Diversity in the workplace is an issue that many companies claim to take pride in. But how substantive is the effort to ensure the workforce isn't just made up of White male professionals? At some places, it only scratches the surface — if it is addressed at all. Enter the website Rent-A-Minority, a "revolutionary new service" that promises to provide minorities for every corporate occasion.
Created by Arwa Mahdawi, the satirical website is doing what humor does best — call out institutional inequality through its surface-level solutions that fail to actually address the issue.
RentAMinority.com offers "a minority for every occasion"; all of whom, the website states, have been thoroughly vetted "to ensure they are not 'too Black' or 'too Muslim' or 'too much of a Feminist.'"
The site in itself is a hilarious challenge to companies creating the illusion of diversity in their workforce, but it is also a serious attempt at bringing their half-hearted efforts to task. Mahdawi, who is a half-Palestinian, half-English, 32-year-old lesbian, told A Plus that she made the website based on her own experiences.
"I've had 32 years of having moments where I've felt like I've had to apologize for myself in some way: 'Sorry my name is too difficult for you to say'; 'No I'm not tan, I'm brown'; 'Yes I speak English very well actually'; 'No i did not get this job because I'm brown and female, are you fucking kidding?'" she said. "I've had 32 years of often being the only non-White, non-male, non-heterosexual person in a room."
Studies have shown that workplace diversity is not only crucial to creating a heterogenous environment filled with people from different cultural, intellectual, and social backgrounds — it also benefits companies financially.
Many large corporations have made the push to diversify, but haven't quite succeeded — and that's partly because many of these efforts don't extend to leadership positions. In other words, they may be hiring more women and racial minorities as low- to mid-level employees, but their leadership boards remain overwhelmingly, sometimes exclusively, White and male.
Lest the satirical nature of Rent-A-Minority is lost on anyone, its FAQ page stresses that yes, the website is a joke. Though Rent-A-Minority isn't looking to change institutional inequality, Mahdawi said that she wants companies to know that they "can't just pat themselves on their backs because they have a 'diversity scheme.' Rather they have to really think about how their current management teams and executive policies are perpetuating a homogenous workforce."
Ultimately, she would like for companies to be more accountable and to take diversity at the workplace more seriously.
"It's difficult," she conceded, "but it's necessary."
Cover image via michaeljung / Shutterstock