The diversity dilemma: Making good hires look bad

The right reasons: Diversity in the workplace is terrific -- as long as hiring decisions are based on ability, says Greg Demetriou, and announcements focus on the employee's qualifications.

Major corporations, organizations and institutions make regular announcements when they tick off diversity accomplishments.

XYZ Company welcomes its first African American CEO. Acme Corp. elevates a woman to its Board of Directors, first time ever. Widgets Inc. announces its first openly gay chief operations officer.

These personnel announcements are plentiful, especially in business publications and their social media counterparts. And there is the smiling face of the newly crowned – forever labeled with a qualifier.

With so many competing agendas out there, pressure is clearly on companies, especially larger companies, to check off the diversity box. So, when they do, you see an announcement. It reminds me of children sharing the gold star they got at school, ready to hang on the refrigerator.

Before doing a happy dance, I’d want to know first: Did the “what I am” mean more than the “who I am” in the personnel decision? Personally, I’d prefer to have it clearly stated that I was the best for a particular job, no matter my gender, race, ethnicity, etc.

The push in today’s world toward diversity in the ranks has at least some value in calling attention to more possibilities. Leveling the playing field is a noble and just endeavor, but adding that label or qualifier often does a disservice to a very proud accomplishment.

Greg Demetriou: Colorblind, colorfully.

I’m a firm believer that those who are elevated, hired or promoted had the goods. They had the skills necessary to achieve success. Any CEO or chairperson worth his or her salt should be blind to anything other than a candidate’s qualifications – does this person have what we need to get the job done?

Anything short of that, even in the name of social justice, is unacceptable in the business world, and society in general.

I saw an interview once – CEO for a national public company – featuring a conversation about perseverance, hard work, discipline and ever-rising responsibility. It was about values, the importance of family and personal fortitude.

Interestingly enough, this chief executive opposed the notion of being in a “victim class.” She refused to be labeled a “woman CEO,” and preferred to stand toe-to-toe with other executives based on the weight of her accomplishments, her vision and her ability to lead.

She went on to turn around a declining brand, double its revenue and eventually oversee the sale of the company to a synergistic competitor. Her prowess was ultimately recognized when she was named CEO and chairwoman of the board for the new combined company.

Calling her a “woman CEO,” even though that is an accurate description, would be a disservice. Chief executives should be acknowledged for their skills and accomplishments, not luck-of-the-draw genetics.

Let’s stop labelling really good folks and allow them to bask 100 percent in their accomplishments. Let’s celebrate the strength of who they are, not what they are.

Greg Demetriou is the chief executive of Edgewood-based Lorraine Gregory Communications.


1 Comment on "The diversity dilemma: Making good hires look bad"

  1. Kudos to Greg about this comment Its about time that the skills and not the genetic factor is stated. Unfortunately there is still now and always has been an ageism factor in LI corporate regarding hiring since the 2008 crash in the tech world. Long Island Breakfastk Club has been tackling the ageism factor since 2008. Thanks Greg for your statement.

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