The Myth of “No Pipeline” in Hiring Diverse Leadership

In the DEI space, I frequently hear (white) leaders complain that they’re trying to diversify their leadership –and “have reached out to every HBCU in the area!”, but there’s just no “pipeline.”

This is false. There are all kinds of pipelines. If you don’t even know that without me telling you, how could you possibly be accessing them? This is a failure to innovate proactively. In other words, a *you* problem.

Hint: Have you considered asking yourself WHY your jobs/roles are structured the way they are? Why are the qualifications and credentials what they are? To whom are those credentials really important? Is it because it works? Or is it because that’s the way it’s always been?

But is it giving you a competitive advantage? Is it improving known problems within your culture? Is it doing real good in the world?

What if you could do it differently with your stated DEI goals at the center? How might staffing THAT look? Now, what skills, experience and people do you need?

For example, if you want to expand opportunity and diversify your workplace, you could take way bigger risks than making ‘experience as a single- or long-time stay-at-home mom’ a required qualification for your organization’s CEO.

The skillsets necessary for these roles are virtually identical. The only thing that differs is how they arrived at their expertise. And given the most common critiques and proven failures of traditional CEO’s, the single mom is almost certainly a superior candidate if you want to fix the root of those failures.

Not only have you accessed a pipeline, but in privileging and HIGHLY PAYING a traditionally excluded or marginalized group–by qualification and competency–you start to repair the social and economic status of those within that group.

At this stage, those same white leaders often say, “But if we’re just hiring single moms or  stay-at-home moms who haven’t been ‘actual CEO’s’, don’t we risk passing over a ‘better qualified’ candidate or hiring people that can’t really do the job?” But this question also betrays a *you* problem because it’s a failure to be brave enough to operate on what’s clearly in front of you–and everybody else.

Hint: We’ve been privileging the hiring of white men with overinflated or no qualifications *forever* and without asking for much proof of skill at all–in every job, every position of authority. In other words, the market is saturated with them. So you never really know whether you’re getting a good one or a bad one–even when all other qualifications seem equal. Every choice is a risk.

So in this way, the first real step in structural DEI transformation is to saturate the market with everyone else. Here too, every choice is a risk. But one of these groups gains nothing by succeeding and all the others just might eventually gain *everything.*

Are you less afraid now?