The Serious Side of DEI Satire

Multiple colors of Benetton, ads from the 80s

I wrote a satirical piece on a really bad Diversity Chief hire. Let me highlight what she *should* have done. Including 10 must-haves for diverse engineering teams.

1. DEI executives don’t make sense and cannot be effective if the leadership does not consider DEI important.

2. There is a burden of representation on the one person who fits the diversity quotient, “Karen” in this piece. It’s not their job to take on the mantle of DEI work. If you think she will appreciate the spotlight, it can seem like more work on top of their existing work. A true ally will help them without *requiring work* from them.

3. DEI funds going to drinks and dinners is generous but shouldn’t be the only thing. Be honest: they are frequently used as optic opportunities to display false diversity to the outside world.

4. Social events specific to DEI engineers may isolate even more from their teammates. Instead cultivate events that help and mentor her in current specialty. Promote gatherings based on skills or stage instead of representation. Entry level skill building, leadership skill-building, etc… Skill-building seminars were very well-attended by DEI engineers without explicitly targeting them. More mingling with other engineers is also a huge benefit. Cohorts that were part of our engineering management training became good friends and allies in their efforts of ascending the ladder.

5. Very frequently companies “pat themselves on the back” and in my opinion, over-highlight DEI engineers’ work company-side, but ignore or lack that attention within their teams or disciplines. This creates *even more* imposter insecurity. Instead, work with direct engineering managers to cultivate meritocracy and even handed opportunities for all engineers. Build trust that you see all engineers’ values.

6. Promote within. Looking outside the org instead of internally sends the signal that engineer’s achievements are “not enough.” When other engineers see people like them promoted evenly, a good “engine” of fair play happens. Folks see themselves having a future here if they achieve the merited milestones. My promotions directly inspired women I mentored. It was the single most powerful thing my boss could have done to increase the % of women in our org.

7. Don’t promote the “squeaky wheels.” There are coutnless studies that white men are better negotiators, and this feeds directly into that. It undoes all the work organizations do to cultivate diversity. Promote on merit. Train management to evaluate according to rubrics.

8. Train managers heavily on bias and interviewing skills. Staff interviews with two people, one to observe (a proctor) and note-take, and one to conduct. Work with managers to interview fairly without loaded answers or language.

9. The hardest: make it a true meritocracy. It may seem odd, but the worst, most unbalanced workplaces are promoting people based on personality. DEI gets that rap, as “token hires” but in reality, all white male teams are not using good judgment to hire or manage (what I call the “personality game”). When you promote based on skills done on the job for last 6 months, a naturally diverse staff forms. Folks trust the system, try to achieve it, and mediocre talent falls away.

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