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

Tim Sackett Culture, Current Affairs, Diversity, Race, Tim Sackett

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.