We’re celebrating Pride this month, and in the interest of pulling some weight and explaining how the work with inclusion and diversity affects marginalized people and how privileged people sometimes add to that burden, I want to talk about a situation that probably happens more often than you’d think.

The recruitment talk.

Whenever one of us – being a member of a marginalized group – bring up the issue that we are marginalized and that we want to know what the company is doing about it, we usually get the response “please recommend some people to us”.

While it is nice to be asked, this is what that type of comment does – it implicitly places the responsibility to increase diversity and inclusion at the company on the person who asked. In this case, a marginalized person. In other words, it reverses the responsibility from the company and the company’s hiring practices to me as an employee. “Oh, there aren’t enough (insert marginalized group here)? Well, not our fault. You haven’t recommended any!”

Hyperbole aside, it should not be up to me to find people for the company to hire, even if finding people outside the norm is difficult. Internal hiring strategies should cover for this. Yes, of course I can and will recommend people to hire, but the marginalized individual shouldn’t implicitly be responsible for changing the workplace they are in.

Instead, for a workplace to be dedicated to inclusion and diversity – and equity – there has to be a strategy in place. Just as any business strategy it should include goals that are (if you know me, you know what’s coming):

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

So say for example that I ask why there are so few women in leadership positions in a company. The answer should not be “please recommend some”, but something like “we’re looking at hiring practices and promotions internally. By the end of X, we hope to have hired X persons with a goal of hiring X% women, and promoted X persons with a goal of promoting X% internally for these positions.”

  • Specific – Promotions internally, hiring externally
  • Measurable – X amount of people, X% representatives from the marginalized group
  • Achievable – Will obviously have to depend on the other goals and how ambitious they are
  • Relevant – both hiring and promoting would change the composition of the leadership team, provided hiring and promoting is from the group that is underrepresented
  • Time-based – “by X”.

This is what I want to hear when I ask questions like that. Even “we are working on internal goals to improve inclusion and diversity at our company, and we’ll present the plan by X” is better than “tell us who to hire”.

I should never have to feel that I need to be the one to change the status quo. If the company can’t do it, how am I supposed to? Yes, I probably do have recommendations, but my recommendations shouldn’t be the first resort.

Being outside the norm means we’re already struggling to keep up. Don’t add informal recruitment goals to that struggle.