On Being Qualified…

Most job applications have a portion on the questionnaire that references sexes and minorities. In my early years, I would never fill those boxes because I didn’t want to be hired for those reasons alone. How terrible would I feel if one day I found out that the only reason I got a job was because of the colour of my skin or what was (or wasn’t) between my legs? I’ve come around on what is known as “diversity hires”. Now, I happily fill in those boxes because regardless of why someone hires me – I know I deserve to be in the room.

Common Phrases

Here are 3 sentences I consistently hear when talking about diversity in the workplace and/or positions of authority. I’m going to lay them out for you, I’m going to tell you what the problem is and since I’m in a particularly generous mood, I’m even going to give you some solutions! Ready? Here they are:
1. Anyone can apply!
2. Should we hire someone just because they’re BIPOC or a woman? How is that fair?
3. Don’t you want the most qualified person for the job?

Aye, dios. Here we go…

1. Anyone Can Apply!

Problem: You know what else “anyone” can do? “Anything”. Anyone can get into a restaurant (provided they have the money and means to get there). Anyone can take free online classes (provided they have decent wifi and a computer accessible to them). Anyone can get good grades (provided they have no learning disabilities and/or access to extra help). The open door policy is simply not enough because not everyone has the same opportunities and access. People need to be walked through the door. Most people need help just finding it.

Solution: If you see that the pool of applicants often looks the same – widen your search. It takes more time and effort. Do that work. You can’t pat yourself on the back because of an open door policy – this is literally the minimum requirement. You want representation? You want diversity? You want excellence? Widen. Your. Search. Walk alongside people. Once they get through the door, continue to walk with them and set them up for success, not failure. Go to the schools and ask that they send you a mix of qualified applicants. Ask BIPOC/women in your circles if they know anyone. Can’t find any? Widen your search even more. STILL can’t find any? Widen it again. They exist. They’re just not all chilling with the Canada Goose JMSB bros…

2. Should we hire someone just because They’re BIPOC or a Woman? How is that fair?

Problem: This is no more or less fair than anything in human history. I love my current job. I’m 100% sure I was not hired because I am a brown woman. I am equally sure that my hiring was not completely “fair” (whatever that means). I work hard, yes. More importantly, I was in the right place at the right time and I met the right person who had the means to hire me. The issue is thinking that diversity hires are inherently unfair but non-diversity hires are based on merit. How many times do you think I’ve heard “X was likely hired because they’re Black/a girl/minority”? How many times do you think anyone has questioned Gary from Beaconsfield’s hire?

Solution: This is a mindset issue. The idea that we are where we are solely because we work hard is a myth that we need to retire. I’m sure you work extremely hard, Gary, I am. Still, you and I both know there are people more qualified than us. My brother always says “luck is when preparation meets opportunity” (borrowed not invented, duh) . Work hard. Look for opportunities and pray people are helping you find them but do not forget how lucky you are. You’re lucky you were born in a particular place on the planet, at a particular time in human history, to a particular family. There are so many things that fell into place for you & I that we had zero hand in – some people are not so lucky. So let’s create some luck for them.

3. Don’t You Want The Most Qualified Person For The Job?

This, I feel, is the worst one of them all.
Problem: this statement has incredibly insidious implications. They are:
1. People who are already in positions of power are likely there because they are qualified and when we start implementing “diversity hires” we are diluting the concentration of quality workers
2. When conducting business as usual (open door policy), we are getting the most qualified people – no questions asked. But when we search for diversity hires, all of a sudden, qualifications are questioned
3. Diverse and qualified is a little suspicious and (seemingly) cannot go hand in hand.

Solution: Stop using this excuse as if it holds any weight. Stop only extending the benefit of the doubt to the usual suspects. Stop pretending like there is any reason – outside of the fact that you simply do not want to make the time or effort to invest into these communities – to excuse the lack of diversity in your teams. No one is asking to make a choice between diversity OR qualifications. Qualified BIPOC/women exist. Find them.


If you are a BIPOC or woman reading this – I see you 🙂
You are qualified.
You deserve to be in the room as much as the next person.
Don’t worry about why someone invited you to the table – even if it’s for all the wrong reasons – you’re at the table. Take up the space you need and create more space for others.
Your voice matters – in this generation and especially for the next!

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