• Sara Murdock

Image idea: how it started / how it’s going -- the US pres and VPs

Is Kamala Harris a diversity hire?

The myth that a skilled professional can steal a job from another human.

Let’s get something simple out of the way: Why does diversity hiring exist? Why isn’t “hiring” sufficient? Because at work, “diversity” is code for NOT… as in not male, not white, not hetero, not able bodied, etc.

Institutions and businesses want referrals. If a company is high performing and wants to remain high performing, it wants to do more of what’s safe. The boss wants their dream team to crack open their Rolodexes (or LinkedIn contacts these days). Sounds reasonable. The trouble is that historically, organizations with clout--money, media, social capital--are populated by men. And in N America and Europe, white men. And take a wild guess how many NOTs (not men, not white, etc.) are in the average white guy executive’s regular golf circuit (or Burning Man camp)?

I wish this were the end of the story. I really do. Because the truth is actually much worse. Get this:

Only 13% of black women with a Harvard MBA--an iconic qualifier of corporate leadership--are hired as CEOs. So when people say, “I couldn’t find anyone,” I wonder where they’re looking.

A study shows exactly where: they’re “diversity recycling” through the same highly qualified not men and not white people. These NOTs are qualified for their jobs and calling them tokens isn’t helping. But so are other not men and not white people.

Most people agree that white men aren’t smarter. Including white men who run major companies and governments. But white men keep getting hired and voted at rates higher than the population. Sometimes it’s definitely implicit bias or overt chrony-ism. But sometimes it’s a numbers game: in pure time and focus, it costs more to recruit outside of “the network,” a catch-22 of “we” want to hire people we already have seen do what we do.

Kamala Harris is not a diversity hire. She was hand-picked by a white guy in a position of power because they have a longstanding professional relationship. Whether they agree isn’t a qualifier or a disqualifier. Their proximity, familiarity put Harris on Biden’s radar. She is the familiar quotient, someone who’s embedded within the network.

Vice President Harris did not take a job from a man or a white woman. This is not my opinion, it’s an observation based on total lack of evidence to the contrary. Her record shows that she’s an institutionalist, a business person, and a political strategist.

But many of the same people who believe white men aren’t smarter than others also prefer to play it safe when it comes to marriage, business partnerships, and financial investment. Again, not my opinion, but what the data tells us. It’s another NOT: I’m not rejecting a woman or person of color, I’m preferring to have the known choice.

So when we ask, “Why are there so few _____ people in positions of power?” we haven’t asked why it’s “normal” to assume that a white guy deserves the position.

Well, look at history. When we see the same pattern over and over the brain starts to assume it’s like that for a good reason. It’s not fun to consider that white people and men are disproportionately hired because it’s hard to change our mental habits.

So, how it started… how it’s going? The single best way to change that pattern is to rewire your brain. Literally train yourself to see history books and board rooms full of white men as weird and missing something. And not just in comparison to the general population, but in comparison to numbers of trained and hardworking humans.