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As I undertake to write this post, it comes one day after the taping of a PIC podcast. The underlying theme was true Diversity and Inclusion but we also touched on Black History Month, is it necessary or a nuisance? It was most interesting conversation; in fact I suggest you give it a listen. For the month of March we are going to be focusing on Women in the Workplace.
Now, on last night’s podcast, I kind of felt like I got my ass handed to me when it comes to D&I efforts, perhaps I misread it, but that was my takeaway. Even though my PIC partner Sarah Williams, who is a Director of HR, also admitted she was somewhat guilty of standing on the sidelines, I am going to be harder on myself, than her. Don’t fret, I will be ok and right the ship but the podcast has given significant pause for some time to reflect on the matter, especially given the month’s topic.
One of the thoughts that I keep coming back to is what can Dave Ryan, a 60 year-old white guy do to make a difference, at my workplace, or any other place I touch – as it seems to me, the media perception is that I am part of the problem – not part of the solution. AHA … only if I make that choice, otherwise, I can be part of the solution.
There are many jobs out there in the world that are dominated by men. Head over to the Bureau of Labor Statistic and you will understand this. But what if I was attempting to fill a position, and purposefully looked to find a female to put in a traditionally dominated male position. People both inside and outside the organization most likely would think why, why is this lunk head forcing this issue with this vacancy. Were a female hired into a role like this, it would likely take additional resources and time to support them, given the likely pushback that would come from that placement. There is also a strong likelihood that she might not be successful.
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So it’s easier just to avoid all of that and place a man in that role – most likely. But that is not what leaders and visionaries do. They are not called to follow the path of least resistance. Sometimes there is yet a higher calling; doing the right thing.
To me, this is what Affirmative Action is all about. Taking a positive step, outside of your comfort zone, then working to support that decision. But that is hard. It is hard for the HR pro making the placement and it is hard for the pioneering person who gets put in the position. (I know this old saying that says you know who the pioneers are? They are the ones with the arrows in their back.)
So coming back to the podcast now, I felt a little challenged. Why, because maybe I am not doing all that I can with minorities and women? Could I put myself out there more – and be more on the edge? This could make me a brilliant leader or a colossal failure. I used a term last night – Defensive HR. If you are always doing the things that put you in a “good” defensible position, you are most likely never pushing the envelope. Conversely, if you fall flat on your face sometimes and have some horrific failures you are trying , really trying to make a difference.
So I have to tell myself don’t be afraid to fail, take a chance. We are programmed to always want successful outcomes; even though we know there will be failure. The best defense is a good offense – Play offense, not defense!