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Part 2: Practice Equity Daily

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2. Nurture A Diverse, Equity-minded Workforce

This is essential to moving your equity work forward. In this section, you’ll find guidance for determining job requirements, recruitment, hiring, onboarding and professional development to support you in facilitating inclusion and leveraging the power of diversity in service of your mission.

While it’s important not to over-rely on building a diverse, equity-minded workforce, integrating race, equity and inclusion practices and principles into your United Way is an important step. It’s also essential to balance your focus on expanding the diversity of your workforce with deepening the inclusiveness of your organizational culture as described in the preceding section. Otherwise, you’re likely to create a revolving door of people who may join but will leave quickly because of challenges related to organizational culture and structure.


Reconsider Job Requirements

Think about the jobs in your organization. Many job descriptions will include “bachelor’s (or another) degree required.” Sometimes a specific degree is actually necessary (e.g., a clinical degree for clinical work). Often, however, a degree is listed as a proxy for understanding a given set of concepts or theories; being able to solve problems effectively; writing and speaking clearly; or using research and data to inform decision making.

Instead of using a degree as a proxy, ask yourself—what is the degree a proxy for? What job results will this person need to achieve? What skills, knowledge and abilities are necessary to achieve them? Include those in your job requirements section instead. For a little inspiration, see the table below for how many people are automatically excluded from your potential candidate pool when you say a “BA or higher required”.

Cast A Wide Net

Recruiting through existing networks is one way to find candidates. And, if you stick with the same networks, you’re likely to keep reproducing the same staff demographics. Once you’ve clearly articulated the actual skills and knowledge you need, challenge yourself to look for that talent in unconventional places. Ask yourself where people are gaining hands-on (not just academic) experience that would serve your organization well. For a given role, look for racial or ethnic affinity groups within that profession. Ask leaders of color in your community about their successful recruitment strategies.

In this section, we explore the entire arc of nurturing a diverse, equity-minded workforce, including ways to:

  • Reconsider Job Requirements
  • Cast A Wide Net
  • Eliminate Bias From The Screening And Interview Process Welcome New Staff
  • Engage Staff Meaningfully
  • Offer Development Opportunities
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Remove Bias From The Screening And Interview Process

Research demonstrates how quickly unconscious bias infects the process of screening and interviewing job candidates.1 Evidence shows that hiring processes produce less biased and more diverse results when they include:

  • Anonymous screening processes
  • Structured, standard interview questions for each candidate
  • Behavioral questions (e.g., tell me about a time when you…) and situational questions (e.g., what would you do in this situation?)
  • Collaborative interviewing and scoring
  • Explicit discussion of “likability” in order to reduce the power of leaving those impressions at the unconscious level
  • Samples of prior work and/or “tests” (e.g., between interview rounds, finalists develop a strategy for addressing an organizational problem)
  • Basing compensation on a defined range for the role rather than on salary history, which tends to carry inequities from prior workplaces into yours

Welcome New Staff

Onboarding can be a beautiful process that allows new staff members to embrace and be embraced by their colleagues. New staff from any background will need specific supports to set up for success. These include: clear job expectations; short-term and long-term goals related both to learning and productivity; training and access to job-related tools and data systems; opportunities to meet colleagues; regular contact with a supervisor; a careful balance of support, guidance and autonomy; opportunities to contribute to meaningful work results; and help learning the informal and unwritten rules and norms of organizational culture.

People of color and members of other historically marginalized groups typically experience additional needs for success, given the ways that unconscious and conscious bias tend to stigmatize them and structural barriers can restrict them.
As discussed above, building an inclusive, equity-minded organizational culture is important for all staff, particularly for staff members of color. This doesn’t just mean helping the new staff get acquainted with “the way things work around here.” It also means making space for their observations and experiences to influence and shape culture, practices and processes.

For organizations that are early in the process of diversifying staff, it’s very common to hire new people who have a lot of questions about typical ways of thinking and doing within the organization. Often, their observations as people viewing the organization with fresh eyes are not welcomed as useful insights, but as complaints or demands from people who “don’t fit in.” That’s the quickest way to create a revolving door of staff.

In addition, conscious and unconscious biases often cast doubt on the competence, warmth and relatability of staff of color, particularly women of color.2 These perceptions from other co-workers (as well as clients, program participants, or other stakeholders) can demotivate and demoralize staff of color, eroding their confidence in their own competence and performance, thus leading to a seeming self-fulfilling prophecy.

To reduce the likelihood of stereotype threat (where an individual’s performance is negatively affected by the knowledge of negative stereotypes about their group and they either consciously or unconsciously worry that their performance will fulfill the stereotype), individuals need firm knowledge that their skills and competence are a good match for their role and that others in the organization know this as well.3

Engage Staff Meaningfully

As discussed above in the section on organizational culture, equitable workplaces create meaningful opportunities to contribute to decisions. Make sure there are formal ways for staff to raise concerns, ask questions and propose changes or new activities that will improve the organization and its performance.

Offer Development Opportunities

In the nonprofit sector, there are significant gaps in leadership among women, Black, Indigenous and other people of color generally and women of color in particular.16 Even when organizations have above-average racial/ethnic diversity on staff, it tends to be clustered near the bottom and middle of the organizational hierarchy. It’s a sadly familiar story that women of color are hired in entry-level jobs and not offered opportunities for professional development or stretch delegation tasks to build skills for their next role. They can stay in the same role for years or even decades while young, mostly White college grads enter as interns, head off to conferences, have easy access to senior leaders and quickly move up the ranks.

  • 1. Rooth, D. O. (2010). Automatic associations and discrimination in hiring: Real world evidence. Labour Economics, 17, 523-534.
  • 2. The Stigma of Affirmative Action: A Stereotyping-Based Theory and Meta-analytical Test of the Consequences for Performance. Academy of Management Journal. Lisa M. Leslie, David M. Mayer, David A. Kravitz, 2014, Vol. 57, No 4, pp 964-989.
  • 3. The Stigma of Affirmative Action: A Stereotyping-Based Theory and Meta-analytical Test of the Consequences for Performance. Academy of Management Journal. Lisa M. Leslie, David M. Mayer, David A. Kravitz, 2014, Vol. 57, No 4, p 982.