The game keeps changing on us, minorities. We asked to be hired and they (the gatekeepers and decision makers) hired us but then they gave us the grunt work, the manual labor, the thankless jobs in the worst conditions. We demanded more and better – and so they gave it to us – or we thought that they did. A few minorities get office jobs (although the office is the smallest and, in the corner,) they provide better conditions (to get more work out of us), they even pay a little more just so we can spend it in their stores.
This same scenario continues today. Corporate America will hire minorities and pay them a nice salary but still, minorities are not included on the big projects or contribute in the boardroom. For instance, in 2018 we all saw racially insensitive ads from Dove, Gucci, Prada, Adidas and we heard executives say racist things – like the now terminated Papa John’s founder. Since that time Dove has hired Lena Waite to help with diversity and cultural input, Prada has placed Ava Devaney on its board and executive diversity council. Shaquille O’Neal is on the board at Papa John’s and is their new spokesperson. Gucci has also announced an accountability initiative with the help from a fashion legend Dapper Dan and with Alessandro Michele personally involved.
Uh, great, I guess – here’s my issue, while I may respect each of these celebrities – they don’t work for those companies – they have their businesses and outside ventures to run – so they are not involved in the daily activities and operations of these companies. They are being brought on for their influence and name. Don’t misunderstand, I respect them all, but something tells me that these companies and many others just like them have Black, Latino, Asian, and other ethnic employees already in their midst – they just didn’t include them or even listen to them prior to their public gaffes.
Adidas may have captured the biggest cultural influencer/name of them all when it was announced that Beyoncé had, “partnered with Adidas for the deal of a lifetime.” Again, great and the rumor was she turned down Reebok because “Nobody in the room looked like her or came from where she came from.” Pause. Read that again. Surely, Reebok has African American employees, right? So why wasn’t any of them brought in on the potential Beyoncé account? Either they were not included, don’t exist, or their contributions were ignored.
This notation of having black employees in your building and on your team but not allowing them to participate was brilliantly portrayed on a recent episode of ABC Network’s “Black-ish”. Andre Johnson, the lead character on the show, was not included on a high-powered marketing campaign because the boss (a white guy) thought he knew what the urban audience wanted more than Andre.
In this article I have shared a lot of pop culture references and headlines but I have been in this boat myself – in my early HR career, I worked a place that started to have trouble and we (the HR team) tried to explain what was happening from our POV – the executive team listened but eventually hired a consultant who charged the company $50,000.00 and told them the same thing we told them for free!
As social media personality in HR, I see annually how conferences are now inviting minorities to their conference to be on the social media teams but not inviting them to speak, or host podcasts, or interact with sponsors, or given any sort of major role at the conference – just social media, please. They are definitely not compensating them (or the majority of them in any way). Some say that’s progress because in 2011 when I got started on social media, many of the biggest conferences weren’t even inviting minorities to be on the social media squad.
Diverse? Yes. Inclusive? No.
You can hire black and brown people all the live long day but if you shut them out or marginalize them during the big projects then you are not valuing them or being inclusive – basically, you are using them to make yourself feel better or to fill an EEO checklist.