Letter to the editor: Thoughts on diversity at QU and the U.S.

Wendy Petion

As of January of this year there were only five black CEOs in America’s largest companies. At his recent presentation at Quinnipiac, titled “What Does Diversity Mean in an Era of Color Blindness?” David Embrick, a professor of sociology at Loyola University, highlighted the lack of racial and gender diversity in the workplace. Despite the fact that white males are only 37 percent of the total US population, they hold almost 75 percent of the Fortune 500 Boards of Directors positions, according to the Alliance for Board Diversity. Women of color make up only 2.6 percent of these boards.

How can this be in a time when “celebration” of diversity is everywhere? Could it be that celebrating diversity is, in fact, hiding massive discrimination and racial inequality? Embrick’s research highlighted exactly this. While nearly all Fortune 500 companies claim to celebrate diversity, Embrick’s research showed, these claims are false. Nearly all major businesses in the US are run almost exclusively by white men. Yet, this does not stop companies from engaging in “diversity ideology” – hiding a very male and very white leadership and workforce behind webpages that celebrate fictional claims of diversity.

To fully understand the term diversity ideology one must first understand the problems with the term diversity. The word is so broad it has different meanings to different people. Some might define diversity as being about race, gender, class, age, creativity or even having different last names. As Leslie D. Jones, a black CDO told Embrick, “Diversity is about everyone—not about everyone else.” While this “inclusiveness” sounds nice, it hides the reality of a very exclusive white male culture in these companies.

“Inclusion” hides the fact that certain groups of people are included more than others. Take the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement. This movement is being attacked with claims,  ALL LIVES MATTER. Though changing the name to something more inclusive sounds better, it hides the fact that in America today, all don’t matter and hide the reality of black lives lost due to racism. We should not try to include everyone in an epidemic that has to do with only one group of people.

Another place to look at the problems of diversity ideology and “inclusion” is at universities, including Quinnipiac. Many universities, while “celebrating” diversity and inclusion, complain that they don’t attract students of color, or wonder why theses students choose to transfer. Could it be that celebrations of diversity hide a very non-diverse university? When looking at Quinnipiac’s webpage on Diversity and Multiculturalism you see that to Quinnipiac, diversity means not only skin color, but also personality, learning styles and life experiences. By this measure, we are diverse. But if you walk the Quad during the middle of the day, things don’t seem quite so “diverse.” The student population isn’t the only thing lacking in racial and gender diversity. Despite celebrating diversity, in each school, college or department the faculty is largely white and male. Contrast this to the cafeteria staff which is primarily occupied by black men and women.

As one trying to transfer, the lack of racial diversity is a main reason. When researching new schools, I have learned to look past their ideologies of diversity that hide a lack of true diversity. I don’t look at what they say about diversity, but at how racially diverse they actually are. Although I am a female of color, throughout my life, I have chosen stay quiet and not choose sides in the many protests and debates about race that have occurred. I have strived everyday to remove myself from the stereotype of a “typical black female.” Despite not speaking up, and despite wanting to believe I could succeed in a world that celebrates diversity, the fear that I hold when going into a job interview or into a classroom of not being the racially “qualified” person that they want, continues to cross my mind. I can’t continue to watch this happen without saying anything about it. The fact of the matter is that although five Fortune 500 CEOs are black, none of them are black females.  Which shows me and many other people “like me” that in our lifetime we may never make it that far. –Wendy Petion, 2018