Here’s How It Feels To Be Hired Because You’re Brown
I always hoped my face would bring me the big bucks.
(And by ‘face’, I mean brown face; and by ‘big bucks’ I mean a moderate/borderline insufficient income.)
I’ve had a couple of jobs where I’ve been ‘the diversity hire’; meaning I’m there because I bring difference to the workplace -- on top of my skills -- whether it’s because I’m older (43 at the moment) and/or from an Indian (ethnic) background.
I’ve known it. Everyone there has known it.
Whenever there was a chance to ‘showcase’ diversity, it would be a ‘joke’ in the office -- Nama’s the girl for the job.
People were able to be open with me about that, because they knew I was okay with it -- in fact, I would have been pissed off it I hadn’t been included in the task. I seemed to get respect for that; my attitude was that I would embrace the project and slam dunk it.
My co-workers knew I wanted to #represent, and I made it clear that was one of the reasons I was there -- to be used for the difference I could offer.
And honestly, I was too busy working the opportunity, baby, to care if others thought I’d earned the opportunity just for my appearance. Because I knew I hadn’t.
I’d worked and hustled and learned, just like all the other candidates. And then I brought something even more special: me.
Yep, I’m god damn Mindy Kaling in Late Night, who made her dreams come true by 100 percent embracing her diversity hire role.
Other people are offended by the term ‘diversity hire’, thinking it means they’re less qualified for a job than others, or that the role is merely a tokenistic gesture.
It makes them feel de-valued, or self-conscious, as individuals. But I say, believe enough in yourself to let some of that sh*t go.
A diversity hire means you’re there because you have a point of difference -- a value -- that the other candidates didn’t have.
Your difference is an additional asset.
I mean, do you really think an employer is going to spend tens of thousands of bucks a year on someone who isn’t capable of excelling in the position, simply because they tick diversity box?
Of course not.
So that’s the first thing: being a diversity hire means you beat out people because there was something extra -- a different perspective, a different experience -- you could bring to the position on top of being able to do a great job.
Or, perhaps you were less experienced, but because you were able to bring the value of diversity, that made you the best candidate.
You’re still there because you’re you: and that’s every reason to be proud AF of yourself.
I should also give credit to my employers; thank you, for recognising that I’m not one-dimensional, and there’s a variety I can offer. Thanks for seeing that you didn’t need more of the same -- you wanted to try a different voice.
Thanks for being inclusive. We need more of that, everywhere.
So even if you suspect there’s a box-ticking quota thing going on when you apply for or get a job, I’d still say, use it. Ride the wave, my non-white, non-straight, non-mainstream friends. Be the face others need to see.
When people ask if being a diversity hire bothers me, I’ve put it this way: all employment is a 'transaction’. Both employer and employee are in it for something. It’s not like I got nothing out of those jobs and was just being ‘used’ -- quite the opposite.
In one situation where I know I was the diversity hire for sure, I got so many opportunities I never dreamt I’d get. They believed in me, and gave me a go. I learned so much. So, trust me, I got as much out of it as they did -- probably even more.
My presence in those workplaces served a wider purpose, too, which stretched beyond me. It set a precedent for everyone involved; the office, the employer. It was also a chance to be a role model for the younger generation of women from my background, who might not have thought they belonged in those sorts of jobs.
So, don’t worry about the diversity hire label. If you’re being given a seat at the table, sit down and REPRESENT.
You’re making a huge difference by doing so; you’re normalising your presence, so that one day, you, and others, won’t be a ‘diversity hire’ – you’ll just be employed.
Which is the whole aim of the game.