A common explanation for the lack of diversity in certain professions—such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—and in managerial and executive positions is the “pipeline problem.” The idea is that there isn’t much diversity at the top levels of companies because there isn’t much diversity at the entry level, and these companies promote from within.
When it comes to STEM and other fields that lack diversity, the pipeline argument explains that there just isn’t much diversity in the education system for these fields. Women and minorities, the argument goes, simply aren’t interested in careers in these fields and don’t pursue such education, meaning there’s little diversity when it comes time to hire.
Moving Beyond the Flaws in the Pipeline Argument
While there may be some validity to the pipeline argument, one of its fundamental flaws is that it assumes a purely passive recruitment and promotion policy when it comes to diversity. “We don’t have diverse employees to promote because they haven’t come to work here.” “We can’t hire diverse engineers because they haven’t chosen to pursue STEM courses.”
There are many who would argue that these statements simply aren’t true in the first place, but let’s assume for a moment that they are true. Companies that make these statements are implicitly acknowledging that they are sitting back and waiting for that diversity to appear.
Instead, companies should be taking a more active role in seeking out diverse talent, including encouraging diverse populations to consider studying STEM and other fields in high demand upon graduation and recruiting at diverse schools, such as historically black colleges and universities.
No Shortage of Diverse Talent
As Anne Chow writes in an article for Fortune, there’s no shortage of diverse talent, and that becomes increasingly true with each passing year. “By 2030, Hispanics will represent 21% of the U.S. population, in addition to positive growth in both the Black and Asian communities,” she writes. “Women of color will be the majority of all women in the U.S. by 2060. In fact, each rising generation will be more and more diverse.”
The American workforce continues to increase in diversity year over year. Companies that have a current lack of diversity need to consider if they’re too passive in their recruitment of diverse talent. Turning that around requires actively seeking out diverse talent and abandoning the passive paradigm of the “pipeline problem.”