Sometimes, well-meaning companies adopt programs and procedures that exacerbate the very problems they’re meant to solve. Take, for example, these three diversity best practices outlined in a recent blog post at the Harvard Business Review. Intended to help women, they might actually do more harm than good.
1. Calling it diversity.
“Whoever came up with the idea of putting gender issues under the diversity umbrella?” asks blogger Avivah Wittenberg-Cox. “How did women, who are 50 percent of the population, control 60 percent of global spending, and represent 60 percent of university graduates, ever accept to be positioned as a ‘diversity’ demographic? Positioning ‘women’ (gender in most companies is never about men) as one minority among many others obscures the issue.”
2. Measuring the wrong key performance indicators.
If your company’s goal is merely “hire more women,” don’t be surprised if you wind up with an 80 percent female support staff. As Wittenberg-Cox says, “This isn’t balance, it’s just Mad Men, repainted.”
3. Focusing specifically on women.
The goal should be to make language and policy gender neutral, in order to encourage a true meritocracy. Creating women’s groups, meetings, and training doesn’t necessarily further this goal, as it encourages men to think of diversity as a “women’s issue” — in other words, not something they need to worry about.
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