Diversity Frame

One if the biggest foci of postmodern philosophy is the metanarrative. Employment diversity is a place that the metanarratives go unquestioned by most. The most predominant aspect is the frame. Don’t accept it.

Inside this frame, some uncritically adopted narratives are as follows:

  • Work is good
  • Work builds character (proportionately to the effort exerted)
  • Work defines your value or worth as a human
  • Work signifies your place in society
  • Work is its own reward (except for monetary payment and recognition)
  • Value is defined by monetary achievement
  • Worth is defined by your place in an enterprise

And so on…

In this HBR article*, the frame has been established as a corporation and the diversity within this context. What this say by omission is that money and power is the measure of a meaningful existence. If only women were afforded a seat at this table—proportional to their population in society—, things will be even.

Women should start their own successful companies. Women should rise to the top of existing companies. Especially if they buy into the aforementioned narratives. Many women and men buy into this story lock, stock, and barrel (whatever that means), but only is you accept this as a frame is this relevant.

It’s easy to imagine a world where money is unnecessary, where labouring is unnecessary.

It’s easy to imagine a world where money is unnecessary, where labouring is unnecessary. Some have imagined a world without work, where people could instead pursue artistic endeavours, but this is just adopting a different set of narratives—like the person who exchanges drugs or alcohol for Jesus or some such. Out of the frying pan into the fire. This is the lie.

Interestingly, the HBR article makes these points:

  1. Quantify gender equity in terms of economic gains for the company.
  2. Hold leaders accountable for change by tying DEI metrics to performance reviews.
  3. Offer development opportunities to increase gender intelligence, empathy, and self-efficacy.
  4. Pull back the curtain on misperceived social norms.
  5. Establish cross-gender professional relationships.
  6. Frame, focus, and integrate interventions into core business outcomes and mission.

Notice that each of these operates from the perspective of the company. Granted, this is HBR, where the B is for Business, but still. Here’s the low down.

  1. Gender equity will at some point increase your bottom line.
  2. Create diversity metrics (and incentives) and tie them to performance review—presumably tied to the economic performance expected in bullet 1.
  3. Offer diversity training—notwithstanding the body of evidence and long history that diversity programmes are not only ineffective but sow seeds of discontent.
  4. Educate your executives and staff to the misconceptions—so long as you don’t question the deeper metanarratives.
  5. Essentially, the ask here is to establish male-female protégé-mentor relationships. Of course, this could be expanded to break binary gender stereotypes, too.
  6. Back to business, frame the frame. But to tell the truth, I don’t even know how to interpret and summarise the provided example. It seems this is an admixture of points 1 and 2, given metrics should ladder up to stated objectives and outcomes.

asking for this equity in diversity is a short-term fix

In any case, asking for this equity in diversity is a short-term fix, but it’s unimaginative and buys into the worldview of the patriarchy. There is no reason to accept this prima facie. As with the notion of Democracy, I’d be willing to argue that the system itself is the problem and that any tinkering within the system is limited by the system itself.


* Apologies in advance if HBR has a paywall. Typically, the first 3 articles are free, but if you are like me that exhausts on day one.

Cultural Diversity

Humans seem to be hard-wired to prefer in-groups over out-groups, family and tribe over outsiders. In the business world, we hear about corporate culture. But these days, diversity is all the rage. Companies strive to convince the world that that have diverse and inclusive cultures, but what does this mean? Is there such an animal as a diverse culture? And how does one balance the familiarity of in-group homogeneity versus out-group heteronormativity?

you can’t spell culture without ‘cult’

In corporate-speak, there is the concept of cultural fitness. Afterall, we want efficient and productive humans and processes? People who don’t fit this mould are disruptive, right? So, we are justified in excluding people from the group, right? Remember, you can’t spell culture without ‘cult’.

Although the United States brand themselves as a cultural melting pot, this is only partially correct, and mostly in more populous areas, and even this occurs in pockets.

Diversity—in hiring and otherwise—is only accepted if it is along approved superficial dimensions—skin colour, national origin, sex, religious orientation, maybe gender, perhaps some latitude around lifestyle choices. But more substantial diversity need not apply. They are interested in hiring conforming normies. The gay guy is OK, so long as he toes the rest of the line. That woman: ditto. That Muslim: same. That black person: so long as s/he acts white in public.

everything needs to distil down to the white male ethic

Performatively, they’ll accept the diversity proponent as a PR prop. This person is proof that they hire [target group]. This person broadcasts how s/he can wear their cultural garb, bring cultural dishes to potlucks, put up posters and advertise about support groups outside of work. But in the end, everything needs to distil down to the white male ethic.

