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It is a widely accepted fact that hiring for diversity improves profitability, whether a small business or a massive company that pours resources into diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices companywide. You probably already know this, but if it’s news to you, Google around – it leads to improved innovation (since you’ve avoided an echo chamber), customer support ranks better for diverse teams (since your team has a wider ability to address more pain points), and it attracts more talent.

Imagine if you build a company and fill it with people that look, act, sound, and think like you. And imagine how agreeable everyone is during every moment of production, and no diversity of thought is ever injected. Any investor can tell you it’s a death sentence. To be blunt, it’s hiring “yes men,” so to speak, and does little more than serve your ego (consciously or subconciously).

American culture has rapidly evolved regarding diversity and inclusion (D&I). There are entire teams in companies dedicated to it (#profitability). I can tell you firsthand that the people devoting their jobs to this really do care. And today, more than ever, the topic of race (which is only one of many components of diversity) is top of mind, so we must all individually, and as companies, push to improve our workplace for the BIPOC while also remembering the LGBTQIA+ community, avoiding ageism, and so forth.

And while positivity surrounding D&I practices abounds, something is happening that is going to backfire.

Businesses are resorting to a “checklist” mindset wherein a CEO says, “we don’t have enough Hispanic women or trans employees, fix that” and drops the figurative mic. It sounds noble to see there is room to improve, but diversity and inclusion is about creating a company culture and hiring practices wherein people aren’t discriminated against, NOT fulfilling some impossible checklist.

I was in a meeting of a company inviting us to be on their board, and one of their first questions was if we knew any black women or Asian men that would join the board because they already had “most of the rest of the rainbow.” Again, sounds like the right direction, but it’s a hollow effort if you’re building a rainbow, not examining merit, not building out an actual culture of inclusion. Try harder.

And that brings us to a weak spot in this practice that we’re already seeing come to fruition. Large companies, particularly in the tech sector, are putting in the real effort to be inclusive, but it’s backfiring.

Companies are inadvertently segmenting their populations for D&I purposes, and while it’s not some evil plot, it negates all D&I programs. We’re witnessing “diverse” companies allow their teams to be built out, diversity-free. Perhaps their development teams are only white men, their marketing teams are only white and Hispanic women, their support teams are primarily Indian Americans, their sales teams are mostly black team members.

It’s wild to walk into a large company and see this strange… segregation.

It is natural to surround yourself with people that look like you, and I have endless theories on this topic, but I’ll confess to you that most of my thoughts have been influenced by reading “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum back when I was in high school (required reading for anyone pondering the topic of race now or in the future). And many practices are well-meaning, but companies are sabotaging themselves with flawed methods.

A company might look great as a whole with various ages, races, religions, gender identities, ethnicities, sexuality, national origin, and so forth, but if they’re all segregated into their own teams based on how they were hired (or by whom), it’s literally the opposite of diversity or inclusion. Swing and a miss, y’all.

If you’re in a decision making role at your company, please bring this topic up as soon as possible, and examine how your own diversity efforts are going – are you sincere, or just looking for positive press?

Are you helping overall?

Or just making things worse?

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