Last week, I came across an acquaintance's post on LinkedIn. I liked it so much that I decided to make some tweaks and repost it on my account:
"In addition to donating money to anti-racist organizations over the past several days and reading several anti-racist books, I'm donating time to help Black individuals professionally.
Throughout my career I've had access to (largely white) professional networks of people who were willing to make time to talk with me about their career journeys and answer my questions.
Many Black individuals don't benefit from similar professional networks in the advertising world. Despite 14% of the US population being Black, Black employees make up only 5.8% of the industry (source in comments).
I know my experience as a white woman won't translate directly, but I want to help any way I can.
If you're interested, please go towww.stephiecoplan.comand send me a message. If you know someone else who might be, please send this post their way."
The reason I posted it is because I'm basically as senior as you can be without having any actual power. I don't get to decide who gets hired. Most times, I don't even get to decide who gets interviewed. It seemed like a good way for someone like me—a powerless middle manager—to do their part to change the landscape of my industry.
Two things happened after I hit "post."
First, only one Black person reached out to me. My suspicion is that there was something about the way my post was worded that alienated the Black community. Maybe I came off as too much of a white savior, too proud of myself for my virtue signaling. The more I thought about it, I realized that I was essentially offering to do a nice thing for Black people that I do on a regular basis for pretty much anyone who approaches me, because I like helping people. And then I thought, well, if I'm willing to do this for anyone, how am I helping to level the playing field for Black people? How am I giving them a leg up if I'm giving people who already have white privilege a leg up, too? Once I came to this realization, I wanted to take my post down, but I didn't want the people who had already seen it to think that I had changed my mind for sinister reasons. It's still there on my profile, but I'm embarrassed about it.
The second thing was that my post got reposted by several high-profile execs who, unlike me, do have hiring power. You might even say they have all the hiring power. I think it's great that the idea resonated with them, but if 15-30 minute phone calls are all they're doing—and maybe it's not—they're missing the point of this entire movement. Black people are sick of white lip service. They are sick of hearing us say we care, and then not following through by hiring, promoting, or empowering them. What Black people need right now from people in the C-suite isn't a phone call. They could have gotten that in 1995. It's clear that they need, and deserve, jobs. Good jobs. The kinds of jobs that have always historically been offered to white people because they look like the other people in the C-suite.
It's really that simple. No one needs a "diversity task force" to opine on the company's next steps. Or a mandatory "day of reflection" (which most people will probably exploit as a freebie mental health day). These are nice-to-haves, but ultimately useless if not coupled with making Black hires, and paying them fairly. That's what matters.
Because Black lives matter. So Black jobs do, too.