Talk about work-life balance is fine, so long as work gets the upper hand. You need to be able to talk about charity, but you need to be motivated by money and status. There are exceptions to this motivation, say, public health and healthcare, education, and so on, but the boundaries in these professions are narrow, too. Not acting ‘professional’ is a key criticism. So, if your diversity counters some perceived professionalism, your diversity is not welcome.

not acting ‘professional’ is a key criticism

If the company hires people who routinely put in 60 hours for 40 hours of salary, they are not interested in the person with boundaries, insisting on 40 hours of work for 40 hours of salary. They aren’t interested in people who might question the ethics of the company’s business practices. Companies aren’t generally interested in rebels.

You need to be Sartre’s waiter. You’ve got a role to perform. In fact, you are evaluated specifically how well you perform that role. So, whilst you may be a singing waiter or a dancing waitress, your boundaries aren’t much broader than this. It’s easy for an observer to dismiss the call for diversity. S/he’s a waiter, right? Why should I expect anything different to that? And this is what locks in a lack of diversity.

DISCLAIMER: This ended up more of a meandering rant, but I’m distracted and out of time. And so it goes…

Diversity of thought

Je m’accuse. I’m such a bad blogger. I haven’t been focusing much lately, but given the recent events around #BlackLivesMatter, I’ve been doing some thinking. A lot has been said about diversity and inclusion—whether for black lives, females, LGBTQ+, or some other class—, but the issue is more complex and dimensional than a problem with intersectionality.

There is something to be said for experiential diversity, and the benefits of virtual cross-pollination may have some advantages, but much of this is superficial diversity-washing, enough to claim a public relations participation award.

I keep Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex close to the top of my mind much of the time, but this is more than just about feminism. It’s about otherism—the otherness that creates outgroups.

In Beauvoir’s parlance, there are men and there are not-men—others. This is similar to Baudrillard’s dog/not-dog distinction but with more intention, so we arrive at an orthodox/not-orthodox pairing.

Taking workplace diversity as a frame, that they accept blacks, or women, or disabled, or some other identified class is superficial because the common thread is an acceptance of the prevailing meta-narratives, not only of Capitalism, Democracy, meritocracy, authority structures, and the like. As long as you comply with this mindset, sex and gender, the colour of one’s skin, or disability is cosmetic.

To some extent, there will be some diversity of thought. There will be some cultural perspectives, some generational perspectives, and some gender perspectives, but all of these are aligned to the overarching narrative.

In the world—in the United States anyway—, it’s OK to be black or Hispanic as long as you act ‘white’ or ‘American’. Speak with a neutral accent. Listen to mainstream pop. Don’t wear culturally identifiable clothing. This will ensure acceptance. In a way, this is a faux pas of Donald Trump. He comes across as vulgar to those who hold this perspective.

The diversity that’s missing is one that would do things differently. When a woman ascends to a CEO position, she has done so by more or less mimicking the path a man would probably have taken, making similar decisions. Ditto for a black. Double ditto for a black woman.

People outside of this narrow path will not ascend. I’ll ignore the question of whether this is even a worthwhile aim, A woman who takes this path may have to break through a glass ceiling, but for those of us with a more diverse mindset, the ceiling is stainless steel—a meter thick.

But this is for more than CEOs. I am a self-aware eccentric, and although I colour within the lines my thought is typically outside of accepted boundaries. Luckily, I’ve had the good fortune to work with the right people in the right environments to capitalise rather than be hampered by this difference. I’ve been lucky enough to operate with relative autonomy because over the years I’ve generally met or exceeded expectations on my own path.

During a review—or at least a conversation—about a decade ago, a manager told me that he had no idea how I operated but that he didn’t want to interfere for fear of breaking the goose laying the golden eggs. I know this was difficult for him to do and to admit because he is a very structured thinker and felt compelled to create repeatable structures (despite ignoring the structure when it came to him—and, thankfully, me).

This same person—whom I admire despite our having different worldviews—also noted that I operate as a director or orchestrator rather than a typical leader. I feel this is spot on. Even as early as high school, I articulated that I did not consider myself to be either a leader or a follower. I was a self-professed adviser, so it’s no surprise that I find myself in consulting and advisory roles. I realise that in the United States, the world is constructed to be more diametrically than it would otherwise need to be, so I end up being a veritable unicorn in most settings.

As those who know me, my first career was in the entertainment field, where diversity is more part of the rule than the exception—though there are still many normies there, too. My ex-wife asked me countless time why I left the music industry, or didn’t stick to academics or activism, each with their own level of interest to me.

The problem is that this diverse perspective is not something a resume can convey very well as there needs to be a great deal of trust, which is not typically in place for new hires, so many, let’s say, organic and creative thinkers, get left out of the equation to the detriment of cultural diversity.