that she did inadvertently get one thing right – it does not sound like this company cares about EDI in *any* dimension. I mean, why is there not a single memeber who is of the c-suit, a c-suite representative, or someone at a top authoritative level, on the commitee? Why is the only man on the commitee a newbie with zero authority?

          Yeah, Beth is a problem. But I think her behavior is an indicator of a bigger issue. This looks like a company that is an “Old white boys club” with no interest in change.

    2. HannahS*

      I’m going to speak here as a mother whose been on the receiving end of much sexism: there is a time and a place to discuss the equity of mothers. It is acting in bad faith for Beth to take T’Challa/Laurie’s comments about people not attending antiracism training as a personal attack on her, and to take up air time defending herself and re-orienting the conversation towards her own equity priorities.

      There are many forms of equity, all of them deserve airtime, AND centering one’s own marginalization in conversations that are not about you is not helpful to advancing equity.

      1. Froggy*

        if, however, the dei training was outside of betha normal work hours and requires additional child care arrangements (and cost), the child care comment is not off topic.

        1. ecnaseener*

          It was off-topic for the specific topic T’challa was trying to talk about, even if it was within the scope of the DEI group.

          Fine to say “I know for me I had a childcare conflict, which reminds me that I’d like us to discuss ways the company can help with that – can we put it on next meeting’s agenda if there’s not enough time today?” Not fine to derail the anti-racism topic with a long ramble!

          1. Froggy*

            talking about childcare mor broadly is off topic. however, responding to complaints of low attendance at a dei workshop w “it was outside normal working hrs, which may have made it difficult for people to attend and something to keep in mind for future meetings”.

        2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          But the amount of time she spent on that comment it definitely sounds like it is, and it also sounds like a trend with her of finding ways to make this about herself.

          This approach was a major criticism of postmodern feminism, and Black feminists strongly pushed intersectionality as a result.

        3. Elsewise*

          Yeah. I think there are better ways she could have approached this if that was her concern that doesn’t derail. Something straightforward and brief like “personally I was unable to attend because of childcare reasons. I wish [Company] provided more support for working parents, but for this specific training, I think there would be more attendance if it took place during work hours. That would be a great way to show that they’re prioritizing anti-racism.”

        4. tinyhipsterboy*

          I disagree. From the sound of it, T’Challa wasn’t specifically asking Beth why she didn’t make it; he was talking about the attendance of the meetings as a whole, only for Beth to come in and make it about her specific situation and why she couldn’t make it, with the context of having derailed things previously regarding DEI.

          It’d be one thing if it had just been a comment from her: “I know I couldn’t attend because of childcare conflicts, I wonder if other people had similar problems.” But according to the LW, it was more than just a comment. This is a common thing we see with white fragility: a person of color (often Black) makes a general statement about an issue, only for a person of the majority (usually white) to immediately take up space, become defensive, and center themselves in the conversation.

        5. Kell*

          This was my first thought on #3. If this anti-racism training was outside normal work hours, well that explains why it was poorly attended and really shows the lack of care this company has for DEI discussions overall.

          However, it still doesn’t sound like Beth handled her response appropriately in the moment.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        THIS. It comes under the heading of TOTALLY MISSING THE POINT. In order to make your own point.

        Also I redflagged pretty heavily that she talks OVER T’Challa. She’s not trying to address all equity, she’s ignoring the leader, who happens to be a black man. Which nothing says microagression like a white woman ignoring the black guy in charge.

    3. Czhorat*

      She does, but there are ways to present it and ways not to present it.

      It sounds as if Beth is derailing, which is not OK. If it’s an anti-racism meeting it should be about racism. If child care is a boundary to attendance, that could be a single sentence, “these might be better attended if the company did it during normal work hours or helped pay for child care if out of them. Child care is a big issue for me!” – full stop, then move on.

      1. Anonym*

        There it is. It may be very helpful to the antiracism work overall to build support for holding the trainings during work hours, and the childcare example illustrates that well. Make the point and move on. Of course, it doesn’t exactly seem like that’s Beth’s intent. Alas.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      I was curious about the childcare part. So did the anti-racism training take place outside of normal work hours?

      1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        Agreed! If the issue is she would actually need childcare outside of what she already has for work, then this company clearly is just using DEI as a checkbox thing and doesn’t care about it at all.

        She should have said something more like “we should do trainings on this during the workday to maximize attendance” because then it not only encompasses what holds her back from attending an after-work function, but also others who may have other things going on that prevent attendance.

    5. Observer*

      Beth has a point about childcare, IMO…

      Maybe, maybe not. But given the rest of the pattern – *Talking over T’Challa* (inexcusable in almost any context!) and refusing to change language in the handbook, it’s clear that she’s not actually trying to broaden inclusivity.

    6. Ahnon4Thisss*

      She has a point about childcare, but she’s talking to the wrong person about it and going about it wrong. She took a moment where a black man was upset that his coworkers did not show up to an antiracism training that he was hosting and made it about herself. There is a time to talk about inequalities towards working parents on a DEI board, but in direct reply to that subject was not the right time.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hi, I’m leaving this up because the responses to it are valuable, but this is the kind of derailing of the discussion that the rule at the top is asking people not to do. I’m moving it so it’s not the first comment on the post and closing this subthread. Thank you.

    8. Wintermute*

      Yes, that is true but it’s also not the time or the place, especially if she’s trying to claim lack of access is equally damaging to her as it is to a woman of color. I feel like there was a teachable moment there in fact, by delving into how much worse it is: how much more expensive on average, the lower quality available when there is availability at all, the difficulty placing a minority child into childcare and how much racism even small children face with uncharitable and indefensible assumptions about their behavior and tendencies, etc.

      But frankly, her “teachable moment” can wait, it’s not the time or the place. The most that should be said is “yes that’s true but that’s also faced by women of color, who face all **gestures wildly** that stuff you don’t, while dealing with childcare.

    9. Hiring Mgr*

      I agree that she has a point but that it would be derailing the meeting. Curious if it would have been ok if a POC had said the same thing?

      You can’t expect real DEI work to happen if those mose affected can’t even attend the meetings.

      1. Paulina*

        I think it’s about the point she’s trying to make. She’s not talking about the importance of making the EDI training accessible and an obvious priority for the company; she’s giving her excuse for why she didn’t participate, and trying a “fix my problem first” argument.

  18. boof*

    Just wanted to say thank you – I am trying to listen/read more than talk here, but very valuable stuff and I love the guest advisors.

  19. LCH*

    “I’m noticing a pattern that my management colleagues seem to always have a “gut instinct” about candidates who don’t fit the typical identities for our field, and many of the people who departed our larger team in the aftermath of COVID have been women of color in particular. While we know there are no unicorn candidates, we definitely seem more willing to be flexible on the must-haves when the candidate fits a particular profile.”

    make some charts when evaluating candidates listing out all the areas of must-haves and other relevant criteria (education? experience? etc)
    so when someone gets downvoted for something that another candidate gets flexibility on, you can point at these charts and ask what is the difference between these candidates? why does one get the flexibility and one doesn’t? and it might become apparent really quickly that the difference has nothing to do with their actual experience/knowledge.

    hiring based on something nebulous like “gut instinct” is a terrible way to hire.

  20. Emily*

    #3, Ugh, Beth. Another commentator mentioned “main character syndrome”, and it is interesting how so many people just can’t contemplate that the world does not revolve around them. I loved Michelle’s advice to talk to T’Challa to find out ways to help/offer suggestions, instead of just assuming what would be helpful. I also think it’s great that LW identified how problematic it is that T’Challa is expected to single handedly fix the problems at the company without really being given the power to do so, but LW is trying to focus on what they can change.

  21. Justin*

    Love the renaming!

    Poor T’Challa.

    It’s interesting that when Alison says not to center experiences, there are definitely fewer comments here. But hopefully that means people read and listen. I guess only Alison knows what the clickthrough numbers are.

    1. Michelle Silverthorn*

      I figured he, Storm, and Nakia were a good example of a fictional Black male character in a love triangle. I do love Alison’s commentators and I’ve learned quite a lot from their comments on all these posts as well.

      1. Justin*

        As a Dr. of Ed with a dissertation about racism in education (and articles/books), these are my favorite posts of the year.

    2. CanadaGoose*

      I’m a white settler. I don’t often comment, but I’m reading as usual, and respecting the instructions.

