Maybe this will all add up to a job that uses your existing education and skills, or maybe it will point to something entirely new. If it’s the latter, find a low-commitment way to try it out, whether through a night class or a shadow day or anything that doesn’t involve student loans or a total life upheaval. The need to pay rent most likely will keep you from quitting your ill-fitting job right away, but the knowledge that you’re working on a strategic exit plan with long-term payoff should help prevent you from going fully crazy.
You Can Lead a Horse to Diversity, But …
I work for a large company based in a rural part of the American West. We have a new chief executive who has made diversity a top goal, yet we continue to hire white men or women, including two senior executive positions with “diversity” in the titles! When we hold public events, it is generally four or five white males and a white woman or two onstage. Recently, an event was so blatantly white that a few members of the audience questioned our organization about diversity. The C.E.O. stumbled through a reply that sought to show we get it but also didn’t over-promise on action.
As one of the few employees of color, I have been asked by the C.E.O. for my feelings about diversity issues. If I’m honest, and therefore critical, I may sound like an opportunist, because an easy solution would be to promote me into a leadership position, or assumed to have sour grapes because I’m not already in one.
I have kept my mouth shut, but it feels cowardly. I have let my feelings be known in small ways, serving on search committees and raising the diversity question there, and volunteering for public assignments. Should I speak up, or should I assume the company’s non-action over nearly two years and a dozen new hires is my answer?
— Washington State
You’re telling me that companies sometimes talk a big game on diversity and then never back up those words with action? Seems hard to believe, but let’s go with it.
The C.E.O. has asked for your honest feelings, so you should feel absolutely free to provide the critique he or she desperately needs to hear. It certainly is possible that you’ll be seen as bitter over your reassignment, but if that’s their assumption, keeping your lips zipped won’t change that. “I am concerned that we have hired a dozen white people since making diversity a company priority” is a sane and fact-based thing to say, and if your bosses are determined to interpret it differently, that’s not on you.
But! If the C.E.O.’s intentions smell fishy, you also have every right to engage in a little self-preservation. There’s reason to be suspicious. A 2016 study by two University of Colorado management professors found that women and people of color who advocate for other women and people of color in hiring processes are penalized on their performance reviews. (Advocating for diverse hiring had no effect on white men’s evaluations.) More broadly, the burden of doing the hard work to create and maintain a diverse and inclusive workplace falls disproportionately on people from the groups being marginalized.