It gets worse. This one says the quiet part out loud: “Ability to influence others without direct authority to achieve solutions.” There it is in black and white. Your job is to make change, but you will not have the power to do it. A variation: “Experience working with and influencing leadership teams.” Translation: Our executives are not on board. And that will be your problem. Again, you’ll have no power, only whatever “influence” you are able to somehow manufacture for yourself. Do these companies want a D&I lead or a racist whisperer?
One more: “Ability to thrive in an environment of ambiguity and change.” Translation: We don’t have a vision and are highly disorganized. We cannot give you clear expectations or goals. We will not change this. Your job will be to take on the stress of our dysfunction. If that’s a problem, perhaps we can interest you in complimentary mental health leave?
What companies are NOT looking for: Anyone outside the corporate hothouse of expensive business schools and insider hiring networks. There’s no recognition that this whole entrenched apparatus of prestige-granting — the one we demand candidates conform to — is itself the problem.
Yes, some level of business acumen is important to achieve D&I change. But you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. In the words of Audre Lorde, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
Eager, qualified job seekers from the public sector looking to transition into the private sector are excluded from D&I roles that ignore their qualifications in favor of skills that protect the status quo. Candidates who don’t come packaged in a traditional corporate form are overlooked. But what we need is not a weird HR robot talking about “dynamic touchpoints” and “agile change management,” but someone who lives and breathes the values of empathy and service.
Let’s look at non-traditional candidates — community organizers, social workers, and teachers. People with experience in the social justice, non-profit, political, and education sectors. People comfortable with discomfort and with a record of facilitating community conversations. And, by the way, you don’t need to be a Diversity Grinch to know that what companies most need right now are soft skills like collaboration, creativity, and emotional intelligence and that non-traditional candidates give you a competitive edge.