Defining diversity - tips for employers

It is reported to me that a number of major employers seem confused about what "diversity" is. So, in a spirit of helpfulness, here are my lists of what "diversity" comprises in successful firms - and then, a list for not-so-successful firms. (Wall Street and Canary Wharf banks, I'm looking at you.)

Diversity is:

  • preventing discrimination by members or associates of the firm with respect to gender, race, disability, national origin, sexual preference, marital status, veteran status, or any other characteristic that is inherent to a person;
  • active effort in recruiting to reach non-mainstream groups and provide them with the opportunity to do as well in the recruitment process as members of mainstream groups with the same level of ability; and/or
  • funding and staffing events in the local community designed to support the learning and employment training of children, students or adults who would not normally consider working at your firm;

For firms that have been usurped by the HR department's Diversity team, "diversity" is:

  • promotion of staff based on different gender, race, disability etc. over actual ability;
  • requiring all staff to participate in "diversity" events and programmes;
  • active solicitation of plaudits from external organisations promoting positive discrimination of their interest group;
  • tolerating staff self-aggrandisement based on gender, race, disability etc.;
  • active or passive punishment of staff who refuse to participate in diversity events and programmes; and/or
  • appointing diversity "champions" whose job is to propagate and perpetuate the diversity agenda rather than, say, bring income to the firm.

Also look out for employers which decide that groups can be represented by networks or lists with a ridiculously arbitrary label. So employees of Jamaican, Moroccan, Somali and Ibo heritage find themselves classified as "black"; Indian, Bangladeshi, Mongolian, Han Chinese and Filipino are "Asian"; Swedish, Faeroese, Manx, Catalan and Cypriot are "white". You can often have fun posing as a candidate with an Irish Indian-Moroccan father and English Austrian-Filipino mother and asking which "diversity network" you should join. If HR think that you are a troublemaker and protest that there are no such people as English Austrian-Filipinas, you can set them straight.

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