Doing/Trying Diversity

The thing, or at least, one of the things about moving a movement or an organization towards greater diversity is that it involves tradeoffs, especially initially. You are changing your current way of doing things—this is not simple.

I mean, sometimes it is, right? You make it easier to find your maternity policy, or you use gender neutral language in your application, or you stop having all your off-work events in bars. But sometimes it means writing your maternity-leave policy, or changing your working hours schedule, or having really awkward conversations over and over and over with your current employees.

I think that it is sometimes okay to decide, yes, we want this change eventually, it is important to us, but right now the tradeoff seems so costly that we cannot do it.

But decisionmakers—sincere ones!—can lose the benefit of the doubt when their public calls about the need for diversity are paired with private decisions that the tradeoffs in this case (and this one and this one) are too high.

Wanting to have a diverse organization is easy. Actually doing it is hard.

Some examples:
1) Organization Alpha works with families near the poverty line. They would really like to hire more people on the frontlines who have been there—men and women who are living pay-check to pay-check, for instance. They frequently hold career fairs during working hours, because they don’t want their current employees to have to work overtime or arrange for extra childcare.

2) Non-profit Bravo works with a predominantly-male population. However, they’re seeing a disproportionately small number of women, even taking this into account. They’d like to have more employees who are women. They do not currently have a maternity leave policy—women must accrue sick days or leave.

3) Conference Charlie is concerned about the growth of [the field]—fewer and fewer young people are getting involved. They would like to increase involvement of students, by inviting them to a three day conference full of people who are enthusiastic and dynamic speakers. The conference takes place in a city that is small, but has many [field] enthusiasts. Student tickets are half price, at $300.

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