To put it briefly, homophily means “love of the same”. Not the same wine every night, but a tendency to surround yourself with others like you. Also described as “birds of a feather … “
This would just be an interesting footnote, if the concept wasn’t so important to the workplace. In fact, I never quite grasped this very human tendency until I became a boss.
Prior to starting my own business I had always been in male dominated environments (investment banking, private equity, etc.). So naturally I assumed that I’d have trouble working with women. Say what you want about men, but I find their linear thinking and goal-oriented directness comfortable to navigate. I worried, could I handle a more female environment?
Imagine my surprise then when hiring I found myself leaning towards Latinas. Yep–little Mini Mes. Suddenly, I understood why most of corporate executive America looks male and Caucasian. It is just easier to hire and work with people who are similar to you and therefore familiar.
The unfortunate part is this bias often goes unexamined. The universe, however, wouldn’t let me get away unquestioned, as I learned that there are surprisingly few Spanish-speaking, brown-haired, olive-skinned women in Silicon Valley with technology or start-up experience. I had to hire people different from me. But there are many companies and frankly, industries that are stocked full of sameness.
Sure there’s literature out there about how diversity is an economic advantage, but frankly that does little to change the simple fact that people will always want to work with those who are like them.
So what will? If the person can’t be changed easily, change the environment. Stack the deck. By that I mean increase the number of “different” people in the pool from which there is to choose or allow those “different” people to do the choosing. This is all to say, of course, that there will be no real change until more women and people of color are in the executive ranks.
Yet another reason for women and minorities to become entrepreneurs.
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