Controversial Q&A from
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What’s Required for Diverse Hiring?
QHow can local governments become more diverse when hiring practices
and civil-service rules make it complex to recruit and retain minorities?
A This question assumes that local governments have a more difficult task in
hiring people than private-sector companies.
I don’t think that’s the case; in fact, it’s a tired
excuse, one that is also used by the private
sector. What passes for “tradition” in many
local governments and corporations is an entrenched culture of unearned privilege and
exclusion. That’s what makes it more difficult
to hire “minorities.”
For example, as late as 2005, the New
York City Fire Department was only 8. 4
percent Black, Latino and Asian—in a city
where 65 percent of the citizens are Black,
Latino and Asian. Only 0.27 percent of New
York City firefighters were women.
If you look at the FDNY web site, there’s
no link for diversity and no diversity information where you would apply for a job. In my
opinion, you’d have to be a masochist to apply
for a job in the FDNY—unless your daddy or
uncle was also a firefighter. Why would you
spend your life trying to buck that trend?
And even if you applied, why would you stay
once the odious truth became self-evident?
But there are good fire departments
for diversity. For example, 26 percent of
Minneapolis firefighters are Black, Latino
and Asian, and 16 percent are women.
Minneapolis is far less racially diverse
than New York City—only 35 percent of
Minneapolis citizens are Black, Latino, Asian
and American Indian. Even if you’re a white,
heterosexual man with no ADA-defined disabilities, this is a better department for you.
A true meritocracy will allow the best
talent to rise. A boy’s club such as the FDNY
or Bear Stearns will always favor people who
have the connections or inside information.
What is ironic about those kinds of organizations is that they end up cheating more
white men than any other group—kind of
like the Confederate aristocracy that co-opted non-slave-owning poor white men to die
for the rights of wealthy slave owners who
wouldn’t even wipe their feet on them.
Let’s be clear: The reason things stay the
way they are, or why they change, is leadership. I don’t buy excuses such as “they aren’t
qualified” or “they don’t stay” because there
are plenty of organizations—in every industry—that have made it happen (look at The
2009 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for
Diversity®). The reason for change is clear:
Our population will be less than 50 percent
white by 2043, and the rate of educational
attainment for Blacks, Latinos and Asians is
rising faster than the representative growth
in our population. Maximum equity equals
Have a question for Luke?
• E-mail him at askthewhiteguy@DiversityInc.com