Diversity, Astrology and Inclusion: not a valid approach

horoscopes chart in cosmic blue and purple

Edit: Thanks Tim Smith for letting me know the ChartHop website now shows that this is all an April Fools’ day prank. I fell for it. Kudos to the commitment to write a 13 page fake report and for your social team’s convincing response.

I first learned about ChartHop’s Charting Better Galaxies product on Dr. Sarah Saska’s Instagram account. It is the first workplace diversity, equity and inclusion tool that’s based on astrology. I thought there was a 50-50 chance that this was an April Fools’ gag. It turns out it’s a real thing and that they got $14M in Series A funding last year.

Here’s some of their key findings from a 13 page Guide to Workplace Astrology:

Key Findings: Virgos are the most highly represented sign across the industry.; There is a representation gap in senior leadership. On average, Fire Signs make up 40% of leadership positions.; Earth Signs are the lowest paid across industries and roles by sign type.

um…WHAT? This makes me really angry.

This product is problematic for several reasons:

  1. There are legitimate systemic inequalities in the workplace and in society. Racism, sexism, abelism, homophobia, transphobia and other systemic oppressions mean that our current systems are inequitable. Thinking about systemically oppressed astrological star signs trivializes real inequalities.
  2. Unless staff are explicitly opting in to have their employer derive their astrological sign from their date of birth, this is an unethical use of data.
  3. Extrapolating people’s personalities based astrology stereotypes is garbage and not appropriate for the workplace. Imagine getting feedback in a performance review based on the stereotypes of your star sign? Gemini 5/21 - 6/20 You have big and creative ideas. Yet, you struggle to move forward with decisive action.

For me, astrology is one of many tools I use to reflect on myself and my life–I’ve got the CHANI app on my phone. However, it’s completely inappropriate for workplaces to do pay equity analyses based on star sign, determine an individual’s leadership potential based on star sign, or to do organizational design based on star sign. Also: astrology goes against some people’s religious or epistemological world views.

As a DEI practitioner and consultant who uses data driven and research backed approaches I see ChartHop using familiar words and phrases like: representation gaps, aggregated and anonymized data, data and resources to address workplace inequities. However, visualizing a work force’s astrological signs is not a valid methodology for diagnosing inclusion issues, nor is it a useful thing to help make the workplace more diverse, inclusive or equitable.

In 2003 it was estimated that the diversity, equity and inclusion industry was worth more than $8 billion. There has been huge growth since last year and there have been a lot of new companies with technology tools to surface bias, new job boards to connect with underrepresented talent, and lots of people entering the industry as consultants.

I’m glad that most organizations know this is something they need to develop a strategy for.  I’d encourage practitioners and business leaders to think critically about what they’re prioritizing and measuring. I’m excited about some of the products and services that I see, as I think they will contribute to long term, systemic change and more equitable workplaces. ChartHop’s product isn’t it though.