Company Diversity Needs to Be More Than Checking a Box

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By Lailumah Faisal

There are a few things that I have learned people typically don’t discuss in the workplace: personal matters, politics, and diversity.

One problem is, unlike my employers, my diversity is something I can’t leave at the door. It’s not as if I can shed my skin the minute I walk into the office, and I shouldn’t feel like I have to. I should be able to feel included without any issues, but that begs the question: What do I do when I get put in a situation that makes me feel different? When someone asks me something in a certain way that brands me as, “the other”? All of a sudden I begin to question why I am there, and how people view me. Questions flood my mind like, “Am I a color hire? Does everyone see me as a PR practitioner or woman of color first? How should I see myself first?”

I’ve been put in this situation more than once and it’s something that I’ve had to learn to deal with, along with many of my peers. However, it’s time to flip the script and start holding employers to a more accountable standard.

If you want to add more diversity to your team, that’s great. I, along with many others, encourage it. That being said, you can’t treat people like checklists. Just because you’re increasing the number of people of color in your office, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re achieving diversity. Are you actually utilizing them for their unique perspectives, or just using them for your company’s hero image? Do they have a seat at the table or are they standing outside the circle? In simpler terms, are you just inviting them to the party or are you asking them to dance?

Addressing how your company can create efforts to generate more diversity and inclusion is something to consider, especially in the future. There is a change coming in the landscape of PR, and diversity is in that change. Agencies that don’t act will fall behind. If you are unsure where to start, understanding diverse perspectives is a good place to begin. There are numerous ways to do so, like broadening the pool of candidates you consider for your next hire, or working with organizations who can help you develop a more inclusive office environment. There’s even the option of reading and discussing pieces of literature like Diverse Voices: Profiles in Leadership, that highlight journeys of diverse practitioners. From there, focus on making sure your agency is one that works for everyone.

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