Originally published: 4/17/2023
Pittsburgh Business Times


Imagine receiving an invitation to eat at a neighbor’s house. You have heard of them and admired them from afar and are excited for the opportunity to finally meet them. Besides, you have heard that the husband is a great cook, and the family is very respected in the community.

When you first arrive at their home, you notice a beautiful welcome mat on the porch that puts your butterflies at ease. You knock on the door and are invited in, but after you enter, everything changes. You notice the family is not very friendly. You try to make conversation with everyone, but it is difficult. Everyone seems to talk but never include you in the conversation. At times they appear to listen to you, but something always seems to distract them. You also notice that while you are eating, everyone has filet, while they have served you Spam. You are perplexed as to why you were invited in the first place when the vibes signal that you are different and don’t belong. You pause for a moment and reflect on the nice invitation and the beautiful welcome mat that caught your attention, but seriously doubt you were ever welcome in the first place. Why was I invited? Were they just checking their diversity box?

You probably read this story and thought, “Wow, those neighbors are very rude!” However, before you judge, realize that many invite Black, brown and other marginalized communities into their organizations and unintentionally make them feel unwelcome. They wonder why they cannot keep or attract diverse talent, but it has less to do with a talent pipeline issue and more to do with work cultures and environments that are homogeneous and unwelcoming.

Yes, people are glad to get an invitation to dinner or to work for your organization, but to keep them you must make them feel welcome! Here are three things that Dr. Clyde W. Pickett, chief diversity officer and vice chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh, suggests that can help make your workplace more welcoming:

  • Listen to the Black, brown and other marginalized community members. Take the opportunity to hear more about their experiences.
  • Celebrate and acknowledge their contributions.
  • Invest in their growth and professional development.

Black, brown and other marginalized communities don’t just want an invitation to the table. We want to be heard, involved and made to feel welcome.