I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it. When we talk about wanting to see equal representation and diversity, the conversation often defaults to media. We want to see more models and actors of color. We want to see ourselves reflected back when we watch TV shows and movies. While it is totally important for us all to feel represented in the programs we watch for a sense of validation and inclusion, the one place we seem to be neglecting when it comes to diversity is business. Why aren’t we just as passionate about seeing ourselves present in the boardroom?
Some of the most exciting happenings in business are taking place at huge innovative companies like Google and Apple as well as at high growth startups like Pinterest. But when we look at the ethnic makeup of these companies’ employees, there is a very apparent and disappointing trend. Approximately 91% of Google’s employees are white or Asian. Apple claims only 8% of its employees are black. Pinterest seems the most challenged at diversity with black employees making up only 1% of its staff. I can agree that we do need more diversity in media but the real impact on the economy lies in the future of business. Maybe we’ve been far too focused on diversity in the wrong sectors.
Why is this happening? Is there a racial glass ceiling so low that diverse candidates can’t even get a foot in the door? It’s clear that some bias exists. Many startup companies recruit their candidates from top tier universities. And if we’re being absolutely frank, diversity is just as big an issue in America’s colleges and universities. Pulling a workforce from this pool of candidates is obviously perpetuating the problem and not improving it.
But how does this get fixed? Many top companies are now putting aggressive diversity improvement plans in place after coming under extreme public scrutiny. But will they now start pulling diverse employees in to meet a quota vs. pulling them in because they’re the best candidates for the job? Diversity in the workplace shouldn’t come at the expense of qualifications. Unfortunately, this seems like a necessary step to get a diversity baseline established.
As I get older, diversity has become far more important to me in less superficial ways. I want to see more black business men and women living their dreams. I don’t need to see another black model or actor if the boardroom starts to look more like the public it represents. I aspire to run my own successful business and take up residence alongside the best. But it can be daunting and uninspiring to repeatedly see the absolute lack of diversity in the workplace. I vow to push forward as a source of inspiration for those who also hope to find success in business. But in order to make a real difference, we all have to do the same.