My First Year of Intentional Diversity
When I decided to create my company's Advisory Board in 2014, I took the task very seriously. I went through my LinkedIn network and scoured my contacts for strong leaders that I felt would bring a diverse set of experience (finance, marketing, etc.) and years of wisdom. When I had finished, and received acceptance letters from particpants I was very proud of the people I had been able to get onboard. There was only one problem: all four of them were men, and 3 out of 4 of them, white men.
What's up with that I wondered? I had recently been turned onto the concept of the mirrortacracy and I had of course heard of the Harvard Implicit Bias Test, however I wondered if there might be something else at work here. I was selecting the best of the best of my network, but fundamentally how diverse was my network? The answer: not very.
Here's how my LinkedIn network measured up*:
* It's important to note that this is how I categorized people, which is not how people might self-select. This is a test of my biases, not how people think about themselves.
I was pretty shocked. As a forward thinking person, I had always thought myself open to meeting people from different backgrounds, but here was the evidence; on both an ethnic and gender front, I was well behind even the whitest city in America.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, I set out to intentionally change the make up of my network. And for 12 months or so I made a point of seeking out and accepting connections from people who did not look like me. If you were a white man and you met me in passing, we'd have to have a lot in common for us to connect, and you'd likely need to make the first move (in connecting on LinkedIn). Here's how my first year shook out:
Reflecting on the numbers, it's clear that some progress was made on the ethnicity front, though after 15+ years of unconsciously developing my professional network, I have many years before I get anywhere close to matching my community. Also, despite really trying to connect professionally with women, I fell way short of the 50/50 mix that would indicate real success.
Additionally, my first year of intentional diversity also left me with a lot of questions. How much of my network make up is based on my gender? How much is based on my industry? If there are other people for whom this kicks off some self reflection, or perhaps you already know the answers, please share.
I still have a lot of work to do, but I feel as in many things, the first step is making it visible and then making a conscious effort to change.