Diversity in the workplace: Should I care this much?

It’s no secret that I’m looking for a new job. My time with the Red Cross has been (and continues to be) fulfilling, supportive and inspiring, but I’ve come to that point in life where I have to make some decisions about what is important to me, and guess what?! Love wins.

That feels weird to actually say for all the interwebs to stumble upon. A few years ago I would’ve laughed if someone said this is where I’d be. The best part though is that I have an amazingly supportive team, including a boss who’s been in my shoes and understands what this man has come to mean to me. It also helps that I don’t plan on fully leaving the Red Cross; volunteering has also always been close to my heart, and I can do that anywhere!

So now on to the topic of this post: Diversity in the workplace. During my job search, I’ve noticed that I’m starting to pay attention to more than just job descriptions. With all the information available thanks to the internet and social networking, I’m finding myself eliminating potential opportunities, for better or worse, for reasons I might never have considered before. Chief among those is when I notice a lack of diversity.

Obviously diversity comes in a variety of forms (duh). So, allow me to clarify: I’m talking about racial diversity. Whoa! What?! Yes, I went there.

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Her expression is crushing my dream team.

Public Relations is renowned for having become a woman-dominated industry. That’s awesome, but also kind of a no-brainer (say what you will, but it’s a fact we’re better at connecting with people, aka the public). But for some reason I’m realizing that’s not enough for me. When I’m scrolling through the “our team” pages of prospective employers, no matter what the company size, the racial diversity is depressingly lacking.

That’s my observation. Now here’s my dilemma: Should I care so much? Should I really be eliminating professional opportunities that could bring me closer to achieving my personal goals because I’m concerned about the skin color of my prospective leaders and coworkers?

One one hand, the obvious answer is “yes.” Of course. For the past. For the future. Because for all the rhetoric, the facts don’t change. Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I believe in all that. As a 3x minority (Black, Female, Jewish), I’ve heard my fair share of human rights lectures. There are still plenty of walls to bust through, especially in corporate America, and one person can make a difference.

But on the other hand… one person can make a difference. Shouldn’t I view myself as a potential catalyst for change? Doesn’t that mean more to the struggle and the future than boycotting a place because they don’t have anyone else my color? What if they don’t have anyone who looks like me because everyone else thought the same thing I did and avoided even applying?

Then again… is it so bad if I don’t want to be “the black girl” at work? I grew up with that stigma in school. I’ve even had the opposite end of the stick — when I worked for a minority-owned firm, surrounded by black women, I became “the light-skinned” girl. The blunt truth is that no matter what people’s intentions, once their actions label you as “different,” the seeds of resentment are planted.

I’m proud to work for an organization that is diligently working to practice what it preaches. Sure, we still have issues here, but for the most part, I’ve never felt so accepted, or seen so many others eager to learn how to respect their coworkers. The bottom line is EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. But now, more than ever, I’m realizing that an organization that actually behaves that way — and recognizes that it’s not enough to just say “we’re all equal” and ignore the fact that people are treated differently — is worth more to me than the clients it serves or its popularity.

But hey, everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right? So…

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