Giving Diversity the Bird?
Last month, after a ton of negative media around the tech company’s lack of diversity, Twitter hired Jeffrey Siminoff, former director of Worldwide Inclusion & Diversity at Apple, to take on a similar role at Twitter. But, lots of folks are still very upset because Siminoff is a white male. (By the way, he’s gay, but still a white male, so many perceive his hiring as part of the problem, not the solution.)
To say diversity and inclusion (D&I) is ‘loaded’ and complicated would be an understatement, and it takes a lot of courage and fortitude to continue to stay in the conversation about it since most people would prefer to undergo a root canal than have a heart-to-heart, D&I dialogue.
But, I need to talk about this now because I have a particularly personal slant on this issue: I’m a straight, white male in my mid-50’s, AND I am an expert on diversity, inclusion and respectful leadership with over 25 years experience in the field working with major corporations on the topic.
On the one hand, I totally get how many women and people of color still see disrespectful leadership in Twitter’s hiring of Siminoff. For most people, D&I is all about developing respect for and representation of women and people of color – especially in tech – where they make up a tiny percentage of engineers and leadership. And, I totally get how upsetting it is to see that – after years of gains by women and people of color in the C-Suite and on corporate boards of directors – the numbers are actually in retreat.
But on the other hand, as I and my professional colleagues have been insisting for decades, diversity is about a heck of a lot more than race and gender differences. Diversity is ALSO about generational, regional and communication style differences; cultural, religious, political and ethnic differences; diversity of skills, experience and training, diversity of thought and ideas, and yes, differences in sexual orientation and gender identity, and a whole lot more!
So, when people make assumptions that ALL white males – including people like me – don’t ‘get it’ about D&I or are simply the biggest obstacle to solving ‘the problem,’ I must admit, it hurts, big time.
Making assumptions is what gets so many of us in trouble when it comes to diversity. And, right now, too many people are making negative assumptions about Jeffrey Siminoff and the other white males out there in the business world who care deeply about D&I issues. That’s like saying that all women and people of color in corporate America really ‘get it’ about D&I. Take it from someone who’s led over 2,000 D&I training programs, that’s simply not true.
Unfortunately, lots of folks have already made up their minds about Twitter’s lack of D&I awareness or willingness to care and they see Siminoff’s hiring as further proof. I would argue that that kind of thinking isn’t respectful and doesn’t change a thing except to further entrench people in their ideological corners. Let’s give Siminoff a little time to move the needle on D&I at Twitter. You never know, we white guys may just surprise you.