February is Black History Month and in the U.S., Diversity Month is coming up in April. I’m not sure when the official “Diversity Month” is in Canada, as we are proud to be a diverse nation and celebrate diversity every day. Or do we?
As I noodled the topic of Diversity, I felt puzzled and frankly, a bit frustrated. As I got curious about my frustration, I thought about the different groups covered by the umbrella of Diversity – women, different religions, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability. I thought about different initiatives I’ve seen and dodgy situations that have left me wondering at times, if we really do walk the talk where Diversity is concerned.
I found I don’t really have any answers, just questions and concerns, so let me throw them out there for you to consider. Here are the questions that are bothering me about Diversity, in the form of a rant:
How do women really fare in the workplace? Are opportunities to get to the top truly equal for us?
Why are female CEOs (like Yahoo’s Marisa Mayer) villainized when men in the same position would never be under the same scrutiny? When are men ever accused of the double unhappiness of being a “bad male CEO” and a “bad father”?
And why are women typically paid 70 cents on the dollar compared to men? Are we just lousy negotiators or is there more to it?
I would like to know why, when push comes to shove, do women get asked to answer the phones, “man” the front desk, or organize social events in the workplace?
Why does “The Boys Club” prevail and why is there no “Girls Club” of equal clout?
And why are there so many women in the HR field? Or so few men? And why do more of the small-ish population of men in HR achieve VP and C-suite titles faster and seemingly easier than the women? But we are all aware of the issues around HR and its perceived “femaleness” as a perception. How we change it is the question.
Really, how much of an inconvenience is it to provide a prayer space or quiet space for individuals to pray during the day?
Does it really matter what god an employee worships?
And why would an employer refuse to consider a Muslim candidate and tell the Recruiter, “Are you crazy, sending me a Muslim candidate when I’m [insert religion here]?” I suspect the better question is, who exactly is the crazy one and how dare they try to make the Recruiter feel lesser for doing the right, civilized, backed-by-Human-Rights-legislation thing?
Ah…another one of my favourite topics. Why do North American employers think “Canadian experience” or “American experience” is absolutely critical, a deal-breaker in fact, when hiring? Are foreign trained workers’ brains emptying over the Atlantic ocean as they migrate to North America?
I used to hire foreign-trained employees who had no North American experience for a particular company and it was a win-win. The company got the workforce they needed and the employees got their first North American job and everyone was happy. Or happy for a while, as the company would pay well below market wages and when the employee realized his/her market value a couple of years later, they would leave. Despite my recommendations to provide pay increases along the way as the individual progressed, the company would say “They negotiated their pay, they can live with it.” Which begs my next question: Why do we take advantage of those in a disadvantaged position? Are they lesser because they weren’t born and raised in North America?
Why do employers shy away from hiring disabled candidates? Sometimes it’s the perceived cost of adjusting the physical space, but beyond that, is there more to it?
I once “temped” in a call centre environment and one of the top CSRs was a visually impaired woman, who sat near me. Day in, day out, I heard her on the phone with her customers and she was fantastic. The level of attention and focus she provided to her customers was superior to those around her. Was this because of her disability? Maybe. I don’t know, but I would bet yes, it was. So it was a benefit, not a problem.
So why do employers we have a perceived problem with disabled candidates? Are they uncomfortable? Afraid? Awkward and unsure of how to approach the individual?
I could go on about other groups but I think we can all get the point. As much as we value diversity and often put it up on our office walls as a “Company Value”, really, what do we or our employers do when the rubber meets the road? How do we really behave? And what can we do differently, perhaps, just by asking questions?
I don’t know, but I’m going to keep asking tough questions and not accepting the status quo.
Elaine Cruise Smith takes an irreverent and (sometime brutally) honest approach to authenticity in the workplace. She blogs about it at “Get Real: People, Passion, Profit$, where she explores how getting real with people (colleagues, employees, the boss, and customers) frees us to be extraordinary and to achieve extraordinary results. Elaine also blogs about living large without breaking the bank at “Champagne Taste …on a beer budget”. Follow her journey and musings at http://getrealhr.blogspot.ca/ and http://champagne-taste-beer-budget.blogspot.ca/ and connect with Elaine on LinkedIn.