  22. Echo*

    OP #2- Frankly, I’ve found that “culture fit” is almost always discriminatory. One thing I like that my company does is we’ve taken the “cultural” competencies and made them into real competencies that we have specific questions and a rubric to test for in interviewing. So if what we really mean by “culture fit” is “comfortable with ambiguity and change”, we grade on that and we use specific interviewing questions to suss that out, where we ask candidates to talk about their past experiences of dealing with ambiguous environments or ones where there is lots of change.

    I think talking to your peers about that would also help really press on whether “culture fit” is NOT something that is truly necessary to succeed. For example, “laid back and likes to joke around” might be a component of culture fit but rather than interviewing for it, it would be something to take a hard look at internally and figure out why you are grading on it.

    1. Insert Pun Here*

      This is not a 100% perfect sorting mechanism, but I think of it as “culture related to/derived from the kind of work we do” (legitimate to consider fit) versus “culture related to/derived from the people who are currently doing the work at this point and time” (probably not legitimate to consider fit.) For example, someone who hates adrenaline, emergencies, high stress situations, etc, is probably not a good fit for a job in a firehouse — that’s a legit cultural mismatch. But they’re NOT a cultural mismatch just because they’re female and most firehouses are male-majority.

      This may be harder to sort out/articulate in workplaces that typically don’t involve actual flames, idk.

    2. CultureFitCanBeCriteriaBased*

      In my experience culture fit is one of the most important criteria for success, but it is shorthand for “likes to/able to work within the environment/processes/policies we use” – so if someone is a bad fit you can usually supply specific criteria why. As a candidate I evaluate culture fit as I know the working environments I like and the things I find untenable.

  23. Ann O'Nemity*

    #3 Can the working group be expanded? Are there other perspectives that aren’t being included in the conversation? Are there more senior employees who can add value and elevate the work? This may be something the OP can suggest in a future meeting. T’Challah deserves more supportive partners.

    1. EO*

      People assuming you will or won’t be interested a topic or hobby based on your identity. People assuming you know/are friends with other people in the company just because you share an identity. Someone spelling your name wrong (my team has a Luis and people often write him emails addresses to ‘Louis’ even though his name is right there in his email signature). Let’s send Jose, whose family has been in the US for as long as anyone can remember, to the immigration outreach event instead of Simon, whose father immigrated from New Zealand, because ‘people will relate to him.’ Let’s have Emily take notes for our meeting, I’m sure she is good at it (and surely Bob and Alan would not be…). That kind of thing.

    2. Not Gloria, its Margaret*

      Here are a few I’ve experienced in a majority-white medical office environment:

      1) Not being invited to a social outing because my coworkers “didn’t think I would like X” when X is something considered “white-coded” like breweries, hiking, or golf.

      2) Coworkers expressing surprise when I break stereotypes associated with my race. It’s sometimes direct (“I thought Black women were sassy!”), but the “micro” might be something like “You really went to Catholic school?” or “Oh, you celebrate Hanukkah? Is your husband Jewish?” It’s not meant to be insulting, but the insinuation is that Black people can’t do those things.

      3) People asking me “what I am/where I come from” in casual conversation. “I’m American” isn’t always sufficient. People will say they’re “just curious”/”just making conversation,” and they usually are, but it happens to me a lot more than it happens to my white coworkers.

      4) Coworkers occasionally pepper in (bad) AAVE when talking to me. “Ooo girl” and “Mmm-hmm” in a way that they wouldn’t use with a white coworker, even though I stick with professional tone and language at work.

      5) Being placed in the front/center of corporate imaging. I’m always in the B-roll of new initiative videos, I’m always requested to move closer to the camera in group shots. I’m smiling in our “equitable care” section of the website. It’s obviously trying to portray that we have a more diverse workforce than we do, but calling it out directly would be inappropriate.

      6) People seeing me as the default liaison regarding our non-white patients and clients. Partly due to patient comfort and preference, I have a lot more Hispanic and Asian clients than my coworkers do. However, I’m sometimes treated as the go-to for all our PoC clients despite our background and circumstances being very different.

      1. Iceless*

        Thank you for sharing your experience, this was much more helpful than a condesending google link and has made me think about my workplace interactions

        1. Willow Pillow*

          It takes time and effort to write that stuff out, and when the ask is something that has affected people negatively, the answer can often bring the unpleasant feelings with it. This is real work, it repeats itself, and it’s not often compensated. It gets frustrating, especially when people push back and engage in tone policing – which has also been labeled as a microaggression.

