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It is Not Always in Black and White: Why Diversity Matters

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Tosha Wilson-Davis
February 16, 2018

Diversity as Top Priority

Photo Courtesy of The Federalist.com

The top priority for many organizations today when it comes to recruitment and hiring should be creating and maintaining a diverse workforce who can move the organization forward. First, human resource (HR) managers and recruiters must institute various, inclusive strategies that specifically promote diversity. Secondly, they must review (and continuously review) their current workforce so they know what it looks like.

To accomplish both, HR managers and recruiters may ask questions such as “Does our current workforce represent diversity?” or “Is our organization lacking women or people of color?” If the answer to the first question above is no, and the answer to the latter is yes, there are obvious gaps that point directly to a lack of diversity. As a result, HR must establish some creative strategies which help close such gaps. These strategies should include networking with people and groups likely to lead to diverse talent, such as women in non-traditional fields and minorities or professionals of color who have the skills and background to push the organization forward not only from a business standpoint but also from a diversity standpoint. According to Ziprecruiter.com, recruiting resources should include events such as “community agencies and organizations, colleges and universities, job fairs, newspapers/magazines/journals, radio stations and programs and web sites, webcasts, podcasts and other online channels. Having recruiters network in diverse communities and offering them other general diversity resources will assist them in learning more about diverse groups and developing cultural competencies for recruiting and interviewing.”

In addition, HR recruiters must write clear job descriptions that explicitly outline each vacant position’s duties. After posting the open position, and the organization’s initial applicant pool reveals a lack of diverse candidates, the organization should reevaluate the job postings and repost, if necessary, in hopes of additional candidates responding to the revise posting. This is very important for leadership and IT-related positions in which there is underrepresentation of women and minorities.  Statistics from the Pew Research Center validates this as “the share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies topped five percent for the first time in the first quarter of 2017, with 27 women heading major firms.” Such a statistic is disheartening and illustrates why HR managers and recruiters have some major work ahead in making diversity a top priority as we start 2018.

Useful Tips for Encouraging Diversity

Moreover, many candidates are searching for a position that they can transform into a career. They want to belong and feel like they are a part of an organization that cares about them as a person, cares about their views and are interested in their growth and progress. Consider the following call from an HR recruiter or manager:

Hello Mrs. Apple, you have been selected as one of the final candidates for the Contract Specialist position, and we would like to schedule you for an interview.”

This is the call many prospective candidates are anticipating once they have submitted their application for a position. However, once the interview is over, the candidate may feel he or she has done well enough to be chosen for the position until they receive the email or letter which reads as follows:

Dear Mrs. Apple, you were referred for consideration for this position. However, we regret to inform you that another candidate has been selected for this position.”

Why wasn’t Mrs. Apple chosen for the position? Who was the other candidate? What makes Mrs. Apple inferior to the selected candidate? These are just a few questions that may be raised by the EEO officer if a candidate is not selected but may be a viable fit for the position.

Because of that, organizations may find it useful to implement some of the tips outlined in a Harvard University article titled, “Recruiting Diversity.” This article provides valuable tips that will assist recruiters and HR managers in choosing the most qualified and diverse candidates that fit within the organization’s structure and current and future goals. These tips include:

  • Selecting an inclusive interview team
  • Using the screening process to include rather than exclude candidates, to avoid missing attractive candidates
  • Avoiding assumptions about a diverse candidate’s ability to conform or “feel comfortable” on your team or in the position
  • Preparing answers for questions diverse candidates are likely to ask

It is also worth noting that creating and utilizing a hiring rubric with a scale system to evaluate candidates based on specific categories is a meaningful way to screen all candidates using a level playing field.

Closing the Door on Non-Diverse Organizations

In closing and simply put, diversity matters and time’s up! Now is the time for organizations to work hard to include those who are most often underrepresented. With the above-mentioned tips, organizations will not only diversify their workforce but also create opportunities for minorities and women who are qualified to carry out their mission and move the organization forward.


Author: Tosha Wilson-Davis, MPA, MSCJ, Justice Studies Department Chair/Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Georgia Military College [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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