By Leah Smiley, CDE



Many of us have heard about diversifying our investment portfolios.

Diversification, however, is a term that can be used broadly across a variety of fields. For example, diversification can be a form of growth marketing. It increases profitability and volume by penetrating markets previously un-served or underserved. In business, a Japanese company may expand abroad. Or if 95% of a company’s customer demographics indicate that it primarily serves clients in the Southern United States, it may expand to the East Coast through an acquisition. Similarly in higher education, if an institution serves traditional students, it may start attending to the needs of older professionals or tapping into the growing number of international students. Likewise for nonprofits, if contributions come primarily through grants, the organization will diversify by hosting more fundraising events, adding fee-based services or expanding its individual donor base to include different demographic groups.

To achieve diversification, an organization must be open and willing to change, as well as be innovative. It is one of the riskiest business strategies, but the most rewarding in terms of other marketing initiatives such as market penetration, market development, and product development.

Applying the same philosophy, we’ll look at diversifying a workforce. We’re going to start with the premise that “everything pertaining to diversity takes time”. There is no quick-fix solution. Thus, if you want to do it right, expect workforce diversification to be a slow process—taking months or even years. But the big picture is that the time spent on the front end will eliminate the waste of time, treasury and talent on the back end.

Second, diversity recruiting IS different from traditional recruiting. So you want to hire the best and the most qualified candidates right? Right. That is traditional recruiting. When you add “diversity” to the mix, you’re building on top of your traditional model by sourcing from a larger pool of candidates. Therefore, if I am hiring, I am still seeking the most qualified candidates—I’m just considering a bigger pool, which requires intentional and strategic effort to attract and engage potential workers.

Thus, the purpose of diversity recruiting is not to hire a woman or person of color and that’s it. This is a common misnomer. The actual purpose of diversity recruiting is three-fold. It consists of the ability to:

(1) ensure the organization’s culture and hiring practices will support the recruitment of diverse workers (e.g., job descriptions, images on communication materials, and the interviewing process);

(2) expand the pool of highly qualified candidates using a variety of sources; and

(3) facilitate a process in which diverse candidates can secure interviews, and possibly employment, with an organization.

Note, a diversity recruiter can still achieve his/her goal even if a diverse candidate is not hired for a position. However, if the diversity recruiter is doing a great job and the organization is still not diversified, additional interventions may be required. See Part II: The Steps to Success.



Leah Smiley is the Founder and President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto