Diversity for Sustainability Sake

Evan Shapiro, president of IFC tv and the Sundance Channel, kicked off the Fall 2009 Social Ventures Network Conference with an entertaining, insightful and frequently funny talk on the challenges and necessity of building a diverse business.

Evan likened the strengths of a diverse culture and workforce to the importance of planting a diversity of crops in agriculture. By encouraging diversity within our ranks and rows we will be able to reap a far richer crop. Throughout his talk, Evan wove statistics and anecdotes together to illustrate the concept of how diversity is necessary in order to achieve success.

Evan stressed that in order to find that “qualified, diverse candidate” we need to start looking long before we post a job opening. Business must provide opportunities to access so that both the employer and potential employee gain exposure. These opportunities can simply be inviting students in to see how an office environment operates or setting up an internship program. Success in piercing the glass ceiling hinges upon such interactions.

Evan is working with educational institutions in order to reach a more diverse population before that population is out of the running. Building that “pipeline” early is critical for both the future job seeker and the business. Returning to his farming analogy, Evan said “when you are hungry you can’t go plant a seed.” The key is to make the connection before a job is needed.

Evan points out that although “we are a more diverse culture every single day” we are still likely to look within our own social circles to fill positions. We’ve got to break these walls down when we endeavor to create and encourage diversity within the sustainability movement.

**Check out Brick City on Sundance, the five part documentary trailer Evan mentioned

***One resource suggested by a participant regarding diversity and providing the necessary education to break through the glass ceiling was the The Providence Effect

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