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What are you ACTUALLY doing to move the needle on diversity and inclusion in your organization?

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

So your company is serious about diversity, equity, and inclusion? You have an Employee

Resource Group as well as a beautifully written diversity statement that includes words like

“equity”, “social justice”, and “do the right thing” (that last one refers to how they will act, not

the movie…although much can be learned from that movie). While those things are great, they

don’t really move the needle on diversity. Here are a few things that every company truly

working towards DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) or JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and

inclusion) or my personal favorite IDEAS (inclusion, diversity, equity, access, and social justice)

need to do.

1. Stop asking about past salaries when you are hiring someone.

This is a big one for me, which is why I deliberately mention it first. The hiring process is the

first real experience a new employee has with an organization. It sets the tone for the relationship and helps that new employee know what to expect. So, how does talking about previous salaries negatively affect that? I’m glad you asked. If my salary on my first job was lower than it should have been for some reason unrelated to the job…such as my race or gender, and then you base my next salary on that old salary, you are only continuing the wage gap and leaving me little opportunity to ever catch up to my peers.

We all know there are HUGE salary inequities. We hear those percentages every year as we approach one of the many national pay equity days. But just as a reminder, here they are again. If four employees all have the same job with the same organization, and most importantly, have the same performance expectations; here is what each will make on average:

  • White man $100,000

  • White woman $82,000

  • Black men $75,000

  • Black women $65,000

If the Black woman gets tired of making less at that company and leaves for a new

opportunity, one of the first questions she is asked is, “How much did you earn in your last

role?” Her new salary offer is then based on that number, “Ok, since you made $65,000 at

your last job, we will pay you $75,000.” That sounds great on the surface BUT it’s still

nowhere near the $115,000 they will offer a white man based on his previous salary. All

that company did was keep the gap going.

Will they expect 35% less from the Black woman…absolutely not. Will they still pay her 35% less…if they continue the antiquated practice of asking about previous salaries then yes, they will. Quit asking the question! Pay based on the value that position brings to the organization, not the historical inequities that have always existed for numerous reasons (to read about some of those reasons, check out this blog I wrote several years ago).

2. Start with inclusion before you focus on diversity

The demographic make-up of a company matters less than the social capital distribution in

the company. “Interesting thought, Christy…what does that mean?” It means that the most

diverse company in the world, from a demographics standpoint, that only listens to a small

number of people who happen to all look alike, think alike, talk alike, live alike, vacation

alike, pick colleges alike, etc. will never benefit from that diversity and more importantly,

team members who don’t “fit in” will likely leave.

Diversity is about having different demographic groups represented (I won’t go into all the reasons you need that, but if you don’t know please email me at Inclusion is about EVERYONE fully participating in all the company is and has to offer, regardless of which box they check on some HR form. It’s the idea that, the best idea wins, as opposed to, whatever Chad says goes.

Take some time to talk to the Black women in your company and see how they feel working

there (keep in mind, the way you handle that conversation is VERY important and will do

more harm than good if you don’t handle it properly…I highly suggest hiring a consultant for

some listening or feedback sessions). This is when it is really important to remember, all

realities are real but not all realities are universal. Their reality in the company is likely quite

different from yours. Find out what their experience has been and LISTEN without

attempting to justify or explain things. Then, and this is very important, address the

systemic issues they bring up (another time it is probably really smart to get a consultant).

Once you are on the road to turning your workplace into a safe space for all of your

employees, you can start looking to add to the diversity of your organization.

Those are the first two big ticket items. We’ll come back in our next blog and talk about the

final three, but these will likely keep you busy for a while. Until then remember, the goal is

not to think and act alike but to think and act together. Let’s start thinking together!


Author and Our Truths founder, Christy Pruitt-Haynes combined her 20 years of leadership in organizations including The Memphis Grizzlies, MTV Networks and Infiniti with an education in Human Resources and Organizational Development to create Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting and change the professional landscape for women and people of color while helping organizations achieve excellence.  This TEDx talk giving executive, wife, mother, aunt, daughter, sister and friend loves travel, laughing uncontrollably and losing herself in great music.

Theme song: I was here by Beyoncé

Superpower: Resourcefulness

Proudest moments: The births of my daughter Christiana, niece Nia and learning to do a handstand in the swimming pool.



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