I’m starting to think that money is indeed the root of all evil for two reasons.
One, I had a conversation with a former chief diversity officer this week who left corporate America to start up his own firm. He still fields quite a few calls from companies looking to retain him, but get this: They don’t have any money.
Rather, they say to him, “We don’t have budget yet, but we know you can make the business case.”
Excuse me? Let me get this straight. *steps into other parties’ shoes* Essentially what you’re saying is, we care about diversity — enough that we want you to be the head of our diversity and inclusion function — but there is no logical reporting structure, we haven’t earmarked any resources to build or advance a diversity and inclusion strategy, and the CDO will have to make the case for funds with which to pay them once on board.
So, basically, you’re not serious about diversity. You are apparently pretending you are, or you are completely ignorant and have no idea what you want or how to get it. All of which calls into question why you are interested in diversity in the first place.
The second reason I think money might be the root of all evil is because of what happened to Kesha this week. The pop star petitioned the court to be released from her contract with producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald and be allowed to record music outside her record label Sony Music, and she was denied.
To make a long story short, Dr. Luke and Sony both said Kesha has permission to record without Dr. Luke’s input or presence in the studio, enabling her to honor her Kemosabe/Sony contract, but Kesha refused. This isn’t strange since the reason she wanted out in the first place is because she said Dr. Luke drugged, raped and abused her a decade ago.
“There has been no showing of irreparable harm. She’s being given opportunity to record,” said Supreme Court Justice Shirley Judge Kornreich of denying the injunction.
If she was to accept this and go along to get along, Kesha would have to record six more albums under Kemosabe Records, according to the New York Daily News.
Ouch. And that is the understatement of ouches.
Now, diversity is important. I won’t bore you with stats about its connection to high levels of innovation, profitability, engagement, retention, quality, recruitment, brand equity, etc. But to get it, keep it and use it for good in the workplace, those who are considered diverse — women and minorities — must feel safe, valued. A common phrase here centers on authenticity, or bringing one’s whole self to work.
Do you think Kesha can bring her whole self to work knowing a man she’s accused of some horrible crimes could stroll in at any moment and have a say in her art/livelihood? Could my friend the former CDO/diversity consultant rejoin a corporate organization knowing that said entity has put zero teeth behind the effort he is expected to lead?
Of course, these are completely different situations with varying degrees of ick and whatever word you can think of that’s more appropriate for this sentence. But these scenarios share something critical in common: money. They also share a subset connector: power.
My friend and Kesha are both being offered harbor in situations they find untenable, where they would have to enter at a deficit. An extreme handicap. For Kesha, I think Lena Dunham explained it best when she wrote: “Imagine someone really hurt you, physically and emotionally. Scared you and abused you, threatened your family. The judge says that you don’t have to see them again, BUT they still own your house. So they can decide when to turn the heat on and off, whether they’ll pay the telephone bill or fix the roof when it leaks. After everything you’ve been through, do you feel safe living in that house? Do you trust them to protect you?”
I’d say a resounding no.
Kesha cannot trust that individual at all. I’d wager now that she’s came out so publically, he will be motivated to hurt her even more than he allegedly already has.
And my friend? Diversity is a tough row to hoe on a good day. If he were to join an organization where he has to make the case for his presence, where he has to lobby for funds and staff and resources — all of which cost funds — to do his job, what real chance does he have for success? He’s starting too far behind the curve. He could get in there, the powers who solicited him in the first place could see just how much work they have to do, and boom! He’s on the ropes before he even raises his gloves. He might even be attached, contractually, to a lemon.
When contracts are at stake, when there’s money on the table, people act funny. I understand why. Rather, legally, I understand why. But surely we can’t let legal concerns subsume our humanity, our common sense?
My friend has already dismissed those potential employers, and good riddance. It’s insulting. A CDO with his experience and track record asked to walk into a situation blind, as what? A sop, a cover? Because I don’t believe what they offered indicates an understanding of, or any substantive desire for, true inclusion. That scenario reeks of check the box. But my buddy will be fine. His business is booming.
Kesha on the other hand. *whistles* That poor girl. To have the courage to speak out against ill treatment, to try and do the right thing only to be denied one’s freedom to make art, to make a living. It’s heartbreaking. I hope she can find a way through.