CHAPTER 9Don't Just Hire People Who Are Like You—But Avoid Tokenism

Years ago, I worked for a major ad agency and our biggest client was a car company. The auto industry has become more diverse, but it's still pretty much dominated by White male executives. At the time that I worked with this car company, there were some women in top positions, but no people of color in executive positions. In fact, there were very few people of color in the organization at all.

This car company had a big heart, a corporate soul, if you will. They always tried to do the right thing, not just the most cost‐efficient thing. They rarely terminated anyone—they'd demote them to some lower level job if the individual wasn't performing. Their corporate culture was big on caring for their employees.

As “diversity” became a topic that more and more large companies were facing and addressing, this car company tried to address it too. They promoted Barbara, an administrative assistant, to the role of diversity marketing manager. Barbara is Black. She fit their requirements for “diversity” because of her race. The problem was, she didn't fit the requirements for a marketing professional, nor had she ever managed anyone or any department or project before. She's been in a support role her entire career. She was outstanding in that role, and—you guessed it—she was terrible in the role of diversity marketing manager.

The car company did what they thought was right. They wanted to show their associates and the ...

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