working women

Why True Diversity is Invisible

Company culture is invisible, but its also not a secret.  By simply entering a building, people get their first impression of your culture.  But judging a place by office decor and ambiance alone is like judging a book by its cover.  You don’t see culture, but it either makes you happy or unhappy on a daily basis.  It pervades your every interaction at work, and affects everything from your physical posture to whether you “posture” in your office identity.

Unlike culture, most people believe that diversity is visible.  That’s because discussions of diversity focus on the numbers.  And of course, you can simply count up all the women vs men, whites vs non-whites, straight employees vs gay employees, etc.  The ability to count and see things things means there’s media attention on this definition of diversity — and for good reason.  Not only is there something satisfying about cold, hard facts, but the statistics are important evidence of diversity (or the lack thereof).

But things aren’t that simple.  Just as you can’t make a culture open and transparent by simply tearing down offices and replacing it with open-floor seating, you can’t make a company diverse by just hiring more people who have XX chromosomes, different colored skin or domestic partnerships.  This might sound strange coming from us.  After all, Fairygodboss is a company built on the premise that women have unique perspectives and experiences in the workplace.

We obviously applaud companies who take the time to try to measure and implement recruitment or retention schemes to improve their “diverse” employee numbers.  Of course these diversity initiatives matter and help.  And counting and measuring means the first step to making important progress.  But focusing on just the numbers means addressing and mistaking symptom for cause.  That’s why the words that women leave about their company for other women to read in their reviews are so important to us.  Here are a few excerpts from user reviews to illustrate the point:

While this firm has a good proportion of female partners and senior associates as compared to other firms, the women who make partner have nannies and are available to work essentially 24/7.

Or

Diversity and inclusion is not a passion for [Company X], it is PR

Or

It actually cares about diversity – it is hot on the CEO’s agenda and an issue that is driven from the top and shared throughout the organisation

Or

The company started implementing some policies trying to make it easier for women to stay and grow. Reality is – apart of the legal policies which had to be accepted – everything else is fake. The company pretends to support women, because its a hot topic in the Valley

All we’re saying is that true diversity is harder to achieve than the struggle for better numbers (of women, minorities, or anything else that can be put into Excel spreadsheets).  We love analytics and number crunching as much as the next data-driven start-up, but diversity is amorphous and really hard to measure.

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