How do we move diversity forward?

There’s a mad dash in the professional world to improve diversity. Every high-profile company is working to boost the statistics in hopes of a favorable public profile — one in which people from all backgrounds and ethnicities are welcome. The tech industry, especially, is at the forefront of this diversity movement as it’s come under fire more than other business categories. However, diversity statistics are just that — statistics. Without inclusion, diversity just creates another problem. That problem is tokenism.Tokenism is defined as the following: “the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.” There are quite a few definitions floating around out there but this one hits the nail on the head.

Tokenism, and the misguided diversity attempts it stems from, simply gives the appearance of equality without achieving it. Think of the person who tries to prove they aren’t a racist by pointing out their one black friend. Or another person who thinks having a lone gay friend makes them a supporter of the LGBTQ community.

Tokenism is an empty movement with no real impact beyond confusion and frustration. It gives companies a false sense of achievement. Okay, we’ve hired more black engineers. We can check that off our to-do list. But empty movements can’t possibly be considered action. Simply checking an item off a list to protect a company’s public image isn’t enough.

After all, diversity was never meant to focus only on numbers and skin tone or gender. The diversity movement was meant to pull ideas and strengths from a wide variety of workers. Together, these people from different backgrounds could innovate and dream up truly astonishing solutions. It wasn’t a statistics project. Diversity was supposed to have an impact.

The ripples of tokenism are being felt in every direction. In a 2014 Huff Post piece, writer Marilyn Nagel took corporate America to task for using female executives as a way to avoid criticism — instead of hiring them for their talents.

In March of this year, Utah Business published a piece about the importance of creating a welcoming environment for both women and minorities. But it strongly discourages tokenism. Each company should look for the best person to fill an open position — first and foremost. But additionally, they should be open to and aware of the vast options they have to do so.

The danger in tokenism is that it masks inactivity. On paper, it looks as though companies are making progress. When 20% of the board is female or 15% of leadership is Hispanic, the numbers are motivational. But the telltale sign of success is what these hires contribute. Are they making presentations? Are they introducing big ideas in important meetings? Are they spearheading major company initiatives? Do they truly have a seat at the table or are they just there as figureheads for “diversity”?

Tokenism isn’t solving any problems. It’s only making them worse.



Workplace Inclusion May Be Your Biggest Problem
Diversity has come a long way in the past 50 years, and while every step along the path to diversity in the workplace is a good one, have we become too comfortable with where we are? Workplaces are more diverse than ever, but many times it seems more like a quota is being filled, and inclusion in the culture of a business is left out to dry.

Companies have to start answering this if they want the talent they acquire to stick around. Not that this issue is completely overlooked – the emphasis is just elsewhere currently, and it’s not good enough to let that be the status quo.

What’s the Big Deal?

Let’s rewind back to 1986, when the Challenger space shuttle was about to take flight. After only 73 seconds, the shuttle exploded in mid-flight. Amidst the many questions that were asked, the most prevalent was “why did this happen?”

The shocking thing was, many of the crew who had worked on the shuttle before launch knew it was likely that the shuttle could blow up, but no one felt they could voice their opinion. The status quo pulled them in the opposite direction, and no one wanted to be excluded for voicing a negative opinion about the world’s greatest space-faring agency. That’s where inclusion comes in.

Simply by being human, we experience diversity. Diversity is often just boiled down to numbers and filling quotas. Inclusion makes making those numbers count. That’s why this is a big deal.

Tech Troubles

Take a look at the tech industry as another example. It’s an industry that for a long time has been dominated by males, although recent trends have started to reverse that. While added diversity is good and very sorely needed, many of the women who are now taking on the tech industry feel isolated in their workplace.

Customers may appreciate them, and a different perspective can often make all the difference in a workplace. The problem is that many times it’s still one or two women in a whole building of men, and the level of inclusion simply isn’t there. It’s essentially an inclusion crisis.

This is the type of issue that needs to be addressed, and you can’t do that with legislation or rules. You have to do it with leadership, compassion, and hard work.

How to Test your Inclusion

The best place to start to see if your employees feel included is simply to ask them. That may sound overly simple, and you may have one or two who say what they think you want to hear – but you’ll be surprised by the number of employees who come out with the truth.

After your cultural audit or diversity survey, parse through the results. Look for tendencies within the demographics. If you see a pattern that shows a lack of inclusion, it’s your responsibility to take action. Ask why certain employees don’t feel included, and then come up with a plan to fix the issue. Do something, and your employees will love you. Don’t, and the cycle will continue.

