The chief black diversity officer lost a job offer after reporting racial bias

It was Joseph B. Hill was four days into starting a new position as Vice President, Head of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, when he received an email that changed his career path.

The two-sentence memo from Memorial Hermann Vice President of Human Resources, Laurie Knowles, obtained by NBC News, read, “We regret to inform you that we will be rescinding the offer of employment for July 21, 2021. … We appreciate your interest in the position and wish you many future success.”

“It was a shock, to say the least,” Hill said. “I was impressed”.

He was even more stunned when his attorney, Mark Opperty of Houston, was told two weeks later by phone the reasons why Memorial Hermann had rescinded her show: that Hill “wasn’t fit,” even though he had given more than a dozen interviews over the six weeks prior to the show. job on it. The company’s attorney also told Oberty that he was uncomfortable with Hill’s inquiry about hiring employees to build his team; that Hill wanted a larger transportation budget; that he rented a luxury car and shipped it to the company; and that he was generally “very sensitive about issues of race”.

“The reasons they gave were horrible like canceling the show,” Hill said.

He felt this way because much of what Memorial Hermann referred to, he said, was “wrong and illogical,” but also because they “didn’t even call me to discuss their so-called issues.”

Executives at Memorial Hermann declined to comment but released a statement that said in part: “We continue to make great strides in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion within our system, but we know there is always more that can be done — which is why we are hiring for the position of Head of EDI.”

Hill’s case focuses on the concerns of some experienced Black DEI officers who have expressed a general commitment by employers to make internal changes. After the social justice movement that followed the murder of George Floyd, several business leaders announced plans to address the diversity imbalance in the workforce by hiring DEI personnel.

However, the pledge to do so has not been fulfilled at the manager level, according to A Report Diversity study in 2,868 US workplaces. The report noted that the proportion of black DEI managers has barely increased: from 11.3 percent in 2020 and 11.5 percent in 2021.

What worries professionals in the diversity space is that the efforts aren’t honest and that hiring practices are “misleading,” they say.

Chris Metzler.Evenline Montes

Chris Metzler, former Associate Dean for Human Resources and Diversity Studies at Georgetown University, has established DEI degree programs at Cornell University and Georgetown, which many industry professionals consider the gold standard. For all the efforts to make organizations diverse and comfortable for all employees, Metzler described many of them as “disingenuous.”

“Many organizations are not interested in real change,” said Metzler, president and CEO of FHW and Associates, a global consulting firm. “They view diversity as a numbers game. Several CEOs privately ask me, ‘How many blacks should I have?’

“So basically what they want to do is bring in people who look different from them, but not necessarily people who think differently from them. They want them to look different but just say ‘yes, ok’ to the issues that need to be addressed.”

Kevin Clayton, Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement for the Cleveland Cavaliers, has worked in the DEI Arena for more than 30 years. Clayton said he appreciates, after Floyd’s killing, that companies have recognized the need to “look inside their homes.”

“But companies started taking people out of other jobs — marketing or sales or operations — and because they’re people of color, it was like, ‘Hey, you’re a D&I official,’” Clayton said. diversity. And they don’t give them any resources. And he’s almost like, “Okay. We have one. Let’s check this box.”

Kevin Clayton.James Adams

Hill was not a candidate in the check box. He has been a diversified CEO for more than 20 years, including at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Frodetert Hospital in Milwaukee, and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. He predicted Houston would be his next stop after running his consulting firm JBrady5 from DEI for the past two years. DEI specialists said that the fact that the opportunity was withdrawn speaks volumes for many issues.

“This is a case study of an organization that needed what Joseph Hill would have provided for it, but did not accept it,” Fred Hobby said when asked about Hill. Hopi is a retired DEI professional who served for ten years as president of the Diversity and Health Institute at the American Hospital Association. I have known Hobby Hill for many years. Hill shared his story with Hobby.

Fred Hobby.Courtesy Fred Hobby

Hill said his troubles started during his visit to find a new home in August. The company’s contracted real estate agent, a white man, shared with Hill “unconscious racial prejudices,” he said, such as referring to a black-owned clothing store, saying, “One of those stores over there is owned by a rapper; I don’t know those guys.” .

