A diverse workplace is a strong one.
As the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements continue to power on, more and more emphasis is being placed on diversity in the workplace. Now more than ever, companies are expected to actively promote these values and create — nay encourage — an inclusive employee roster and work environment.
And this expectation is not imagined in the wake of marches and protests. A 2014 study by Glassdoor reported that 57 percent of employees think their company should be doing more to increase diversity among its workforce. Those on the job hunt are interested as well: 67 percent of job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies.
If you are part of that 67 percent, you may be wondering how exactly you can discern whether or not a company truly values diversity and inclusion, especially while you're on the outside looking in. The good news is that whether intentional or not, companies leave clues all around that indicate what kind of effort they put into cultivating a rich, diverse workplace. To find them takes some extra research and a willingness to ask the right questions, but it will pay off when you find yourself employed at a company that cares about the things you do.
In your research
Much of a company's approach to diversity can be uncovered through investigative work online, so remember these steps as you conduct your research.
Review the company website
A company's website will give you a lot of information regarding their company culture and if its a good match, as well as inclusiveness, so long as you know what to look for. First, locate and examine the company's executive team and, if possible, its board of directors. Do you see evidence of diversity in this group of people?
HR professional Lillian Jackson of The RedHead Solutions explains the significance of this: "When a company is lacking diversity in its senior leadership, it is a blatant sign that over time, diversity has not been a core practice at the company." She continues, "Diversity and inclusion are not something that happens overnight — if it is already ingrained in the culture, it will show in its current leadership."
The images shown on a company's website can also be telling. Many organizations use stock photos to style their web pages. When choosing those images, were they cognizant of including different genders, races, and abilities, or are the models clones of one another?
On the topic of stock imagery, Mya Wilson, a leadership development consultant, comments, "Companies with a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion will ensure diversity and inclusion are represented in every aspect of business."
Other companies, especially smaller ones, often feature photos of employees at work on their website. These images can offer some insight into the demographic makeup of the organization, so look for evidence that they hire with inclusiveness in mind. Of course, it's possible that a company may be including select employees to give the impression that they are more diverse than they really are, so still be critical when viewing these photos.
Identify who the company works with
The people one associates themself with can say a lot about them — and the same is true for companies. That is, the organizations, initiatives, and causes that a company engages with can tell you about its values.
Chioma Onwutalobi Brown, CEO of Diversity Forum Live, advises job seekers to "look closely at … the type of schemes, programs, and charities they support."
For example, if you learn that the company you have an interview with partners with an organization that supports Black entrepreneurs, you know that it takes an active interest in supporting people of color, which may be a big plus sign for you. Alternatively, if you find that a company donates to an organization that works against the interests of people of color or the LGBTQ+ community, it could be a red flag that you don't want to work there.
Particularly for bigger companies, you can often find this information in their corporate reports. You can also turn to this website, which allows you to search companies and find out where they have donated money.
For better or worse, the company values that these associations indicate will likely trickle down to hiring practices and be reflected in the diversity of their workplace.
See what others are saying
As you are trying to glean information from outside of the company, some insider knowledge would be helpful. Therefore, take a look at company review sites that can offer you a look at other workers' experiences working for a particular company. Glassdoor is a popular resource for this. There is also InHerSight, a platform created specifically for company reviews by women.
While one person's experience does not necessarily reflect an entire company's way of operating, any comments on the diversity of the workplace are valuable information for you.
You can also turn to the opinions of experts. Great Place to Work, for instance, assesses companies based on workplace culture. If the organization you are evaluating is certified by Great Place to Work, you can be confident that it promotes inclusion. There is Fortune's list of The 100 Best Workplaces for Diversity to check, as well.
During the interview
Once you've done your extensive research, it's time to apply and (hopefully) go in for an interview. Here you have an opportunity to evaluate the company from inside its own walls.
This one is simple: What do you see? Or, more importantly, who do you see? If the office makeup is largely similar faces, that is a clear red flag.
This goes for departments as well. For example, STEM fields are known for their gender disparity, with women being underrepresented — women make up only 28 percent of the science and engineering workforce. If you have a chance to observe the tech teams and see that female employees are severely outnumbered by male ones, it suggests that the company has not made an active effort to make positive changes toward gender equality in the field.
Finally, to discern whether or not a company promotes diversity, you can take a direct approach: Ask. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them, use it as an opportunity to find out about the inner workings of the company as they pertain to inclusiveness.
These are some of the questions you can ask:
What does your company do to ensure inclusiveness?
Are there any programs or initiatives in place at your company geared toward promoting diversity?
Does your company use any training programs to help create an inclusive work environment?
Can you describe some of your company's core values?
It's important to note that with questions like these, it's not just about what they answer, but how they answer. If the interviewer stumbles their way through a half-baked response, you can assume that these issues are not a current concern at the company. Specifics and enthusiasm — or a lack thereof — are telling as well.
Darryl Smith, founding partner of a Florida-based law firm, offers advice on how to think critically about the interviewer's response: "Are the answers shallow and self-serving, or is there a visible pride in their efforts to reach out and extend opportunities to those who may not have access to them?"
If the company has something to be proud of when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion, they will surely be happy to share it. Hesitance is not a good sign.
Workplace diversity matters
Creating an inclusive workplace has always been important. What's changed recently is that the pressure on companies to do so has increased dramatically. Even with many organizations answering the call, there's never a guarantee.
Therefore, if a diverse work environment is important to you, you'll need to do some extra work in your job search to ensure you end up in a company that has the same principles you do. Do your research, stay observant, and don't be afraid to ask the tough questions.
Remember that in order for you to succeed in your career, you need to feel comfortable both in your company and around your co-workers. So if you can, keep looking until you find the workplace that values diversity the way you do.
If you're going through a job search with diversity in mind, make sure you grab attention from the right companies. Get a free resume review to see how your resume will perform.
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