Here’s my question. At what point does it become discriminatory for employers to prioritize candidates with fellowship/internship experience, Ivy League education, or consulting firm experience? These ‘qualifications’ seem to weed people out by demography.

The typical Monday — Thursday travel schedule imposed by consulting firms doesn’t work for most moms; and working at a consulting firm is not the only way to gain consulting experience.

Fellowships and internships with low salaries and/or no health benefits don’t work either…Not for people with families, for those with pre-existing conditions, or for people with considerable financial responsibilities.

Look at the demographics of graduates who attended ivy league schools…Ivies aren’t exactly representative of the general population…not in terms of income or race. I’ve had talent acquisition specialists tell me that my chances of being selected were low because the manager wanted an Ivy Leaguer. She wouldn’t even take my résumé and wished me well in my job search.

I understand that everyone has the choice to apply for a position regardless of the job description content or recruiter behavior, but does choice equate to equal opportunity in this case? If certain applicants are discouraged from applying, is that not discrimination?

The Ivy League, fellowships, and consulting firms aren’t the only roads to competence. They’re not necessary, and they’re not always sufficient, so why cling to them as trusted indicators of ‘the perfect candidate’? I think it’s all about maintaining the status quo of power and privilege. People are comfortable with what they’ve always known to be true. The Haves have a lot and the Have Nots are far behind them.

If we’re really serious about closing the income gap, and if companies are going to achieve that competitive edge they’re always striving for, then we have to close the loop holes that stifle diversity and inclusion along the road to the C-suite.

The obvious question…why is diversity so important? …for community development, yes, but also for innovation. People with different perspectives see the same situation differently, giving rise to new solutions. Haven’t we all seen this play out over and over? In professional sports, football and basketball evolved by leaps and bounds after the introduction of Black athletes. Katherine Johnson, a black woman, entered a room of white men, and helped NASA identify the mathematical formula to send John Glenn to outerspace. Elton John and Freddie Mercury, members of the LGBTQ community, were pioneers in music, transforming the art of songwriting and performance. Alan Turing, another member of the LGBTQ community, broke the Engima Code to help the Allies defeat the Nazis in WWII? He is also credited with being the father of the modern computer.

Diversity is necessary for forward movement.

It’s no longer acceptable to envision diversity as one or two specks of color in a sea of white. Equity should result in equal numbers. If current practices and preferences have not yielded diverse applicants, then change your methods. That means giving up those pipelines, networks and recruitment practices that limit the pool of applicants. True commitment means updating policy and practice to include diversity as, not only a standard, but also a requirement.

The best and brightest candidates aren’t always the most decorated, connected, or social. They’re not necessarily the top test takers or the members of your honor societies. They may not have the easiest name to say, perfect American accent, or traditional backgrounds. They may even be unique in other ways that make you uncomfortable.

Dare to reimagine the perfect candidate as someone who doesn’t check all your boxes, but can be exactly who you need because of their learning ability, tenacity, insightfulness, and problem-solving skills. The talent you overlook when you prioritize the perfect résumé is innumerable, as is the damage imposed by the ripple effect in communities hardest hit by your hiring trends.