Diversity numbers need context and diversity professionals need experience.

A real conversation I had with a new DEI “professional”:

Them: Christy, have you seen the demographics of XYZ company. You should reach out to them because clearly, they need a lot of help with diversity.

Me: Yes, I saw them but on the surface, without knowing employee experiences, etc. I didn’t see anything that was alarming.

Them: Only 10% of their employees are Black, and only 17% are POC. It’s also 65% male. 

Me: That’s better than I thought it would be. I don’t know where all of those people sit in the organization, their compensation realities, what each employee experiences on a day-to-day basis, or how they were brought in and moved through the organization but based solely on those numbers, they are doing quite well. 

Them: What kind of DEI person are you?

Me: One who looks at ALL of the data. For example, that industry is 3% Black and 5% POC. It’s also 80% male. On top of that, that city is 85% white and 70% male. When you layer all the data, that company doesn’t look so bad. There absolutely is work to be done, but it needs to start at the industry level, maybe a program to inform more high schoolers about career options. Perhaps the city can have a PR campaign aimed at changing the demographics (assuming the city is ready to be inclusive and has the infrastructure to support a changing demographic). Long story short, looking at company data in a vacuum is pointless and only tells a small part of the story. 

Them: Oh…

Why am I sharing this conversation? For a couple of reasons. First, as a reminder that numbers need context. A smart person can skew data and present it in such a way that it supports pretty much anything. Without looking at EVERYTHING that makes those numbers relevant, it is impossible to have an accurate picture. 

The second, and more pressing reason, is 2020 brought us an influx of DEI “experts”. I am all for adding as many people as possible to the field of diversity and creating diversity champions in every organization. Having said that, some of those so-called experts are passionate people with their hearts in the right place but no formal training, experience, or knowledge of some of the most basic principles of diversity. Without understanding all components of inclusion, diversity, equity, access, and social justice, also known as IDEAS, they can easily steer a company or initiative in the wrong direction and do more harm than good.

Speaking of IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Social Justice), that isn’t just a cool acronym. It is also the order that I believe must exist for DEI efforts to really move the needle. For example, hiring a diverse staff before the company is prepared for inclusion will only create a revolving door for diverse talent and re-enforce the false narrative that diversity doesn’t work.

A true diversity professional knows diversity is more than hiring diverse people, it’s more than working with diverse vendors, and it’s definitely more than a one-time mandatory training where the entire office gets together, holds hands, and talks about their feelings. Diversity, as a profession and concept, is a business imperative that is good for individuals and benefits companies. 

There is so much more to be said about ways diversity professionals can help organizations and individuals but if I put it all in one blog what will we discuss next? So instead, I’ll close by sharing my favorite diversity quote, “the goal is not to think and act alike; it’s to think and act together.” Here’s to doing more of that in 2021!

#diversity #inclusion #equity #access #leadership #strategy


Speaker and Our Truths and Accelerate Your Skills founder, Christy Pruitt-Haynes combined her 20 years of leadership in global organizations including The Memphis Grizzlies, MTV Networks, and Infiniti with an education in Human Resources and Organizational Development to create Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting and change the professional landscape for individuals while helping organizations achieve excellence. This TEDx talk giving executive, wife, mother, aunt, daughter, sister, and friend loves to travel, laughing uncontrollably, discovering a new wonderful whiskey or cabernet, and losing herself in great music.

Theme song: I was here by Beyoncé     

Go-to karaoke song: Man, I feel like a Woman by Shania Twain

Superpower: Resourcefulness

Proudest moments: The births of my daughter Christiana and niece Nia and the moment I realized I could succeed through pretty much anything (with honorable mention going to the day I finally learned how to do a handstand in the swimming pool)


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