Overcoming Inequity in Hiring

July 8, 2022 – Over the past few years or so, “diversity” has received consistent attention because of increased national awareness of issues broadly related to hiring practices, the criminal justice system, and economic equity. Systemic inequities have been a matter of public debate, discourse, and contention. In response, a number of organizations have initiated measures to increase their enrollment of visually diverse leaders, notably women, black and brown movers and shakers. However, as the year draws to a close, many of these same organizations are doing retroactive analyses of their progress. They are now confronted with a haunting question, “Is the new-found diversity only skin deep?”

If the voices at your board table seem to share similar religious, political, and economic beliefs, then your optics, gender, and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity may still be masking deep diversity issues, says Karen Alphonse in a new report from ExecSearches. “Unwittingly, even the most comprehensive recruitment efforts fall into ruts that will predictably skew results toward certain institutions and particular points of view,” she said. “For example, if in the quest for ‘quality’ you prefer or limit your searches to, let’s say, the top 10 universities in the country for technology leadership, what you may find is that – even if candidates look diverse and espouse different views – they have all imbibed similar teaching and problem-solving techniques. So, when they gather to discuss issues, they may look very distinctive. Yet, their opinions and views might be surprisingly similar.”

As graduates of institutions with defined values, they may be great emissaries of those values and ideals, just not wonderful purveyors of any thinking that is new and different. Unconsciously, they will choose to promote the methods they know, said the report. “For radical inclusivity, you cannot escape searching with a much broader brush,” said ExecSearches. “You cannot run away from having to entertain ways of being and thinking that challenge your own. You have to be prepared to research, explore, and move beyond time-worn centers of excellence. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking different, but being essentially the same. This journey towards greater inclusivity can be very scary.”

Voice and Agency 

This journey is about rethinking excellence, being willing to step outside of routine assumptions, taking calculated risks, and bringing in people whose life experiences, perspectives, and goals might be not just different, but jarring. “Only when the full spectrum of potential opinions is engaged in the discussion can you expect truly innovative outcomes,” said the report. “On the other side of this, regurgitating substantially similar concepts –even if the speakers look very different—will not yield fresh thinking.”

True diversity is not just about ethnicity, race, politics, sexual orientation, and gender, said Ms. Alphonse. “It’s not just about economics, physical capacity, and mental health status,” said the report. “It is not even about intact families, adoption, surrogate parenthood, and extended or non-traditional families. These factors are certainly relevant to the inquiry. But, at the core, the real issue is voice and agency. If your professionals mostly graduated from the same or similar schools, have had parallel life experiences, and harbor similar ideas about the world and how it should run, you may have embraced facial diversity, but the real thing still eludes you.”

Piercing Barriers

Diversity is seldom easy to achieve because it involves piercing numerous barriers and thought forms. It involves digging deeply to move behind the issues that temporarily separate us to tap into the fundamentals of what makes us human. “From this vantage point, it could never be enough to believe that grouping ethnically/racially/gender diverse leaders together, without analyzing whether or not they come from the same ideological pool, could secure true ‘diversity,’” said ExecSearches. “On the contrary. What you may have done is to use attractive optics to mask a deep, embedded, and persistent homogeneity.”

Ms. Alphonse is a search solution leader and executive coach with ExecSearches. She joined the firm to spearhead its search consulting practice. Most recently, she served as a strategic advisor, confidant and career coach to thought-leaders in financial services, legal, education, and mission-driven organizations. Ms. Alphonse identifies talent through social media, job postings, referrals, and targeted research. Her interactions with hundreds of candidates and executives has shaped her creative interview techniques and ability to conduct behavioral assessments, take expert references, and understand candidates’ strengths.

Related: Improving Diversity Starts with a Culture Check

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

Share This Article


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments