Hey, Look! Your New Diversity Chief is a White Guy!

diversity quote

This didn’t get kicked up in the HR blogosphere too much and I was surprised, but it was released during the holidays and, let’s face it, we really don’t care about social equality if it effects our time off. Twitter recently named its new Diversity Chief, and it’s a white guy!  That isn’t sitting well with folks who are really into diversity:

“Jeffrey Siminoff is joining the Twitter flock, but not without ruffling some feathers. Critics of the company’s newly hired diversity chief say Siminoff, a white male, isn’t the best person for the job of making Twitter more diverse.

“Starting with a white man as your new hire to start the search for black and brown people and women isn’t exactly the right signal to send,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson told International Business Times. “The question is, does Twitter have a plan for inclusion, vertically and horizontally, for the board, the C-suites, for employment and recruitment?”

By the way, I’m a white guy. I think this entire thing is dumb. Whatever happened to hiring the best person for the job? Jesse isn’t asking if Jeffrey is the best person for the job… he’s only saying he’s probably not because he’s white. That sounds racist to me. But I’m just a white guy.

Here’s a quote from my actual best friend from childhood—Dr. Marcus Stewart—in the same article. His Dad coached us in 8th-grade basketball, and he and his family just came to my house over the holidays (I’m not kidding—a white guy saying he has a best friend who’s black… how cliche).

“I understand those who suggest that you need a person of color to increase the representation of those people in your organization, but it’s just not the case,” said Marcus Stewart, associate professor of management at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts,  whose research focuses on diversity. “Look, I myself am a person of color,” he said. “It just comes down to, is he an effective leader committed to this particular cause?”

That mindset that you have to have black people doing black stuff and white people doing white stuff is very limited and limiting. It’s about competence and commitment,” he said.

I’ve got some skin in the game on this one. I was once turned down for a Director of Diversity job and specifically told, to my face, they wouldn’t select me because of my white face. I was pissed. I didn’t understand. I did my master’s thesis on women in leadership. I was raised by a single mother who started her own company. My best friend is black! I love Asian food. Come on! I would have been great at that job!

So, did Twitter get this wrong? Hiring a white guy?

They might have. I can’t deny I don’t know if this guy will work or not. His background and track record are very good. He looks to be a good hire for them. He might fail.  I doubt very highly that he’ll fail because he’s white—just like I don’t think Twitter would have been automatically successful by hiring a person of color.  I think that has almost zero impact to success in this position.

But, I’m a white guy. That means I must have no idea about how to impact diversity within an organization, or so I’ve been told.

FOT Background Check

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!  Check out his blog at www.timsackett.com. Because he's got A LOT to say, and FOT just isn't enough for him.

5 Comments

  1. KD says:

    Tim – Wow. There’s a lot to unravel here.

    I guess after thinking about this I’m cool with your take. I’m also cool with other people being pissed about the Twitter hire. Seems to me like the best hire to make would be someone who’s not white, but that takes a pretty broad view of what diversity is and isn’t, and doesn’t let it be defined by race.

    Summary – I’d hire someone like Marcus Stewart, because he fits what people expect but as soon as he starts talking he refuses to allow the conversation to narrow. My kind of diverse hire. And the thing is, you’d end up hiring primary for his mind and not his race.

    Interesting times.

    KD

    Reply
  2. Michael Townsend says:

    Completely agree with Tim on this. Just because someone is female or not white doesn’t make them the best choice for a Diversity Chief position. If he was the best candidate from their pool, then why not give him an opportunity. We choose the best talent. I don’t think women or people of color want to be chosen for any position because of their gender or ethnic background; but hey, I am also a white guy. I may not know very well either.

    Reply
  3. DG says:

    For me, the problem is that diversity is more than gender or ethnic background and that is where I think the challenge lies. True diversity is about so much more than these factors but I think that so many people, still get caught up on these factors. We fail to remember that diversity includes differences in thinking, life experiences, and so many other factors. That is where the true value of diversity lies and I think what it takes is someone who really listens and hears and can balance all the variations of diversity that may exist in the world. Not sure it necessarily matters what someone’s gender or ethnic background is.

    Reply
  4. Linda Simmons says:

    “things that make you go hmmm….”

    Reply
  5. Pat Rakers says:

    Makes you wonder about the diversity at a Chief Diversity convention? Never been in the position but I would envision that the role should be to encourage both diversity and integrity in hiring.

    Reply

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