- Joanna Coles is the chief content officer of Hearst Magazines and the former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine.
- She spoke about the #MeToo campaign at this year’s Women in the World summit, run by media mogul Tina Brown.
- Coles told Business Insider that companies must respond to the #MeToo empowerment movement by prioritising diversity in hiring, and not compromising.
- Those companies should not resort to demeaning token hiring, or create inclusivity programs that aren’t actually inclusive.
- This post is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
According to Joanna Coles, there is a straightforward way to create a better office culture: Make your team more diverse, and stop complaining that it’s too difficult.
Coles is Hearst Magazine’s chief content officer and served as editor of women’s magazine Cosmopolitan from 2012-2016. Her new book, “Love Rules,” is about navigating romantic relationships in today’s climate, and ahead of a panel on the subject at the Women in the World Summit, we asked how her thoughts on #MeToo apply to the workplace.
Coles said it’s made her consider not only issues of sexual violence, but all forms of harassment or silencing of voices that can happen in or be rooted in the workplace. “Having diverse leadership means there are more voices in the room, and there are more different points of entry for people who are being bullied or abused at work,” Coles told Business Insider. “There are more points of entry for them to complain to.”
For example, it’s easier for a woman to speak to another woman about being harassed by a male colleague, she said (also noting “it’s absurd to think of women as being ‘diverse’ given that we’re 51% of the population.”)
This is just one of many benefits of having a wide variety of perspectives in the leadership team.
The right way to hire a diverse team
Coles explained that as the head of Cosmo, she found that her executive staff was primarily white, meaning that they were not being inclusive of enough different voices, which would lead to better serving their audience.
When it was time to fill an opening for senior marketing editor, she would not accept from the human resources department a shortlist of top candidates that was not racially diverse. She hired Tiffany Reid, who is African-American, and said that Reid then helped her increase the staff’s diversity by finding new networks to recruit from.
Coles said that you want to have men involved in initiatives to recruit women and foster leadership among female colleagues in the same way you want white employees involved in initiatives about racial diversity. Otherwise you’re siloing groups and not actually accomplishing what you should be trying to achieve – a workplace where diversity allows the company to both function and serve its customers more effectively.
Speaking about the role of gender equity specifically, Coles said, “Men should want this as much as women. And what I hate is that women are always asked the question about diversity, and if you’re one of the few women in the room, you feel obligated to raise it as an issue, when you would rather far often talk about the economics of something. But there’s an obligation, you feel. And actually men need the diversity in the room as much as women do.”
The wrong way to hire a diverse team
Coles said that there are two caveats to follow when adding diversity to an organisation: Do not resort to demeaning token hiring, and make inclusivity programs actually inclusive.
The right way to fill a position is to work until the top candidates represent a variety of backgrounds, she explained. Speaking generally, she said, “We hear from HR people, ‘Well, we can’t find anybody. We’ve looked but we can’t find anybody.'” That should be an unacceptable response, she said, because it simply means that person hasn’t looked at a diverse talent pool.
Coles said that she’s found tying the supply of successful recruiting tips to bonuses for employees has helped opened up new networks that HR and recruiters had typically missed.
“Managers have to demand more of their HR departments and they have to demand more of themselves. And we all have to be open to hiring people that don’t look like us, and that don’t sound like us, and not find that threatening,” she said.
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