Beating Sexism, Destroying Diversity

A few months ago, one of my LinkedIn connections invited me to be on his podcast to discuss diversity, specifically in IT. As I am a firm believer in the importance of having a diversified workforce, I was happy to accept. Little did I know that the man had an agenda.

What he wanted was for me to confirm that IT companies discriminate in their hiring practices. I would not do it. I told him that my IT clients were fully diversified. He countered that the Big 4 IT companies, according to a study, were far from diversified. I explained that those companies began operations when diversification was not even a thing and that they had a lot of catching up to do. On the other hand, my clients had always practiced diversification. I also pointed out that the Big 4, being just that, big, slanted the statistics. Most IT firms are small businesses not colossal behemoths. Remove the Big 4 from the analysis and the numbers will improve dramatically. They won’t be perfect, but they will be more indicative of an industry that is doing what they should be doing, hiring women and minorities.

Around this time, (I don’t remember exactly as we continued to speak once the interview ended), the host stopped the recording. He said that he was going to do me a favor and not continue with, or post, the interview. He said that would be getting into trouble if it were to air. I told him that it was his call, wished him well, and ended the Zoom call. Then I had a good laugh.

Today, I am not laughing.

As my readers know, I read Inc. and Fast Company magazines religiously. They usually provide a wealth of usable information (although, note to editors, especially at FC, they are getting a bit too political). I was therefore unpleasantly surprised when the October 2021 issue of Inc. arrived and the very first article after the letter from the editor was about a company whose founder decided that she was facing sexism and had, as far as I am concerned, chosen to react with what I consider to be a fraudulent strategy. Put simply, she lied and Inc. apparently is endorsing the strategy.

What happened was that after she had met with potential clients, she followed up with emails to which her prospects did not respond. As, at the time, the company had only two employees, both women, she decided to create a fake employee, “Paul,” and give him an MBA. So, while the emails from the women were ignored, the emails sent by “Paul, MBA” did receive responses. Today, the company has $5.5 million in annual revenue. So I guess the lesson is, lying works, ethics be damned! (If my emails are ignored, I pick up the phone! But what do I know? I’m not making millions.)

I fully understand that new business owners will do practically anything to get their first clients. The problem is that the editors at Inc. titled the article, “One Way To Beat Sexism.” The founder did not “beat” sexism, she circumvented it, assuming that sexism was, in fact, the problem.

This got me thinking. If by creating a fake male employee the founder was able to beat sexism, which is bad, then why not use the same practice to beat diversity, which is good. This is really “two wrongs make a right.” You are the victim of sexism. A wrong. You create a fake male employee, a second wrong. You then get clients which is good. And you make millions of dollars, which is even better.

The problem is, if this strategy can “beat” sexism, it could also be used to “beat” diversity. Why have a diverse workforce when you can just create a bunch of fake email signatories?

I am pleased to announce that I have now hired staff. In addition to myself (Jewish and male, two boxes checked), I am being joined by Mary, MBA, (Christian and female, two more boxes checked), Fatima, CPA, (Muslim and Arab, two more boxes checked, in addition to being a woman), and Jose, Eng. (Hispanic, one more box checked in addition to him being Christian, probably Catholic, and a male). So, let’s see, in addition to myself, I now have two women working for me, one man, and together we represent at least three religions, and four races. Not bad. I think I will add Xi and, can someone tell me what an African-American first name is that everyone will recognize the person as being Black? And that should do it. My company is now diversified, or at least everyone will think it is. Impression is reality!

Sexism is bad. If you think a prospect is sexist, here’s a crazy idea, don’t work with them. Why would you want to help them build their business?

Diversification is important. It’s good business to have a workforce that reflects the demographics of your community or your clientele. It just makes good sense and is great for the bottom line. But it has to be real. Just because one person got away with creating a fake employee, doesn’t mean everyone should. It’s too important to add trickery to the mix.