As someone with no background — but a definite interest in — social justice and institutional racism, I’ve hesitated to say anything about recent protests and the painful, unjust deaths that initiated them. But I am compelled to state that it’s wrong to kneel on a man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he is dead. It’s wrong to chase and hunt down a black man jogging in his own neighborhood. And it’s wrong to use a battering ram to enter a woman’s apartment, and then shoot her when her boyfriend shoots his gun in rightful self-defense. The list is virtually endless, and I fear I’m trivializing it by only mentioning these three recent incidents.
But these incidents and the subsequent protests have shone a light on the lack of diversity within WriterGirl, the company I lead. Our employees are largely a group of white women with similar experiences and exposure. And while we work with 100+ contractors across the country, we do very little recruiting; people tend to find us. Once they do, we vet them, see if they fit with our values of being “empowered, curious, kind and fun,” and determine if they have the skills we require. If they do, we train them and then begin to work with them. People generally don’t identify their race when they apply, and unless we have a Skype or Zoom call, we frequently don’t know the race of our applicants.
As mentioned above, one of our values at WriterGirl is curiosity. And this situation made us curious. Why don’t more people of color apply to work with us?
Well, when you look at our website, you see a bunch of white women, which may be off-putting for people of color. As a white woman, I recognize the privilege I have of not having to think about my race. It’s easy for me to be unaware of the effect race has on a person. A Black person visiting our website may not find it appealing to work with mostly white people — or they may feel they wouldn’t be welcomed.
But those are just stories I’m telling myself because I don’t know. And that made me curious as well.
We’ve decided to take a more active role in recruiting for diversity within WriterGirl for a few reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. We grow and are better when we are exposed to people and backgrounds different from our own. Second, our clients serve diverse patient populations, and we owe it to them to be able to communicate with those audiences effectively. We also want to communicate genuinely, and with the benefit of shared experience, we make the content we write more relatable. And third, because we’re curious as to what skills, experiences and ideas we may be missing out on by not being diverse.
The poet Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” I have long said that we humans have more in common than not, and the best way to truly understand that is to expose yourself to people who are different from you. Going forward, we at WriterGirl are going to intentionally seek out writers, project managers, editors and strategists who not only have the experience and skills we require, but more importantly, bring something new and different to the table through diverse backgrounds and experience. And I have no doubt we will be all the better for it.