How to tell if your prospective new employer really cares about diversity and inclusion

Marissa Ellis
Marissa Ellis

Diversily Founder

By Marissa Ellis, Founder and CEO Diversily

Photo by Amy Elting on Unsplash

Think about the last time you went for a job interview. How did the company make you feel? Did you feel that they valued your time and the interview process was designed to give you a platform to be yourself and shine? Or did you feel under pressure to perform and fit in?

If you’re a woman who’s looking for a new job, ensuring your prospective employer is committed to diversity and inclusion is critical to ensure that you will have a path to succeed in the organisation.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a key element of success in any business. By having a diverse range of perspectives, backgrounds, opinions, skills and cultures all working together synergistically, businesses are able to gain a broader and more holistic sense of what their customer base wants and needs.

As such, it’s essential for companies to create an environment that encourages acceptance and collaboration among employees regardless of gender or race. For women employees specifically, creating a culture of diversity and inclusion can be incredibly empowering; it provides them with the chance to build relationships with an array of peers, which not only helps increase professional confidence but also breeds respect from team members due to the message it sends about the importance of each individual’s contribution.

Ultimately, diversity and inclusion should be central to any organization’s business model so that women employees feel supported in taking meaningful steps towards their career ambitions.

Here are some things to look for that can give you a good sense of whether or not a company cares about these issues.

Do your research – read the company’s website and any available information about their policies

It’s always important to do your research when applying for a new job. Taking the time to read the company’s website enables potential employees to get a better grasp on how the company operates and what their diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and practices look like. With today’s ever changing job market, it is more important than ever to explore a company thoroughly beforehand, so you can make an informed decision that works for your career goals. By taking the initiative to dig deeper into how a company values diversity, equity and inclusion, you can ensure that you have chosen an environment that works best for you.

Talk to current or former employees of the company, and ask about their experiences

One of the best ways to get an unbiased opinion about a company is to talk directly to current or former employees! It’s a great way to learn more about how inclusive, diverse, and equitable the company workplace might be. This is especially important for anyone considering applying for a job with this employer. If you’re able, networking with these individuals can be useful. According to Glassdoor, around 80% of candidates studied found that talking with current or former employees was the most useful step in their job search process – so it’s important not to underestimate the strength of words from experience!

You can adapt the really simple message below to reach out.

Ask pointed questions during the interview process that gauge the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion

Researching a prospective employer is essential to ensuring long-term job satisfaction, and in the age of increasing emphasis on diversity and inclusion, it’s important to ask pointed questions related to their strategy towards creating an inclusive working environment.

It’s helpful to enquire about specific measures they are taking or have taken such as expanding recruitment of minority groups, creating employee support programmes, establishing mentorship opportunities, and instituting flexible policies.

It’s also recommended to question their company culture and values — ask how they foster an environment of inclusivity that works for employees with diverse backgrounds and allows them to reach their fullest potential.

These conversations will provide perspective on how committed an organisation is when it comes to diversity.

For example you could ask:

  • Do you have an organisation wide diversity and inclusion strategy? If so, when was it first created and what are your top diversity, equity and inclusion priorities? If a company only talks about diversity and increasing representation but doesn’t talk about inclusion and belonging for all, they are likely to be early in their journey.
  • What employee resource groups do you have? These are groups where people from different minority groups can get together to share experiences, support each other and drive forward collective inclusive action. Depending on the size of the organisation and the population of people there might be groups for women, LGBT Communities, Ethnicity and Culture, Neurodiversity and mental health, Disability, Seniors and many others.
  • How active a role do most employees play in diversity and inclusion initiatives? What opportunities might there be for me to get involved?

Asking these questions will help you understand how important diversity and inclusion is to the company but also to your prospective new boss and colleagues. If they consider it just to be a concern for HR then you know it isn’t a huge priority for them personally. Asking about ‘ownership’ for diversity, equity, and inclusion can also be very telling. For example having a Head of DEI in post is a good sign that it is prioritised, budgeted for and resourced. If they are part of the executive team you’ll know they have authority and power to act across the business. If they report into someone in HR they will have limited scope.

It isn’t just about having one person in place. It is also about understanding whether leaders and staff across the business felt a sense of accountability for DEI. You’ll also get a better feel for the culture and how you can play an active part in helping to shape the organisation moving forward.

Be aware of red flags, such as a lack of diverse representation in leadership positions or a lack of strategy

Hand waving a red flag
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

When researching potential employers, transparency should be key. Make sure to take note of any red flags like a lack of diversity in their management team or the absence of a clear diversity and inclusion strategy for the organisation. Seeing leadership look like you means that someone with a similar background was able to get to that role.

A lack of diversity throughout the workforce at all levels can also be telling. If a company can’t deliver on representation, how can they also provide the equity, inclusion, and belonging that would make their workplace experience great?

Watch out for warning signs that might indicate your new boss will not support your career growth or that other employees may feel mistreated or undervalued. While it may seem small, these signs are indicative of more deep-set issues that could have an impact on your work experience. Do your due diligence and look into the bigger picture before committing to a certain employer, because leadership commitment and thoughtful strategy matters.

Trust your gut – if something feels off, it probably is

In life, making the right decisions isn’t always easy. There are constant questions surrounding us and it’s not always clear which step is best for us to take. That’s why it’s important to trust your gut: if something feels off, it probably is. Sure, we all need to get second opinions and think things through logically, but we can’t ignore the sensations in our bodies that often tell us when something isn’t quite right. Taking into account both your feelings and the facts surrounding a situation will position you for success more often than not. So trust yourself, listen closely to your instincts, and you won’t be disappointed with the outcomes.

While there is no foolproof way to guarantee that a company embraces diversity and inclusion, following these tips can help you make an informed decision about whether or not a company is the right fit for you. If you do encounter red flags, trust your gut and move on. There are plenty of other great companies out there who will be a better fit for you.

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