Today I want to share a few reasons why we need to stop referring to non-white, non-cishet individuals as a “diversity hires.”
There are a NUMBER of things wrong with referring to individuals as a “diversity hires,” but I’m just going to highlight a few things today for the sake of time (this series is called DEI in 5 after all). And I will add some additional resources in the description below.
First and foremost, the term “diversity hire” it’s demeaning and has historically been weaponized to invalidate the qualifications of marginalized folks. Labeling someone as a “diversity hire” perpetuates the belief that standards were lowered and that a person was hired because their identity differed from the majority, and that they weren’t in fact hired because their skills and experiences that make them the best person for the job. This in turn often leads to those folks that have been labeled “diverse” or the “diversity hire” to be treated differently, and often disrespected.
Much like POC or BIPOC or BAME (if you’re UK based that’s more common these days), calling someone “diverse” is quite frankly a lazy way to lump marginalized identities together, and disregards the unique experiences and intersectionalities that people carry. It also reinforces an us vs them mentality - both from the standpoint of us (meaning the majority) vs them (all of the underrepresented communities lumped together). And in the sense of us vs them, in terms of pitting various underrepresented communities against each other to play the oppression olympics.
These catch all terms are often used almost like a security blanket by those who say they are “afraid” of saying the wrong thing, or afraid of having “tough conversations.” As an example, there was a survey (and I’ll link the article below) of more than 1500 employees. And 40% of them admitted that they were afraid to say the world “Black,” and 1 in 5 said that they use the word “diverse” as a catch-all umbrella term to refer to people of different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, etc.
Language is powerful and has a significant impact on our identities and how we talk about DEI. But it is important to note that language is constantly evolving, and so it’s important that we continue to have discussion about it and continue to educate ourselves.
The last point I’ll make is that It’s important to note that while a group of people can collectively be labeled as “diverse,” an individual should not be referred to as such. So the next time you catch yourself or someone else referring to a person as “diverse” take a moment to consider what you really mean. What identities and ivtersectionalities are you explicitly disregarding or unconsciously ignoring?
This is also a good opportunity to consider shifting the language within your organization, for example, if your org often uses the term “diversity hiring” instead of just “hiring,” it may be time to have some internal conversations. By default, your org should be aiming to hire a diverse mix of people, there’s no need to create a separate “diversity hiring” pipeline to the mix.
That’s it for today! Check out the links below, .eave a comment below to let me know what you think! And I’ll see you back here for the next episode.
Resources for today's discussion: