Help! How do I make my workplace more diverse?

Dear OOO,

I am (white, male) a hiring manager at a not very diverse company. I would like to help make us more diverse, but it seems like we only get people who look like us to apply for jobs, and I have no idea how to get people who don’t look like us to apply for jobs. How can I improve in hiring so that we can diversify our employees?


I cry a lot about the annoying lack of diversity in my field on the World Wide Web, which means I get variations of this question all the time from friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even complete strangers. As much as I like to be considered an expert on anything and everything, this particular line of investigation is always a bit confusing to me. I don’t know if your field is like that, Mark, but the white people in my business are sometimes treated (by other white people) as if they had unlocked some dark secret when…

I get a little upset when people tell me that hiring people from a variety of backgrounds is a good thing Difficult, because it is not so; It only requires Effort. When white people say that hiring more black and black people in your predominantly white office is difficult, the implication is that it is more difficult to find qualified black and brown people than white people. But this is just plain wrong. There are plenty of non-white candidates who are qualified for any job, and the only way in the end to only interview white people is if you’re unwilling to work for a more diverse pool.

I don’t mean to catch you, Mark. I totally believe that you really want to make your company better by making it more diverse, and I promise I will give you concrete advice for doing so. But I think it’s important to understand the systemic issues at play before getting into the nitty-gritty, because employment diversity is an area that needs a lot of critical thinking, and you can’t get that from a step-by-step guide. I would first encourage you to read extensively about diversity in the workplace in both your industry and in general, and to discuss what you learn with your colleagues.

Well, this is the advice I actually came for. I’ll start by trying to identify things that might discourage people who don’t look like you from applying. At the very least, I bet people are reluctant to send in their resumes because they are well aware that you don’t usually hire people who look like them. Who can blame them? Talk to your current employees of color (you already have Some, right?) about how the company can improve their work lives, and make the changes they demand. (Reassure them that it’s not a trick question, but realize that they may not tell you anything, not because you’re doing a really great job but because research shows that people of color actually are punish To advocate for diversity at work.) Look at your company’s retention rates for different groups of employees, and if they differ according to race, ethnicity, or gender, think carefully about why. Think about the differences between Diversity, equality and inclusion Find out how to create an inclusive workplace. Then, when you’ve identified great candidates (more on that below), you can tell them all the positive steps you’ve taken to fix your mistakes.

Once you’ve taken all of these steps, and not a single second before, focus on active recruiting rather than just filtering the resumes that find their way to you. While advertising vacancies is an important step towards a diverse workforce, it is not remotely sufficient. You need to use the same networking tools that have kept mostly white and male businesses diversified. This means asking all of your contacts who they recommend. (One big warning: Do Not Ask prominent people of color in your field for their recommendations unless you know them well; You don’t gain the benefit of their knowledge, and making people feel poked won’t help at all.) This also means searching LinkedIn, Twitter, message boards, or other places in your industry where people gather for potential prospects. Going to professional conferences and other events in your field can also help you, but it is not a substitute for doing the hard work.

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