How to Tell If a Potential Employer Values Diversity

by Sharon Elber

Diversity

Most job postings and websites for major employers have diversity statements claiming a commitment to equal opportunity employment written with all of the passion of a seasoned Compliance Officer. Such legalistic statements don’t give much indication of a company’s real commitment to cultivating an inclusive workforce.

There is no single indicator to look for to determine the overall workplace culture of a potential employer with regards to diversity. Instead, consider each layer of research in turn, but try to get the bigger picture by considering the sum of the parts as well.

This article will give you some tips on just where to look for evidence of a company’s true commitment to diversity.

Official Website Research

One of the first places to look is the official website for the company you are considering. You will want to spend some time on the Human Resource page, making sure they clearly state EOE policies and, at least officially, acknowledge diversity as a core value.

Don’t stop there! Browse press releases, the “About Us” section, as well as any promotional pages on the site. Pay attention to language but look at images too. Are there pictures of women, minorities or visibly disabled people among the employees represented? It is not a complete indicator, but it is one layer of attention to making sure that diversity is being intentionally considered even at the level of promoting the corporate brand.

Review Job Posting Language

Don’t just carefully analyze the job post you are planning to apply for, go to the company site to find their complete list of job offerings and carefully read them over. Look at postings for jobs above and below your desired position in the company hierarchy.

For example, research has shown that job advertisements can reveal gender bias, and this does have an effect on the gender diversity at those companies. One way this often shows up is the use of descriptors that are associated with gender stereotypes in our culture to describe ideal candidates. Examples:

  • "Looking for someone aggressive and ambitious who will keep emotions out of the office."
  • "The perfect candidate for this position is genuinely caring and affectionate and enjoys working in a support capacity."
  • "Attractive presentation and bubbly personality is required."

None of these examples come out and say that the ideal person for the job is male or female. However, they clearly seem to have had one or the other in mind when the text was crafted.

The point here is that if the company you are looking at really values diversity, they have a trained human resource staff that won’t let this kind of gendered job description get out the door and into print. Instead of focusing on gender stereotyped personality characteristics, diversity trained human resource professionals will craft job descriptions focused on the specific responsibilities of the job itself.

Research Third Party Review Sites

There are a few online resources for finding out about a company’s culture on a variety of fronts, including their diversity policies. These sites can help you learn demographic information for the company as well as read perspectives from current and former employees.

Here are just a few to get you started in the right direction:

Glassdoor – One of the most popular employer review sites, Glassdoor has a huge searchable database and a high number of personal reviews, particularly for larger companies. Keep in mind that there is always bias when looking at a former employee’s experience at a job. Look for patterns that indicate a larger problem rather than getting stuck on a singular negative review.
InHerSight – This is a newer site that actually does some of the research for you, assessing many of the larger companies in the U.S. for their commitment to gender diversity specifically. They use a 14 criteria standard metric in their analysis to help with comparison. In addition, they have a section for anonymous posting from current and previous employees with a specific focus on workplace culture and diversity.
Indeed – Although also known as a great job search engine, Indeed does provide some helpful tools for researching the climate at your next workplace. They include a culture scale as well as a work/life balance scale as part of their review metrics. In addition, you will find plenty of text form reviews from current and previous employees, ranked by how helpful other users found their post.
Great Place to Work – We wanted to be sure to include this in our list because it includes easy to read diversity demographics for the companies that it covers, in addition to some other helpful information. Looking for the best workplaces for diversity? They offer up to date rankings and in-depth reviews of top employers.

Investigate Leadership Breakdown

One of the most telling indicators of how a company values diversity can be seen by looking at the demographics at the highest levels of leadership, up to and including the Board of Directors. While a lack of diversity at those levels does not necessarily mean the company has a terrible workplace culture, it is not a great sign either.

Furthermore, if the highest levels at the company do show racial, gender, disability and/or age diversity, you can take it as a sign that this is a workplace culture that is able to value people based on the quality of their contributions rather than operating on stereotypes that may bias promotion and hiring decisions.

Read the News

Do some internet research to see if the company you are looking at has been in the news. Class action lawsuits are one way to tell that an employer has failed to create an inclusive climate, for example.

Another place to look are press releases touting their philanthropic efforts. For example, have they donated or participated in programs that support job training for disabled people or encourage teenage girls to enter tech fields?

These kinds of programs may go so far as to be a part of energizing their employees, getting them involved in the programs directly or through voluntary donations. Either way, it is one clear sign that serious efforts are being made to build a workplace culture that is inclusive.

Ask Directly During the Interview

If a company’s inclusive climate is very important to you, do not hesitate to have some questions ready for the interview itself. Usually you will be given a chance near the end of the interview to ask the search committee some questions.

This is the perfect time to put them on the spot. Are they prepared with some satisfying answers? Or, do they stumble on the question and seem to find it a strange thing to ask? Here are some examples of ways to ask about a company’s commitment to diversity during your job interview:

  • "Your company website says that you value diversity. What specific ways do you ensure the workplace environment is inclusive?"
  • "What kinds of training programs are implemented at your company to promote an inclusive environment for a diverse workforce?"
  • "Can you define the core values of the workplace culture you strive for at this company?"

As these examples show, you can either specifically mention diversity, or find ways to ask questions that will give the search committee an opportunity to raise issues of diversity on their own. Either way, this can give you insight into what values are being promoted at the company before you decide to take the job.


Good News: The Top Employers Are Getting the Message

Your search for that dream job at a company that sincerely values diversity in the workplace is not in vain. In fact, more and more companies have come to realize that valuing diversity offers many benefits that positively impact their bottom line:

  • A more diverse workforce has been correlated to higher profits.
  • Eliminating bias means the most qualified people are filling jobs.
  • Diversity brings more perspective on a problem, offering a wider range of solutions.
  • Hiring and keeping the best talent requires a commitment to an inclusive workplace culture.
  • Inclusive environments create stronger bonds between employees, promote teamwork and boost morale.

Many people have started to make the workplace culture a major deciding factor for choosing their next place of employment. If a real culture of inclusion is important to you, making it part of your job search makes a great deal of sense. Remember, you are not alone! The more pressure top talent puts on corporate culture to cultivate inclusive work environments, the more change we will continue to see towards that goal.

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