Another day, another article finding fault with efforts to encourage greater diversity on boards and in the workplace. This recent one, The problem with diversity targets in the workplace, trots out the same old excuse - that targets, quotas, or requirements reduce diversity initiatives to ticking the box to fulfill the requirement. And we all know what that means: unqualified diversity hires. (Cue the scary music.)
The problem is that we’ve done all that we should have to change attitudes toward the need for diversity. We’ve run the numbers, we’ve done the research, we’ve documented the business case, and we’ve made it easier to find diverse candidates (in case they can’t find any), and the numbers have barely budged. Just last week, as mentioned in the article, the UNDP released findings from a study that showed that in spite of all of the efforts to change people’s attitudes towards women, “close to 90 percent of men and women hold some sort of bias against women.” Half of men and women still believe men make better political leaders, and while in the minority, 40% still believe that men are better business leaders.
Fortunately, there are two ways to work this equation. Social psychology tells us that if efforts to change attitudes haven’t resulted in changes in behavior, then changes in behavior can often lead to changes in attitude. So yes, we’re going to make you tick the box until you believe deep in your heart that we need diversity at the table, until you have internalized a commitment to diversity to the point that your behavior reflects that value, attitude, and belief.
General Patton was reportedly asked how he ‘wins hearts and minds.’ His answer:
“Grab them by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow.”
Diversity targets, requirement, and quotas are simply efforts to change attitudes by requiring a change in behavior (the grab). It may start with ticking a box, but if made to do it often enough, hopefully it will create a change in attitudes that will ultimately be reflected in the organization's DNA.
Frankly I would have thought a company named after “walk the talk and talk the walk” would have understood this how this strategy works.