Friday, February 12, 2010

Diversity XXIV: The Checklist pt.2

Glad to see that there's some positive responses to the idea of the checklist.

99 Seats said probably the most important thing about it, which is that it's a complicated checklist and would take some thought to figure out what would be useful. And the reason for that complication is exactly what RVCBard said in my comments section:
I wish it were that simple, but the things I'd put on that checklist are cognitive, which presents a whole 'nother layer of problems - mostly the fact that people can justify anything.
It's true that any thing you'd put on the checklist that has to do with correcting your attitude or behaving differently would be completely useless. And the whole checklist, even if it is actionable in every part, will be pointless if the person is using it in bad faith (as a bit of window dressing; forced to as part of a legal settlement, for instance).

Isaac chimes in:
Guy's checklist idea wouldn't correct the structural inequalities that would make it harder for people from certain backgrounds to be qualified for various jobs-- just as blind orchestra auditions doesn't change that the fact that learning to master a musical instrument is expensive-- but it's an interesting thought experiment.
Yeah, thought experiment is perfect. The thing that was getting to me about implicit bias was that even if we remade America from top to bottom, and really ensured that every person of every background was on an even keel economically, educationally, etc., then there's the possibility that still people will not have equal opportunities, because of implicit bias. Clearly, however, we're not at that near-utopian end point.

On the other hand, this isn't purely an esoteric thought experiment. This is from the perspective of someone who runs a small arts organization and wants to say, "Well, okay, I'm not exactly in a position to level the entire economic playing field, but I am in a position to create better hiring practices. What can I do on that front?"

So anyways, I think one checklist question that came to me as I was falling asleep last night is that if you are hiring, you are going to be limited in your choice by the applicants. And your applicant pool is going to be limited by who comes across your want ad and notices.

So one point on the checklist should be reaching out to minority champion organizations with your hiring position. In other words, when you think to yourself, "I need a playwright," don't just put your playwright ads in the usual places -- Craigslist, Backstage, etc. It's not that those places necessarily have anything wrong with them (I have no idea of the demographic readership of Craigslist or Backstage, actually). But you need to also make sure you reach out specifically to groups like the one that RVCBard is forming for playwrights of color. For young actors, I remember that there's a group at NYU for both artists of color (The Collective) and female artists (The WOMB -- which I didn't know about until I looked up where to link to for The Collective).

I haven't figured out exactly how to word this checklist question, but the thrust of it is, start by making sure that you're getting a diverse range of applicants: make sure your want ad is in the hands of champion groups. And if you're looking at your applicant pool and it still doesn't look like a reflection of the diversity in the community, keep pushing for more applicants.

Just one tiny step, perhaps. Small in the face of the widespread structural challenges that face us. But on the level of individuals, it could make a huge difference to someone who could get an opportunity.