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Who Can Work for You? The Answer to that Question Might Say Everything About Diversity

A few months ago, I read a post by a typical Silicon Valley tech founder very much looking forward to the death of DE&I initiatives. As I recall, his point was that he just wanted to get back to hiring the best person who fits the job he needed to be done without having to think about it, and besides, his company existed to build things, not rectify social injustice.

It was an interesting take. I didn’t pay enough attention to it to remember where to find it again. Still, I remember thinking if employers don’t think they are responsible for fixing diversity issues, who is?

In the ensuing months, I return to it often because I see other information that makes me return to that question, if not you, who?

For example, I shared this article last week – Want a more inclusive workplace? Embrace an async-first approach 

The argument in that article was that if your team requires a ton of meetings to communicate, you can’t hire anyone who might have difficulty making all of the meetings. Someone with childcare or eldercare responsibilities, a disability, or anyone who needs a bit of flexibility in their schedule. That description might fit many people who would otherwise be very good at the job, but they don’t meet the requirements because you require something that might not be important.

Want more examples? Consider this. If you want everyone back in the office full-time, they must live nearby. That might not be possible in a housing shortage.

Also, consider what Time magazine has to say about working mothers – As People Return to Offices, It’s Back to Misery for America’s Working Moms

Let’s not forget all the people who can’t drive for many reasons, and your workplace is not accessible by public transit. (I know people with seizures, for example, who don’t drive because of the risk but otherwise make great employees.)

There’s a lot of talk coming from organizations about their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Too many of them create opportunities that don’t match those words. Office jobs that require workers to be in one place at the same time, all the time, are inherently not as diverse as they could be. Companies that require all of their employees to travel for team events are not as inclusive as they could be. Companies that only hire consultants who will travel to them in person are not as inclusive as they could be.

Certain jobs require some of these things, but many jobs where the organization requires it can just as easily be done without those requirements. When they do that, they’re not matching what they say about DE&I. They are clearly emphasizing their preferences over their commitment.

As Colin Newby says in his latest Decrapify Work newsletter:

I’d go further and say that any company that doesn’t have a remote or fully-flexible policy isn’t being about serious DE&I.

It’s common to think about young people who want to work remotely so they can sit on a beach instead of going to an office. They exist, but so do a bunch of people who aren’t able to come to an office every day. Those people deserve an opportunity too.

If your company doesn’t want to take on DE&I to this level, who will?

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