Within the last week, I have read several articles about diversity hiring and how some hiring managers think that forcing them to hire an underrepresented candidate means they are going to have to settle on quality. First, this just astounded me as a human. Why is that the first place someone’s mind would go? That a candidate would be less than? But I also realized that a hiring manager that might think that way is also missing out on the fact that a diverse candidate could actually be more qualified. And not for the obvious reason that there is always potentially someone more qualified. But because they are going to bring something different to the table.
Bear with me, because I’m going to nerd out for a minute. I believe that Patty Jenkins, the director of the new “Wonder Woman” series, brings something to a superhero movie that her male counterparts don’t. In the first movie, Wonder Woman’s sense of empathy and the recognition of sadness and pain in others is what gives her the strength to go on and fight. She sees a village destroyed, kids who have lost their parents. She is overcome with grief and loss. And she turns that into strength and power. She uses that to push herself to keep fighting (commence kick-ass battle sequence with WW theme music).
So how does that relate to hiring? You usually don’t see that kind of emotion in a male superhero movie. Or a superhero movie directed by a man. Which is fine, I’m not saying every superhero movie needs to be that way. But I think it is something that Patty Jenkins brings to this specific movie and character that is unique because it’s how, as a woman, she defines strength or how she identifies a woman’s drive to succeed. I don’t think most male directors would pick up on that. If the studio was trying to make a statement by hiring a female director for their female superhero, they didn’t get “less than” they got a great director who brought something more to the movie.
It’s what makes all of us unique. I am not the same HR leader as my peers. My story and my experiences make me, me. And I bring something different to the table than others, just by being me. We bring our whole selves to our work. Add in the additional layer of someone’s experience as an underrepresented person in that field, they bring even more to a role. Want someone with perseverance? Think about what some candidates had to overcome to get to where they are today. Want someone who is willing to get outside their comfort zone? Think about how many times that person has been the only person who looks like them (or comes from a similar background) in a room. Want someone with great communication and influencing skills? Think about how many times a diverse candidate has had to convince someone to give them a chance.
If you want more examples about how much “more” diverse candidates can bring to your team, check out “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo. It’s just one of the many great books about race being brought back to the spotlight right now. As hiring managers, I encourage you to think about what you can gain by taking the time to build a strong pool of diverse candidates. And see it as an opportunity not a future disappointment or obligation