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Diversity is more than skin colour!

“Well, that is a first!” Anne exclaimed as she closed her Zoom window and put down her pen. I knew she was having a conversation about a fractional leadership position with an organization whose mandate she believes in strongly. When we spoke earlier in the week, Anne was pretty excited about the conversation, and I could see she was quite flabbergasted.

I sat down with raised eyebrows and asked, “What’s that?”

“Over the course of my life, I have been denied a variety of positions because I was:

· A girl/woman

· Too young/too old

· Not experienced/overqualified

“And now, for the first time ever, I am being excluded because I have white skin!"

“Anne, are you sure?” I asked feeling bewildered.

Anne nodded, yes, and continued, “I was told that “in full transparency, the organization wants to diversify its leadership team and we are therefore actively seeking a woman of colour for this position.” So, you see, there can be no doubt, I don’t qualify because I am white-skinned.”

“While we would all agree that diversity has multiple dimensions, organizations appear to be leaning towards hiring people whose diversity is visible:

  • Gender

  • Skin colour

  • Age

  • Physically handicapped (e.g., in a wheelchair)

  • Headwear

“In the past, individuals hired for these characteristics were often referred to as “our token ____.” Organizations typically hired “one of each” or better yet, searched for someone who covered several dimensions (e.g., a woman of colour confined to a wheelchair).

“Among the leaders I know, there is a clear understanding that the greatest value of diversity is in diversity of thinking."

“People from different backgrounds, people who have faced different challenges, people who have experience working in various capacities, all help to diversify the thought pool. While our gender, skin colour, age, religion, physical capability, and gender identity all denote dimensions of diversity, they may or may not contribute to the diversity of thought, or to a person’s ability to function at their highest and best when contributing to an organization.

“I am all for diversity provided we are choosing the best person for the job! The time for tokenism has passed."

Wow. A couple of weeks ago, Anne let me write about my perceptions of inclusion, as in how to treat everyone with equity. Now I am wondering if an owl could get hired, when someone with Anne’s credentials was devalued because of her skin colour.


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