Make a Difference

Organizations across all vertical markets understand diversity is a huge advantage for a workplace, but only when it’s truly taken advantage of. 360HR helps companies with the building blocks of diversity to include individuals who have disabilities, LGBT, Civil-Life Transitioning Military, women, blacks, Latinos, or any other group that is underrepresented. If you don’t listen to the diverse backgrounds, cultures, and needs of your employees then you will always struggle with customer and talent retention in a global marketplace.

The change needs to continue. Workplaces need to realize that meeting diversity standards simply isn’t enough. If they want to invest in their employees’ lives and truly make a difference, they need to find a way to include all of the talent they employ. It’s the next step in the evolution of the workplace.


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Fix what’s broken

The numbers are in, there is a serious problem with diversity in almost every vertical market in the United States. There is also a serious economic impact of those not included. So your company decided to dedicate a few people to diversifying your workforce. They challenge you to go out and find and hire others that don’t look like our shareholders. It becomes a challenge to fill your pipeline full of diverse candidates. Why? Because you are doing what every other organization who has read the numbers is doing.

Remember the ALS challenge? It was big news, everyone with a bucket of ice on all of Social Media. Now, what? It seems we’ve become so focused on the new buzz “diversity challenge”, we are no longer challenging inclusion policies within organizations. In the push to fill the voids, the vacuums, we’ve forgotten that diversity is not about conforming nor does diversity equate to inclusion.
Too often, companies end up sourcing diverse candidates who languish in an antiquated hiring process never getting through because the hiring decision maker is not on the same page with the diversity initiative. If the candidate does get hired, they are often expected to conform. Meaning, look differently but think and behave to fit our culture. There is nothing innovative or inclusive about that process. Diversity means differences and inclusion mean our ability to include those differences.

Despite the business case for diversity, organizations are still having difficulties when it comes to achieving diversity and inclusion. Here are some steps that can impact your recruiting and retention relationships with candidates.


The Relationship: You had 20 dates last week, so what? It’s not about how often you date, it’s about the quality of the date.

  1. Engagement:

Recruiting today, is building relationships. Your candidates have to trust your brand and your brand to them is your workplace culture. The candidate experience should mirror your consumer experience. For any relationship to succeed, you have to be authentic and transparent. While your organization is looking for the Qualified, Interested and Available, the prospective candidate is looking at the Professional Opportunities, The Culture, and the Work-Life Balance.

  1. Acceptance:

If organizations are authentic in their endeavors to value accept and respect all individuals for their talent and contributions, the relationship will blossom.

  1. Understanding:

There is no longer a war on talent, TALENT HAS WON! Now, your candidates are hiring you, buying into the experience of you. Why should they work for you? This is the time to take a real look at your processes and culture along with motivation behind them. Are they outdated? Are you trying to attract candidates with various diversity markers by doing the same thing with a different name?

  1. Inclusion:

People want to be valued, respected and appreciated. They want to matter, not just be hired to fill metrics.

How are you fostering an inclusive workplace culture within your own organization? If your employer brand is not resonating OUTSIDE of your organization, then it’s time to re-examine the process again. Are you actively engaging and creating an inclusive workplace culture with cultural competency workshops, diversity focused internships, targeted community outreach, candid conversations not agendas all while encouraging the initiatives and input of all your employees?

  1. Employer Brand:

Diversity and Inclusion is more than a blurb on your website, attending/sponsoring a couple of conferences every year, or even dedicating a portion of your Talent Acquisition department to “hire diversity”. It is a part of your brand, in which every department leader is on one accord. Diversity is the summer fling, but inclusion is the marriage, it is the long play.

You will not build your pipeline in a month. The same initiative, motivation, commitment, and enthusiasm your organization places in courting customer through new acquisition or retention is the same mindset needed for success in attracting, recruiting and retaining diverse talent.

In conclusion, if you want to hire more individuals with disabilities, women, Veterans, Blacks, Latinos, LGBT, HIRE THEM! Be authentic if you want to attract them. Be open, listen to, accept and include them. It really is that simple but it starts with a conversation, not an agenda.

Stay Awesome! #BeRelevant #MakeAnImpact

Tonie Snell, Diversity JobMingler

Diversity JobMingler

Diversity JobMingler

Tonie is Founder, Co-CEO and Chief Diversity JobMingler at 360HR. 360HR headquartered in Northeast Ohio is a cloud-based, mission-driven, WBE, MBE, LGBTBE certified, full-service staffing firm dedicated to an equitable workplace. 360HR specializeS in building culturally diverse expert staffing and training solutions throughout the United States.

360HR Areas of Expertise:

Diversity Sourcing/Recruiting:
Technology, Financial, Administrative/Office Clerical, Industrial.

Diversity Forward Cultural Competency Training

Employer Branding/Social Recruiting