        2. desdemona*

          This is something that’s been written about a LOT, and by many different people.

          As Willow Pillow said, writing out a list of microaggressions is unpaid labor that is often asked of PoC by white people. It’s one thing if a friend or colleague chooses to vent to you about their experience, it is another entirely to ask (anyone, but esp. strangers!) to teach you. (I am using the general ‘you’ here)

          Now imagine that nyny was the nth person to ask for that labor of AAM’s commenters of color, this week. It sounds exhausting, and it adds up. And it is something that can be researched on one’s own time.

          Which is all to say – as you think about your workplace interactions, also keep an eye on – do I *have* to ask my coworker of color to explain Their Experience With Racism to me, or can I do my own research online?

        3. Starbuck*

          Thanks for providing a great example of the classic pitfall “I’d be happy to learn to be less racist if people would just be nicer to me about it.” Cool!

  24. Katie*

    Oh, come on. If you’re going to use Little Women pseudonyms, you have to make Amy the fragile white person! (I could never get over her throwing Jo’s manuscript into the fire.) Beth was basically perfect and then she died.

  25. Hiring Mgr*

    Does T’Challa have any executive support or some guidance? Because if the company hired an entry level employee and the *only* Black person at the company to lead their DEI program, I have to wonder how seriously they’re taking it

    1. Michelle Silverthorn*

      I wonder if he was hired as a “DEI specialist” or that’s the role LW calls him in the letter. Titles matter for a lot of reasons including how much respect and resources someone gets because of their title, and who they get to listen to them. I agree with the previous commentators on how effective he really can be in this role.

  26. Gemstones*

    It might just be me, but did we really need to rename him T’Challa? I’m a POC, and if someone had written in about me and decided to rename me “Jessminder” (b/c “Bend It Like Beckham”) or something, I’d find that off-putting…

    1. OnyxChimney*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who was a bit bent about that. But I’ve got a lot of black family members and they are always being accused of not being black enough/too white/spending too much time with white family yadda yadda and changing their name instantly struck a chord as being in that vein.

    2. Michelle Silverthorn*

      Thanks for that perspective. I personally didn’t love using a White male fictional character to represent a Black man so I used a Black fictional character’s name instead who also has a bit of a love triangle since that was my connection to (and reason for youthful dislike of) to Little Women. But I see your perspective as well so thank you for sharing it.

  27. SbuxAddict*

    I don’t know how I missed the previous Michelle days but the last two days have been kind of eye opening. Last night I went back to read the 2021 and 2022 articles. Next up is to purchase the book.

    My office is small (less than 20) and has no DEI program but from the questions in all of the Michelle posts I can see we have made some missteps in the past. As an employer I don’t want to dump all of this on our T’Challas in the firm but I can see that we do need to address it. I have pushed hard to try and be inclusive in our employees and client base but we need to do more. We have a lot of Beths in the company and less people willing to listen. I hope the book will give me some hints about how to work to change things in a way that doesn’t put the onus on the ones who have had to be silent or just deal with it for all this time.

  28. Freighter*

    For LW#1:

    Also a woman of color here, and seconding Michelle in solidarity about how tough it is to figure out when and how to pick these battles.

    FWIW — and I think this goes along with the “appealing to expressed values” advice — something I’ve found success with if I’m worried about backlash is to frame things positively (not that you SHOULD have to, just that I’ve sometimes found it to be successful for the outcome I want). e.g. in this situation, approaching the supervisor with an enthusiasm for “hey, let’s talk about how we make sure more BIPOC people are on advancement tracks!” with the attitude of, obviously this is something you-a-good-person-will-care-about, we’re-all-good-guys-here. I’ve found it’s possible to do that *without even actually naming the fact that there’s an existing problem*, and thus I can get around triggering people’s defensiveness. (And in the ensuing conversation I can also then feel out whether naming the existing problem directly is something I’d want to say outright or not!)

    This is something I’d personally feel comfortable doing even on the way out, as a “hey I have some ideas you could use in the future for helping make sure BIPOC employees are on the path to advancement!” (energy of, “Obviously you’ll want to hear them! Because you’re awesome and not racist and we’re on the same side!”) Unfortunately that puts you in the position of proactively educating, which is not ideal (and not your job) but for me sometimes has been the least-unappealing option.

