To say the nonprofit sector has a diversity problem is nothing new. We are a workforce that is 82% white and 73% female, with 60% of our organizations serving communities of color. While I’m proud that us ladies have stepped up to serve in nonprofit roles, this is hardly the picture of equity that many us are working so hard to create in the world.
The good news is the employer mindset is shifting. Nonprofits are taking a critical look at their homogeneity and developing intention around diversifying the gender and racial make-ups of their teams. This is especially true for organizations that believe a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences results in more equitable and effective workplaces. Yet, acting on these intentions are still few and far between.
Reflection #1: Good intentions around diversity aren’t enough.
From a purely statistical perspective, if the majority of nonprofit job seekers are white women, tossing a job up on Idealist or sharing with current staff’s networks will probably result in more sameness. Roles are then often filled hastily because of an organization’s need to quickly staff an open position with immediately available candidates. However, building diverse pools may require branching out of inner circles and building bridges into new networks, neither of which are quick or easy to do.
Reflection #2: Diversity recruiting requires an investment of time and effort.
But let’s say you are a savvy hiring manager who shares open positions with new networks, connects with relevant affinity groups, and successfully builds a diverse candidate pool. Then, when interviewing candidates, your team is perhaps unconsciously dismissive of candidates who may think, communicate, or present differently than your organization’s dominant culture.
Reflection #3: To evaluate candidates who have different backgrounds and experiences means taking a close look at how your organization defines and evaluates culture fit, as well as checking the implicit biases that arise in the interview room.
In my role recruiting for a range of positions for a national nonprofit that primarily serves youth of color, these reflections are on my mind a lot these days. Perhaps the most important reflection I’ve had is this: diversity recruiting pushes me out of my own comfort zone, specifically when I try to engage groups I assume don’t want to engage with me (because I’m white), worry that I’m communicating tokenism or violating EEO policies, or come face-to-face with my own insecurities of coming off as culturally incompetent or unintentionally biased.
Reflection #4: Diversity recruiting is helping me learn a lot about myself.
The good news is I have a great model to help me address said fears. My former employer, Summer Search, mentors youth to challenge their beliefs and conquer their fears, and I think I may need the same. So I’m asking for your help. If you’ve felt unwelcome or “token-ized” (yes, I’m making up words) in the nonprofit sector because of your race or gender, tell me your story. If you have ideas for how nonprofit recruiters can build better bridges to affinity groups and other networks, let me know. But most importantly, if you’re driven to work for social change, genuine diversity, and equity — both inside and outside of a nonprofit’s walls — please feel free to reach out to me to share your career interests and goals. We need more people exactly like you in the sector.