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Tips to Identify an Employer’s Diversity

Posted by Chrissa Dockendorf

DiversityDiversity and Inclusion have become the buzzwords in the workplace yet again. We see this trend every few years but this time feels different. It feels like we are speaking collectively for the first time in a long time, and change is coming.

But change is hard, really hard. And people are feeling a range of emotions about how we treat diversity, particularly in the workplace.

When most people think of diversity they automatically think check boxes and numbers we have to meet and affirmative action, but being a diverse work environment is so much more than that. We need to think beyond demographics and really embrace people as a whole. Internal diversity like values, world views, expectations, and beliefs all make up who we are and contribute to the diversification of our environments.

Working in a place where people look like you a.k.a “mirror” people – is important to many people. They need to see parts of themselves in others, it increases the likelihood they have had similar experiences and gives them someone to relate to at work. But to have a diverse workplace you need to bring “window” people – those that you can learn from and observe new experiences through, to your environment.

Companies can say they are diverse or working on diversity, but how do you really know? Before applying to a company or accepting an interview consider some of these things to help make your decision.

What Does Diversity Mean to You

To understand if a workplace is diverse you need to understand what you think would meet your diversity standards. That could very well be what percentage of women, people of color, sexual orientations, etc. work at the company. The company should have some of those numbers available for you if you ask. But diversity might mean more to you. Consider what makes you, you, and build from there.

Are you a religious person? Is it important that your workplace understand that? Do you need to pray x times a day? Then maybe you need a workplace with an actual designated prayer room.

Maybe it’s important for you to have many of your co-workers come from different backgrounds and life experiences. In that case, you may want to understand how much education weighs into hiring decisions, what type of educational and training opportunities the company has, and how they help their employees grow. Do they only target graduates from Ivy Leagues? Do they have outreach to high schools so they can help those not able to go to college to get a career? We all take different paths to get where we are. If a company limits what paths they focus on for hiring, then they will limit the diversity of their employees.

Do you have kids that require you to be able to be flexible in your schedule? Then you want to know if job sharing or flexible work schedules are available. Does the company have a remote option? How do they handle personal time if family situations arise?

Workplaces are typically not parent-friendly as the expectation is at least one parent, normally the mom, is going to take care for the kid. Your experience as a parent can bring a different point of view and therefore add to the workplace.

Understanding how you would define appropriate levels of diversity in the workplace will help you make a decision about what types of companies you should consider.

Does the Company Practice What it Preaches

Most companies have put some generic diversity statement on their websites by now. They claim they don’t discriminate or they make a commitment to hire X amount of women by 20-whatever which is all nice, but at the end of the day getting people in the door does not a diverse workplace make.

A company that is truly committed to diversity will build it into their culture so they can retain that diversity. They will look at their environments and decide how to make them more inclusive. Is the artwork around the building inclusive or polarizing? Is there a place for nursing mothers? Are the women doing all the office-housework? How are promotions decided? How are ideas shared? All of these things make up the culture of the company.

What about options for identity? When you are filling out paperwork are male and female the only gender options? Do they offer the ability to identify how you identify? Why do they need that information at all? Is it optional?

These are all things you can view or ask about when you are interviewing. If you go onsite keep your eyes open for those signs that diversity is really part of the culture.

How is Time Off Determined

Not everyone celebrates the same holidays but most days off for holidays are based on the Christian holiday calendar. Rather than having to use your PTO to celebrate a holiday, does the company allow you to choose which holidays you have off?

Time to travel can give employees new experiences which can diversify the way they think and can offer a new perspective to old ideas. Heck, taking a vacation and really being able to turn off work allows your brain to relax and may lead to the next big idea!

Does the company allow you to take a sabbatical so you can experience new things?

When you take vacation time are you still expected to check emails or be available should something arise?

What’s the Dress Code

Dress codes are one of the top ways that companies keep you from bringing your culture and yourself to work. I wrote a piece about being yourself at work mostly as it relates to success but it is also how we diversify ourselves. How we dress is an expression of ourselves, our culture, our histories and not being able to dress in a way that makes us feel comfortable can stifle our potential and keep us from bringing new ideas to a situation. When you look around the company or view pictures do you see different cultures represented in the way they dress? Do the employees look comfortable in their own skin?  Understanding how much of yourself you can bring to work may help you make a decision on if the company can be truly diverse.

At the end of the day, we all bring something new to a workplace. A workplace should be evaluating new potential hires based on what they can add to their environment rather than them fitting into the already established culture. By making people fit into a mold we are stripping them of their diversity and this is how we end up with environments that are majority white and male.

Diversity is color, gender, sexual orientation, religion but it is also upbringing and beliefs and how you dress and education, and, and, and….

We are all different and we should feel comfortable bringing our whole selves to work. If a workplace is to be truly diverse then they need to take you as you are, embrace you and celebrate what makes you different.

Chrissa DockendorfChrissa Dockendorf is a recruiting resource manager for g2, Inc., and program support / social media manager for Redefining Women in Tech. She is a supporter of diversity and equity efforts, addicted to coffee, and mom to 4. 

This entry was posted on Monday, August 20, 2018 10:52 am

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