    I’ve found sometimes this approach is even all it takes for a white person to see the problem themselves, if it’s something they WOULD want to fix but hadn’t noticed. (It is shocking to me sometimes what liberal white people *just don’t notice*!) Happily, occasionally a white person in the room will even take up the baton and go to the more critical place themselves, like, “Yeah, I’ve noticed we really seem to promote mainly white people, we should do something about that!” and then I don’t have to be the one saying it! In similar situations I’ve even had the “boss” equivalent themselves admit they already know it’s a problem and open up to me in discussing how they’ve been trying to fix it and what’s gone wrong, and it ends up a very good discussion.

    Of course, sometimes I’ve also directly named the problem to people. But, I think it really depends, like Michelle said. (Side note: I have more than once pondered how the sheer amount of emotional time and energy I and most BIPOC people I know give to pondering situations like this — when to speak up, how to speak up, making the decisions, figuring out approaches — is such a MAJOR drain on our time/energy/resources that is not often talked about or something many of our white colleagues are even aware we have to do to the extent we do. Industry-dependent of course, but in mine, navigating situations resulting from some type of racism far too often suck out a measurable amount of time and energy I’d rather be spending on productive, career-advancing things.)

    Good luck.

    1. sulky-anne*

      This is a really good strategy for the people who are willing to invest the time and energy. As you say, though, even the process of thinking through this plan, deciding whether it’s worth saying something, etc, is so draining in itself.

      When I decide to take this kind of thing on, I always try to assemble a crew for support or ideas or commiseration. It really helps to feel like you’re not alone. I appreciate chances to join trainings and committees that put me in touch with like minded people from across my organization and others. (I’m white for what it’s worth, but multiply marginalized and tend to get involved in a lot of DEI work.)

  29. LW1*

    Hi everyone! I wrote the first question at what feels like a very different time in my life, but thank you to Michelle for giving such a thoughtful answer! In case anyone was curious, I ultimately decided against having a big “burn the house down” kind of conversation and spent my last few months at that organization offering advice and support to people on my team. As part of that effort, a coworker who had the same title as I did discovered she was making almost $15,000 less than I was and negotiated for a salary bump! Like Michelle suggested, I went through all those questions in my mind before I left and just felt that it wasn’t worth the strain on my mental health. Sometimes I regret that choice, but I spent the many years I worked at that organization trying to speak up or hold people accountable and eventually, it wears you out. From what I’ve heard, things have gotten better on that team since I left. I can’t be specific without giving away my background but the degree I’m working towards will give me more professional standing and authority in my field so that I can speak up in the future when it comes to situations like this.

    1. OnyxChimney*

      I’m glad you were able to help team members get more pay!

      Please if you can don’t beat yourself up about not speaking up. As someone who has spoken up on the sexual harassment front, just to have nothing change but my reputation tank with the company/department, you really can’t say that you speaking up would have made a difference. That’s so much pressure and risk to put on yourself and it often doesn’t even help.

      Good luck in your next role!

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Thanks for chiming in with an update! I’m glad you were thoughtful about your own needs as well as your team’s as you weighed the decision.

    3. Michelle Silverthorn*

      LW1 – thank you for sharing the update! I hope whatever place is lucky to have you next is worthy of your skills, knowledge and compassion. Good luck!

    1. Satan’s Panties*

      Yeah, if there is a triangle, it is Teddy/Jo/Friedrich, not Jo/Teddy/Amy. I married my Friedrich, and couldn’t be happier!

  30. Zarniwoop*

    Who is chairing the meeting?
    I think you have standing based on your own self-interest to tell the chair that you’re frustrated by the amount of time spent on Beth’s off-topic ramblings and could they please shut her down quicker. This applies whatever the nature of the meeting and whatever the reason for the rambling.

  31. Donkey Hotey*

    At the rush of derailing, I have to say: thank you for the renaming. I’ve never read Little Women and kept being confused why Laurie was a he (instead of short for Laura). Some times the pop culture references here really baffle me.

    1. Professional Cat Lady*

      I think we’re out of the way enough down here at the bottom of the comment section:) Laurie is short for his middle name, Laurence. A lot of names gender flipped in the late 19th/early 20th century, like Ashley and Stacey.