Hill said he was offended when the dealer identified a public golf course as “somewhere you’re going to play,” implying that Hill couldn’t play at a private club.

Another day, when Hill arrived to start looking for a home in a Porsche SUV, Hill remembered the dealership saying, “That’s a great rental car you have out there.” Hill did not respond. Instead, he shared “micro-disorders” — insults that convey negative attitudes toward marginalized people — with Knowles, vice president of human resources at Memorial Hermann.

“I felt compelled to do this because it was ostensibly representative of the company I was working for,” Hill said. “It was an example of the work I was set to do.”

He outlined his concerns to Knowles and summarized them in a subsequent email obtained by NBC News, writing: “Experience shows why the role of equity transfer president and inclusion officer is so important to Memorial Hermann. Today, many companies are fraught with unintended or intentional micro-turbines that Employee alienation. Memorial Hermann has an opportunity to truly benefit from equality, diversity and inclusion to engage the workforce, strengthen the brand, and increase positive patient outcomes.”

Hill said he didn’t think of anything more after receiving an August 26 email from Knowles in which she said she was “sorry for the experience…it was not what we strive to deliver during the setup experience”.

Hill returned to Atlanta excited about moving to Houston for his new job. Then came the fateful email.

He said he was disappointed that there was no attempt by Memorial Hermann to voice her concerns before the show was canceled. If there had been a conversation, he said, they would have known, for example, that the Porsche SUV that the estate agent had acknowledged and that the company cited as a reason for canceling the show was a Hill car — not a rental. Additionally, Hill said, “Any comment or question I made was made in good faith, with the best of intentions to Memorial Hermann.”

He said he didn’t complain about the transition budget and that his inquiry about the prospect of hiring employees was “not off limits” but a common question among executives starting at a new company.

Regarding Hill being “very sensitive about issues of race,” Metzler said, referring to points Hill made about agent micro-aggressions: “When the next chief diversity officer tells you that these are issues and your response is that he is ‘too sensitive to racism,’ the issues… How far can you go? His job is to come and clarify those issues.

“Also, for a job like this, he spent a lot of time in the research and interview process. When I offered him the job, I decided he was a good fit. They are scammers. It is simply ridiculous – but these are the things that companies keep doing.”

Hill explores legal options. “Because this is older than me,” he said. “It’s about doing the right thing, and the right thing in this case too is the hope that other companies will take this DEI attitude seriously to make fundamental changes and not just a place to fill in appearances for appearance’s sake. This does not help solve the chronic issues of a lack of diversity or create A safe and comfortable workplace for all employees.

Memorial Hermann’s statement also said, “Sometimes, during the recruitment or onboarding process, circumstances can change that may result in a job offer being cancelled. Out of respect for all individuals involved, it is Memorial Hermann’s practice not to discuss personnel matters publicly.”

“Memorial Hermann remains committed to her EDI journey, including the appointment of the EDI President. By leading this person to the mission, Memorial Hermann will continue its leadership to be the leading employer and healthcare provider of choice for all people and bring about real change that will improve the health of our communities.”

Metzler wrote an article criticizing DEI’s corporate initiatives in 2013. He too books The article “10 Reasons Why Diversity Efforts Fail.”

“That was eight years ago, and very little has changed,” he said, “even with all these companies saying last year, ‘We share 100 percent in diversity.’ And one of the main reasons they haven’t changed is cases like this, where the diversity employee gives you Experienced is great information to help your organization, and suddenly it’s no longer relevant. Unless there is a real commitment to making the change, nothing will change. And now the commitment isn’t real.”

Hubei said Hill’s case underscores the urgency of companies to take integration efforts seriously.

“Those who hire have forgotten that DEI officers are appointed to be conscientious, to be mentors, to be mentors to the organization, to help it transition from a non-inclusive to an inclusive organization,” Hoppe said. . “Now, they have engaged more in window decoration as a way of keeping up with neighbors socially, than on providing better quality healthcare, in hospital cases, for minority patients and a better work environment for minority employees.”

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