Wizards of the Coast, Diversity, Inclusion, and Hiring

1200px-Wizards_of_the_Coast_logo.svgWizards of the Coast has posted a job opening for a Senior Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. While Wizards has been under fire since Orion Black’s discussion of their time working for the company, I wouldn’t doubt that this position was already being created before that came to pass.

In their statement, Diversity and Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast stated the following:

“We’re proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff . . . “

I’m fairly certain this position was already part of this initiative before the most recent wave of bad publicity. Because this is an important moment in gaming, I wanted to address this. Wizards of the Coast really does need to hire more diverse people, and needs to be more sensitive of a wider range of marginalized communities. It is one thing to make a mistake and to address it later, it is another to make a mistake that likely would have been caught by someone with a broader, more empathetic perspective, only to realize that the only perspective available during development was white.

The Buzz

This position posting is already being met with some skepticism. To some degree, I understand. Wizards of the Coast has failed to take action or to rectify situations enough times as to legitimately cause people to question their sincerity when it comes to addressing the negative aspects of their corporate culture.

In fact, looking at the requirements for the job position, I can’t help but think that those same requirements could be cited to give Wizards of the Coast “cover” if they end up hiring a white male to lead their diversity initiative, because many marginalized populations don’t get the opportunity to get that level of experience. I will go one step further and say that if Wizards of the Coast does hire a white male, this position could easily be seen as a sacrificial position, allowing Wizards of the Coast to fire the person in the position the next time they draw serious fire.

Hope?

So, if Wizards has given reason to mistrust them, and I can see where this position could be used improperly to direct fire at an individual, and away from the company, why am I disappointed in the broadly negative reaction to this posting? This comes down to two things.

Without this position, we don’t have any indication that anything is being done within the company. If we hear from the white male heads of Wizards of the Coast and the D&D brand that things are being done, but there is no further communication, we don’t see any progress. This position may not represent progress, but if the job is done the way it is presented, it will be progress. In many cases, we only have outward facing signs to measure in the short term.

The other thing that keeps me from being entirely cynical isn’t a reflection of good will towards Wizards of the Coast, its is a acknowledgement of the reality of modern life. We have a tendency to want to take a specific step, declare victory, and then get upset when that victory wasn’t as decisive as we initially thought.

The biggest example of this that we can see is in political elections. We are conditioned to look for the “right” candidate, and then expect everything to function well until the next election. But that’s not actually how to make anything better. Just like with the political process, fighting for a specific thing to be done, and then not following through with further input and pressure to make corrections and follow the correct course, is a path to disappointment.

Even if this position isn’t a position created to redirect blame, it is entirely possible that the position may not have the influence and resources that it needs to create real change, unless the public continues to show their desire for Wizards to address the mistakes that they have made, and will continue to make in the future. Real, substantive change cannot be achieved on auto-pilot.

There have been times in the past when positions that were created only for the purposes of appeasement have been filled with people looking to make real change. If nothing else, a strong person in this position may be willing and able to elaborate the problems they are having with the company in doing their job. There may be a preponderance of evidence that this won’t fix the problem, but without taking this step, we have no way of knowing that any of these initiatives are anything more than press releases.

Expectations

I have a hard time accepting that anyone who is not from a marginalized community will the the empathy and perspective needed to do this job. That is not a matter of tokenism, it is the reality of people with privilege leading any initiative to divest people like themselves of being the sole arbiters of equity.

While I am very skeptical that Wizards of the Coast would follow this next bit of advice, I think it would speak volumes to the public if this position was not bound by Non-Disclosure Agreements outside of the realm of product development. Being able to speak freely about the hiring process and the actual internal initiatives would provide transparency to the public. That said, being owned by an even bigger company like Hasbro makes this level of transparency extremely unlikely.

I want to see this work. I will not say that it is unlikely, but I will say that it is unlikely without continuous input and pressure from the public. 

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