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Maryland newspaper holds Diversity Summit, isn't diverse at all
When did diversity start meaning uniformity?
Late last month, the Maryland Daily Record, a statewide business and legal newspaper founded in 1888, held a virtual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit.
The purpose of the Summit was to assemble some of Maryland’s DEI thought leaders, so they could share their insights on how organizations can attract and retain diverse talent, with an audience of local professionals.
But as it turns out, the Summit wasn’t diverse at all. At least not according to any conventional understanding of what the word diversity means, which of course would be — variety.
Only uniformity was to be found at the Summit.
The keynote speaker and each of the three speaking panelists, were all black women with advanced degrees, each holding organizational leadership positions, and each sharing in the same point of view that race and gender considerations ought to define how organizations operate.
They possess Masters Degrees, PhDs, and JDs, in subjects like Urban Studies, Elementary Education, and Law. And they represented some of Baltimore’s largest employers, including CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and the University of Maryland Baltimore — all while sporting stylish job titles like Chief Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Now the host of the panel discussion was a white woman, but she was bumblingly deferential, more likely to forget a question mid-sentence than to examine or probe any of the ideas expressed by her panelists.
There was a certain appealing authenticity about the keynote speaker, who founded a management consulting firm called NLD Strategic that is, “working to further equity in all spaces”.
Vague mission statement aside, she knows first hand what it’s like for opportunity to seem far away. She was born into Baltimore’s crime and poverty stricken Cherry Hill neighborhood, an originally segregated community built specifically for black veterans returning home from WWII, that she says is still segregated to this day.
While the notion that Cherry Hill is still legally segregated is untrue, one can appreciate the long road she’s traveled, and understand how the idea of extending opportunity to others in similarly unfortunate circumstances would be such gratifying work for her.
But just because someone is authentic and sincere, doesn’t mean they have good ideas. And as far as ideas go, weaving race and gender considerations into the fabric of the workplace is a bad one.
Indeed, there were a few bad ideas shared at the Summit. And some that would be silly enough to make you laugh, if not for the fact that the same people expressing these ideas, are the same ones shaping hiring policy and workplace culture within some of our state’s largest employers and workforce development institutions.