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Everyone’s Asking the Wrong Question

Everyone’s Asking the Wrong Question

Last week, I spoke at a conference on gender diversity. During the panel before me, an individual (smugly) asked: “Knowing that diversity is a desirable objective, if you have two candidates for a board role and the white male is the “better” candidate, which one should you choose?”

Oh, I get what you’re doing there.

Everybody knows that the “right answer” is to choose the man. After all, he’s “better.” And if I instead say to choose the other person, then I’m just being politically correct and am putting the goal of diversity ahead of doing the right thing for the company.

So you got me. “Better” should win over diversity. Ka-ching.

But wait.

Because, honestly, what does “better” or “best” even mean? Higher IQ? More experience? Better pedigree? Makes others on the board feel more comfortable?

One issue that holds us back from achieving greater diversity at companies: We often ask the wrong question. We look for the “best person for the job” rather than the “best person for the team.”

An example of how this can backfire: The individual who went to Yale, earned an economics degree, has a high IQ, is analytically minded, lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and worked at a big consulting firm for a decade might be deemed as “better” in isolation. … but if they are joining a board in which all the other members also went to Yale, earned economics degrees, have high IQs, are analytical, live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and worked at a big consulting firm for a decade … you don’t have a lot of diversity.

So the board doesn’t benefit from the value that diversity has been shown to bring — in the form of perspectives outside of Yale and the Upper East Side and big consulting firms.

And this is all before we get into a discussion of how cis white men are promoted based on potential and others are promoted based on achievement. “Better” has always had a different definition, depending on how you present.

So “better” can be in the eye of the beholder. But the power of diversity comes from solving the riddle of how to put together the better team, not just picking people who (we have been socialized to believe) are “better.”

Read the original article here.


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