Posted on August 29, 2022

My Boss Said ‘We Didn’t Need Another White Guy.’ Say What?

Karla L. Miller, Washington Post, August 11, 2022

Reader: I was chatting with one of my bosses the other day about a potential new hire. He let slip that the executive team ultimately did not extend an offer because “we didn’t need another White guy.” He literally said this out loud. I was taken aback.

To be clear, the candidate was eminently qualified, had made it through multiple rounds of interviews, and was the clear favorite among almost everyone who spoke with him. Further, it’s not like he lost out to someone else — they simply didn’t hire him, and the company started the hiring process all over again! {snip}

As a White guy this bothers me, because if it is true, it is obviously discriminatory. I understand wanting to build a diverse workforce, but this scenario is basically the caricature of diversity hiring. As I’ve thought about it over the past few days, I’ve grown angry. Imagine being a young person, doing well in a series of fairly tough interviews, only to be told “Thanks but no thanks!” Imagine wondering what you did wrong, and not knowing the company took a pass on you because you’re a White guy and they’re worried about optics. It seems clearly illegal {snip} Am I overreacting?

Karla: Of course it’s illegal to make a hiring decision based solely on someone’s skin color and/or sex. Presumably your boss knows that — or perhaps he mistakenly thinks it doesn’t apply to members of the majority.

But that’s assuming your boss’s summation is objectively accurate, and not an oversimplification of a more nuanced situation. Yours would not be the first employer to relaunch a search and cast a wider net in the hope of pulling in a candidate with more “wow” factor. And if, as your boss’s comment suggests, a majority of your employer’s workforce, applicants and preferred candidates just happen to all be from one narrow demographic, your employer may be trying to ensure that no bias, overt or systemic, is limiting its choices.

As you note, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a key goal among many employers. Some, in their efforts to reverse historical inequity, have been accused of perpetuating further discrimination. {snip}

But it’s not illegal to want your workforce to mirror the diversity of your current and potential client base and end users.