I don’t care about your diverse hiring statistics: Here’s what equity inclusion really means

By: Hart Hillman

While most modern organizations have made a commitment to equity inclusion, not all gender diversity hiring initiatives are created equal. In fact, I would argue there is a wide spectrum when it comes to the sophistication and maturity of such efforts, and many who claim to be leaders in this space are actually falling behind.

Equity inclusion isn’t just some fluffy corporate social responsibility initiative, despite the fact that some treat it as such. Recent study have proven that organizations who commit themselves to diversity and inclusion in more than their hiring practices and press releases enjoy greater financial returns, higher profits, and experience less volatility.

At the far end of the diversity and inclusion spectrum are those that fail to acknowledge the problem, or acknowledge it but don’t address it. Not too far downstream from them, however, are those who are putting genuine effort into increasing diversity hiring, but believe it sufficient to end their commitment there. Such organizations often tout their inclusive hiring statistics, but I know from experience that such figures only tell one small part of a bigger story.

What these organizations are doing is basically affirmative action, often in response to pressure from the media, the board, the government, their employees or other external factors. When the goal is to silence critics by checking a box the focus tends to be on hiring numbers alone. Organizations that fail to see the bigger picture, however, often also fail to reap the ROI benefits of having a diverse workforce.

We see it all the time; an organization acknowledges a significant gender gap in their workforce, and prioritizes female hires until they feel a better balance has been struck. They make a big announcement about their accomplishment, and

responsibility. In many organizations, there is no recognition of this higher standard for parental responsibilities, nor any effort to support working mothers.

When there are only one or two women in the room it’s also not uncommon for them to experience unconscious bias. One CEO friend of mine who recently attended a meeting with her board was asked to take notes, despite being the highest-ranking executive in the room. Some might applaud the company for being progressive enough to hire a female CEO, but this friend quit her job soon after the incident, as it became clear to her that the board was only checking the gender diversity box.

Another major consideration for those that want to pay more than lip service to equity inclusion is compensation. Women still only make $.79 for every dollar earned by a man, but organizations can’t claim to be addressing equitable hiring if they’re not also tackling the pay equity as well.

In recent years we’ve seen a trend towards pay transparency, which helps employees of all backgrounds ensure they’re receiving the compensation they deserve, but conversations about earnings remain taboo for many, particularly older workers. Recent years have also seen provinces and states prevent organizations from asking candidates about their previous compensation, as it can serve to carry wage discrepancies from one employer to the next.

While these concerns and considerations seem nuanced they are actually very closely tied to the success of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Organizations that are simply checking the box without internalizing a true commitment to inclusivity and extending that commitment throughout their company’s culture will struggle to hire and retain diverse staff, and are unlikely to see much of a return on their diversity and inclusion investments.

That’s why I don’t care about your gender diversity hiring numbers.

If you’re not taking the time to understand nuanced issues like unconscious bias, wage transparency and salary history bans; if you’re not actively developing support systems, mentorship groups and innovative policies that support female employees; and if those initiatives aren’t part of your company’s core values, than such statistics are meaningless.

The same can also be said about other historically marginalized groups, as I will explore in my next post.