Following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, the number of diversity-related jobs increased significantly as organizations worked to address issues that could no longer be ignored. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) became more important as organizations launched initiatives focusing on making meaningful change. While some organizations simply increased their diversity efforts, others created new positions focused on diversity. These positions ranged from entry-level jobs to executive-level positions and spanned all types of organizations including academia. Indeed.com reported that diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DI&B) job postings increased by 123% between May and September of 2020.
You know how it goes, every Black History Month, Juneteenth, or special holiday, companies around the world publish media about diversity and inclusion. At times, it can feel like they are obligated to do so, and they just plaster a generic diversity and inclusion sign on their website or social media page.
This is common to see with companies that desperately want to be portrayed as inclusive, when in reality, they are far from it. When you visit an educational institution that has 98% white faculty, but they are very vocal about the importance of diversity, it makes you wonder…am I missing something?
Here lies performative diversity, which is the subject of this article.
What is “Performative” Diversity?
When a company rallies for diversity and inclusion in public and is very loud about it on social media, but their policies are discriminatory, then they are engaging in performative diversity.
This can be hard to spot because not many people have the time to interview each employee to find out whether they’ve felt discriminated against during their time at the company.
It can be incredibly difficult nowadays to tell whether a company is saving face, or whether its leaders are genuinely motivated by fairness to level the playing field for all kinds of people.
What does that performative diversity look like?
- D&I branding on their website
- Token POC people on their company photos
- Conveniently timed BLM or D&I social media posts
- Large percentage of employees identify with one race or ethnicity
These are just some of the factors to consider when analyzing whether or not a company is participating in performative diversity. You can go to a university where all the faculty members are white except for that one token POC person.
You may ask why there is little racial diversity in their faculty and you’ll be met with phrases like:
- “We only hire the most qualified people”
- “There aren’t that many POC people interested in the position.”
- “This is a white majority neighborhood.”
- Or the classic, “It’s just a coincidence.”
I’ve been the token POC person before. It’s not fun, half the time you just feel like a black dot on a white canvas that is brought out for photo ops to make the institution look good. Which is why I’m so relieved to be working in a company that actually promotes diversity and inclusion internally – and not just for the press.
True Diversity & Inclusion
When I joined the Pearl Lemon PR agency, I was pleasantly surprised that my hairstyles, my accent, and my race were ever an issue. I’ve never been treated differently from other employees because people in this company genuinely believe that talent can come from anywhere.
It was a stark contrast from the Swiss companies I was accustomed to that made me feel like I had so much to prove because my race and nationality put me at a disadvantage. To me, it’s clear now that when a company has internal policies that create a culture of acceptance and inclusivity, they don’t have to post about it for you to know that D&I is a priority to them. Let’s take a closer look at what true D&I looks like.
It starts with:
- An inclusive recruitment process
- Diverse leaders
- Color-blind recruitment process
- Inclusive company policies
- Active recruitment of people from different countries/backgrounds
All of these elements are internal. This has nothing to do with whether or not the company’s social media presence shows diverse people or has black squares in solidarity with BLM. When the leadership is diverse, and the recruitment process is designed to level the playing field for people of different backgrounds, then that is legitimate.
A diverse company doesn’t have to come and tell you that they value inclusivity. You should be able to tell as soon as you meet the employees and hear their stories. When a trans, non-binary POC person can thrive in a company in the same way that a white, straight man would – then that company is truly diverse and inclusive.
The key here is analyzing the difference between those who promote D&I externally vs those who implement it internally. That right there, is what makes the biggest difference.
It means that employees don’t face discrimination and prejudice, and that everyone has a chance to become the best that they can be regardless of their orientation, gender, or race.
Equity Impacts Corporate Decisions
Why have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expertise in the Boardroom? Look at the controversy swirling around the Georgia’s voting law–the backlash, the boycott, and the backlash to the boycott. Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens lose from both the law and the boycott. I contend that if there had been DEI experts on the boards of the major corporations that traditionally lobbied in Georgia, this may have been averted. Corporations could have predicted how the passage and signing of the bill into law may have impacted their brand. While the bill was being crafted social justice concerns could have been addressed, along with concerns regarding voting integrity. When you are driving you slow down before you come to the hairpin curve rather than trying to correct for it afterward. I have always contended that we should resolve a problem before it begins.
2020 turned into a momentous year for diversity training. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many diversity trainers, myself included, to re-invent themselves by adapting their workshops into an online format. The Memorial Day killing of George Floyd thrust anti-racism into the center of diversity training, challenging those presenters who had generally soft-pedaled the issue. President Donald Trump’s September 22 executive order, “Race and Sex Stereotyping,” caused government agencies and contractors, including some higher education institutions, to suspend or mute their diversity training.
