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#StaffChat: Diverse Hiring Practices

#StaffChat posts feature issues, articles, and news that the C1 team discusses as part of our weekly all-staff meeting. We’d love to hear your thoughts too — hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!


This week we are exploring ways to make our company more inclusive and how to ensure we create a staff that is diverse and representative of our city. Here are a few articles we’ll be using to prompt our conversations:

Illustration by Javier Jaén

Illustration by Javier Jaén

The first article from Medium, written by former Twitter Engineering Manager Leslie Miley, is an interesting case study. Although his essay gives insight into workplace diversity issues in the tech world and not in an arts context, a lot of the problems at Twitter are present in workplaces of all kinds. In the piece, Miley details some of the problematic approaches to diversity he witnessed at Twitter:

Personally, a particularly low moment was having my question about what specific steps Twitter engineering was taking to increase diversity answered by the Sr. VP of Eng at the quarterly Engineering Leadership meeting. When he responded with “diversity is important, but we can’t lower the bar.” I then realized I was the only African-American in Eng leadership.

Why wouldn’t there be a concerted effort to invite the few African American employees to these events? Is it because, as one colleague told me, “they forgot that you were black?” Is a prerequisite to working in tech as a minority that one is expected to, in the eyes of the majority, sublimate your racial identity to ensure a cultural fit? In attempting to achieve the appropriate level of blackness that makes me palatable to tech, had I unwittingly erased the importance of maintaining my blackness in a sea of white faces?

Some of the Twitter leadership that Miley worked with seem to have a view about diversity that’s echoed in the NYT Magazine piece. That article also questions the word “diversity” itself and the feelings the term raises for some employees of color:

Diversity ‘‘is an empty signifier for me now,’’ says Jeff Chang, the author of 2014’s ‘‘Who We Be: The Colorization of America,’’ though ‘‘I still strongly believe in the possibility.’’ Chang prefers ‘‘equity’’ to ‘‘diversity,’’ saying that the latter has been ‘‘deradicalized’’ from its roots in the multicultural movements of decades past. He recalls an anecdote about a diversity week at a Texas university where few white students bothered to show up. ‘‘Diversity,’’ Chang says, ‘‘has become a code word for ‘all those other folks.’ ’’ The problem with code words is that they’re lazy: They’re broad rather than specific, and can provide cover for inaction — the ‘‘I don’t know how to do this or what it means, so can someone else please do the work for me?’’ maneuver.

The HowlRound post also mentions the trickiness inherent in using the word “diversity”:

The D word, “diversity,” can be problematic and easy to hide behind, especially if we are not explicit about what “diversity” means to our own organizations and why we hold it as a value. Perception is powerful, and in 2015 when an average attention span is only 8.25 seconds (.75 seconds less than a goldfish’s), an accurate and quick overview of what an organization stands for is necessary. Smart candidates—the ones you want applying for your open positions—will be able to suss out your organization’s true commitment to inclusion in less than five seconds of reading your job description.

The HowlRound post continues, providing some concrete, actionable steps for theatres who want to commit to this work. The section about job postings has some especially good tips, and there are also some solid suggestions for recruiting and retainment.

Job postings are the window into the soul of an organization. It takes real art to craft a job description that not only lays out the job duties but also articulates your organization’s vision, purpose, and culture. To attract the best candidates, we need to invest time in our written job descriptions, which is an organization’s public declaration of its commitment to its most desired workforce. Companies across the country are becoming more sophisticated with explaining their commitment to inclusion in their job descriptions. Simply writing that our organization is an “Equal Opportunity Employer,” or shortening it even further to “EOE,” is no longer acceptable, and may actually deter those candidates whom the EOE statement is protecting from applying.

We’re going to spend some time talking about these suggestions and brainstorming other ways for C1 to be a great place to work for people from all backgrounds. Here are a few questions to think about before our conversation:

  • — What departments/programs feel understaffed at C1 currently? Are there departments/programs that post opportunities more often than others?
  • — How do we currently approach posting opportunities at C1? What can we do to make our  commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion more clear during our posting and hiring practices?
  • — What structures are in place currently to make sure we are following through on our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion once a person is onboarded? How can we improve those structures?
  • — Are there departments/programs at C1 that lack diversity more than others? How can we make sure we model equity, diversity, and inclusion in all our departments/programs?