    2. Wonder Woman's Tiara*

      I’ve never read Little Women either, but it’s really not that complicated to follow the naming scheme. Plenty of names are used for both men and women (and neither): Morgan, Lindsey, Ashley, Alex, Sam…

  32. LadyVet*

    In regards to LW2, I wonder if the women of color who left realized while working remotely that they were dealing were dealing with fewer microaggressions, and sought out employers that more fully walk the walk of inclusiveness…

  33. So many questions...*

    OP#2 I wish I had an answer. My ex worked in BigLaw and they lamented not having any attys of color – especially when slammed with statistical analysis via NALP.

    But in every interview with someone black or Latinx, (they hired Indian/South Asian men and Asian Pacific women) they always felt the candidate – not matter if they were #1 in their Ivy League class – didn’t fit. Every. Single. Time. That was the reason to choose some middling white guy from a middling school.

    When they established contract associate positions (prohibited from the partnership track), suddenly they were open to the idea because the candidates fit *that* profile. There were no words of persuasion that could convince hiring partners or the HR person that there was bias. None.

    1. Hrodvitnir*

      Ahhh. That is so upsetting to read. And I’m sure everyone involved just saw them as individual instances, no pattern to see here.

      1. So many questions...*

        Exactly. My white male ex worked (still does) in Big Law for 25 years. As a black woman, I was that spouse who had to socialize with people who felt they were open and accepting all the while listening when they made excuse after excuse.

        It’s just that implicit bias holders aren’t that interested in self-examination because it messes with their view of themselves. Which unfortunately leaves qualified minority presenting candidates out in the cold.

  34. Delphine*

    LW 5: Is your DEI specialist really an entry-level employee? Or do you mean that he’s new and has less “capital” in your company, but he does have experience developing DEI programs? I can’t figure out why you’d ever categorize this as an entry-level position! That’s just setting up a young person for failure.

    1. Observer*

      I can’t figure out why you’d ever categorize this as an entry-level position! That’s just setting up a young person for failure.

      Perhaps I’m cynical, but I suspect that the second sentence is the *answer* to your first sentence. In other words “It’s a feature not a bog.”

  35. Raida*

    1. Should I talk to my boss about the biases I see on our team?

    Don’t forget that you can approach your supervisor with stuff like “I’m interested to know, how would you/do you like to get feedback? Would you want a meeting, at a regular catch up, to get a couple of bullet points and then meet a week later when the initial shock has worn off? If a staff member has a concern, would you want that to come to you directly? If a staff member has heard from someone else about a perception of our team would you want to be told?”

    Because you do not *have* to say “I think you are doing A, B, C poorly.” you can say “I’ve heard a couple of people take note of A, B, C and I wanted you to know so you can handle those optics.”
    Invited Speakers is the easiest – no pressure on the business to hire people differently!
    But being able to say “After the latest Speaker who looks and sounds like that previous five, there’s been some murmurs about how Hired Positions have also looked and sounded the same.” is a way of telling someone “Hey you got a problem mate” without saying “Hey you’re screwing up mate”

  36. Audiophile*

    This is a no-win situation for Laurie. Being the new employee would be hard enough, and being the entry-level employee would be hard enough, but combine that with being the new entry-level and sole Black employee; it’s not even worth pretending you can get this plane off the ground. I applaud him for even trying.

  37. MrsThePlague*

    I just want to say, as someone who has been in that situation and has known others in that situation, how much I feel for T’Challa. It absolutely *SUCKS* when an organization wakes up one morning, discovers racism, and rushes out to hire ONE BIPOC person to be the Fixer. It sets us up for failure 15/10 times, even when (especially when) that person comes in as the DEI person; it is overwhelmingly stressful and unfair, it further entrenches the problem, and it makes it 100 times more difficult for the next BIPOC person who comes into the role.

    I know white people sometimes feel helpless in the face of these issues, so my encouragement is to use your voice/whatever positions of influence you have to suggest that your organizations hire a company/organization (instead of ONE person) to make recommendations and guide the process of making your spaces more inclusive (including in hiring).

    It’s not a perfect solution, but with the right orgs working with you, it provides more structure, accountability, and resources for gradual but comprehensive change – and we have GOT to move away from the Token BIPOC approach.

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