In the aftermath of tragic police violence and subsequent street protests, many US corporations and other organizations have issued ritualistic and formulaic statements declaring their support for Black Lives Matter and decrying racism. What does this mean, and what will they do to follow through? Many of these companies already have diversity programs and are already required to comply with state and federal nondiscrimination laws and regulations. A number of states, cities, and counties have broader non-discrimination prohibitions than the federal government, for example, to include LGBTQ status.
The larger companies employ Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) or someone with a different title but similar responsibilities. The vast majority of people in these positions are African-American females. Some are male, and some are Hispanic. A few are white females. Almost none of the CDOs are members of the executive teams of these companies. Diversity does not occupy a place similar to core missions, such as production, operations, marketing/sales/ advertising/branding, finance, legal, logistics, supply chain, health and safety, etc. Only a relatively small percent of companies report their diversity demographics publicly, and almost none disaggregate the figures by level of employment, pay grade, responsibility, etc.
The Un-Bias Guide for Leaders is based on Matrix Model Management System which involves the storytelling principles of cultural anthropology, the planning methodology of urban planning, and the team leadership of facilitation. The Un-Bias Guide is combination text / workbook customized for the workplace. The guide is an innovative tool for addressing unconscious bias and conscious choices.
UN-BIAS GUIDE FOR LEADERS
Designed for team training in the workplace: business leaders, nonprofit administrators, and innovative entrepreneurs. CLICK at the bottom of the following short video to hear Deborah Levine share why the Un-Bias Guide is what today’s workplace needs.
“When Ms. Levine introduced her story methods and the Matrix Model Management system, light bulbs went off. Tell our stories breaks down barriers and let us react on a different level.”
~ Online Wall Street Journal
“Deborah Levine leads Un-Bias trainees through a discovery process that promotes awareness of the unconscious, deeply held cultural views that we all carry. When those views are examined and shared, a new paradigm of equity and insight begins to evolve. Ms. Levine’s revelatory training, smattered with humor and even a bit of Yiddish, challenge existing notions of diversity and unleash opportunities for leaders and change-makers to shape a more inclusive and representative future.”
~ Rebecca Whelchel, Executive Director of Metropolitan Ministries/Chattanooga Social Services
“Deborah Levine is one on the nation’s leading experts, speakers, authors, trainers and communicators on sensitive and complex issues of cultural diversity. She takes you below the surface and gets at the heart of what works in bringing diverse people together in a mutually beneficial way in which everyone wins. Her latest workbook is a ‘must read’ for employers, managers and labor across all industries. Unlawful discrimination can cost companies big bucks, bad publicity, damage the brand and alienate the consumer base. This exemplary educational guide is a small but wise investment in better understanding and leveraging diversity from the corporate boardroom to the classroom, from Wall Street to Main Street USA. This is an especially important issue to comprehend as America’s population becomes increasingly more diverse in all walks of life. This trend is projected by the U.S. Census Bureau to continue well into the foreseeable future — and the future is now.”
~ David Grinberg, former national media spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
“In my role as a Human Resources Manger, the training and cultural awareness of the Matrix Model Management System will allow me to relate to others as they would like without assuming what they want or need.”
~ Valoria Armstrong, TN American Water/President,
NAACP Chattanooga/Former President
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UN-BIAS GUIDE for LEADERS
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It’s easy to blame ourselves, and even easier to blame someone else. But the truth is, it’s bigger than that. When people are brought together, they inevitably compete for limited resources. The problem is that resources are always limited whether it’s additional headcount, a promotion, a manager’s attention, or a runway for your new idea. And that competition is the definition of office politics.
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We are still in the midst of a disruptive crisis no matter how “positive thinking police” try to spin it. As the Covid-19 quarantine continues with people working from home, with little or no social interaction, some of your team members may start experiencing a deeper level of anxiety. No one knows when or how it will end or what the “new normal” will look like. That anxiety due to seemingly uncertain futures and not knowing how or when the crisis will end, can cause some people to panic, lose focus about their work and disengage from the team.
With the right strategies you have the power to help yourself, your family and people in your organization to not panic and instead find joy and stay engaged. The actions you take now to increase and sustain connection, community, and inclusion will make the difference between a long re-entry or the shortest one possible. If you want to know five actions you can take immediately, read on.
How Leaders & Employees
Go from Fear to Optimism:
One TEAM again
The new norm of work is a challenge for businesses and the workforce. No one is exempt from the challenges we face during this period of isolation. Even those who are used to working virtually will have new demands placed on them. Teams will be forced to communicate differently and accommodate home-based needs. Team leaders must find ways to collaborate and move forward despite unprecedented uncertainty. Business owners can find themselves in a fight for survival while not only maintaining the ability to restart operations, but implementing creative ways to make that transition. How are we going to manage all this? Continue reading From Virus-Suppression to Workplace Return – by Deborah Levine and Cathy Light