A recent report entitled “Diversity Derailed: Limited Demand, Effort and Results in Environmental C-Suite Searches, produced by Green 2.0” found that “ nearly 90 percent of search consultants… have encountered bias on the part of the organizations using them during their search for senior-level positions.” While this may come as a shock to no one, I must admit I am a bit ignorant on how the study was performed. The main issue seems to be the diversity representation at the senior level. While people of color make us 12% to 16% of the staff at mainstream organizations, upper management suffers with conditions like hiring a third party for performance promotions.
When it comes to people of color representation, environmental organizations are far from the worst. Industries like technology and medicine would cut off their right arm to hit diversity numbers as high as 10%, let alone 15%. Still all things are relative, and in a country where diverse people make up about 33% of its population, the environmental numbers are relatively low. Unlike the tech industry for example, there doesn’t really seem to be a major effort to improve on diversity. Complacency is ruling everything. Sure organizations may admit that an increase in diversity is good for overall success, but that seems to be as far as it goes.
The report by Green 2.0 covers a lot of points when analyzing the usage of search firms, and even provided 3 key ways to improve diversity. Although I appreciate the effort of an organization taking a look at this issue, the I honestly can only agree with 1 of their 3 points. The first 2, “Mandate diverse slates of candidates”, and “Minimize bias in the hiring process by using a diverse search committee and diverse interviewers, and by structuring the interview process as much as possible” sounds like instituting a quota system which I will never support. Quota systems do not work and create tension in the workplace as favoritism based on race can be created. Americans are condition to accept favoritism in other ways (i.e. family or college perks), but race isn’t one of them. The last point I do support however. “Assess diversity on an ongoing basis throughout the process and share the information with others” is a great way to begin the process of looking for ways to improve. This process is done in many fields and can work within the environmental hiring and promoting framework.
In the end, environmental organizations are in an ok position when it comes to diversity, but complacency will not improve it. Some type of effort must be put in place to deal with a growing issue.