Looks Like Diversity Is a Problem at the Co-op

It was with deep sadness that I read the column “11 People to Look for at Weavers Way Ambler” and to see that all 11 managers at the new Ambler store present to my eyes as white.

I am sure that each person is a talented, committed and really wonderful person. But the one necessary skill that they do not have is the ability to communicate non-verbally that all people regardless of ethnicity, race, economic status, or marginalized identity are wanted, welcome and celebrated in the new store.

In the year 2017, in an America where white supremacy is the coin of the realm, how can a community co-op management not understand that in building a team there are basic necessary job skills that simply cannot be met by an all-white staff, no matter how competent, no matter how committed, no matter how conscious each individual is, that the more diverse the lived experience of the collective staff, the more socially competent, the more likely that a full range of perspectives will be raised at staff meetings, and the more clear a message of invitation and welcome will be communicated to everyone who walks in the door.

We have so far still to go in the work of building the just and sustainable world that I yearn for, and that I imagine the Weavers Way Board is committed to.

Walter Hjelt Sullivan

GM Jon Roesser responds:

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been spending much of my time in our new Ambler store and have gotten to work closely with my 50 or so new colleagues. What a crew — hard-working, problem-solving, customer-focused. I consider myself truly fortunate to work with such a great group.

It is also, in every way, a diverse group. Teenagers to 70-somethings; men, women and transgendered; ex-offenders; folks living with intellectual and physical disabilities; citizens and non-citizens.

It’s a racially diverse group too, as anyone spending any time in the store can easily tell. But as our fellow member-owner Walter Hjelt Sullivan points out, that racial diversity has not yet found its way to the store’s management team.

That’s not something with which we should be satisfied. Theoretically speaking, with a racially diverse staff, over time the management team’s racial diversity will improve, as entry-level employees work their way up the ranks.

But we must find ways to facilitate this advancement, by offering mentoring and apprenticeships and by deliberately engaging with entry-level staff to ensure that when managerial opportunities come up, we hire from within.

In recent years, we’ve worked hard to improve the racial diversity of the Co-op’s workforce. Overall, our staff is more racially diverse today than it was five years ago. We’ll continue to build on this effort to ensure an even more diverse staff and management team in the future.