Recent reporting on employee revolts at Bleacher Report, Conde Nast and other publishers and agencies reminds us just how much diversity and representation work there is to do in our very white, very male business.
Not that any of us should need to be reminded.
Right now, there’s an awful lot of showing up. There have been some immediate moves on diversity hiring, and a whole lot of public statements being made — including my own. But showing up is one thing: staying in is entirely another.
For one thing, we need to stay in the tension of the moment. Systemic and overt racism are one reason things don’t change. The tendency of well-meaning liberals (like me) to want to make things better and bring people together is another. We like to smooth things out and wrap it up in a moment of shared good feeling and hopefulness. If it’s all the same, I’ll skip the candlelight vigil this time and just keep being uncomfortable for a while.
I’ll stay in.
Not looking for the comfortable exit or the turning page creates the space for the hard work of change. It forces us to look beyond the overt and regionally specific racism where we’ve been comfortably compartmentalized things in the past, and look instead at the system and the norms that we all belong to. So, what does it mean to stay in?
Staying in means working harder to bring people of color into your organization and onto your team, rather than blaming the lack of diversity in the talent pool. Yes, it means you as a manager or a team member must also work harder to support your new colleague in overcoming the experience gap that our system has fostered. Seems appropriate though, doesn’t it?
Staying in means remaining in conversation with diverse colleagues longer, and listening with more genuine curiosity and humility than we are used to. And yes, I know that people of color are exhausted by the Tell me what I can do conversation. Instead, start with a more thoughtful, less needy premise like, What have you had to put up with as you’ve made your way in this business?
Staying in is also about acting personally to support, mentor, introduce or empower diverse executives and candidates in our world. It’s not what any of us say at this point…it’s what we do. I will stay in until I’ve helped at least one person of color to take my place: to be on that advisory board, that management team, that panel discussion (that’s about something other than diversity!) or maybe writing a blog like this someday. Now my actions must match my words.
Already the next news cycle, the next set of COVID stats, the next outrageous news headline are conspiring to distract us and change the subject. Don’t take the bait, don’t flee to comfort.