Does your company “get” diversity?

Nancy Anderson
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If you’re looking for a great company to work for, one of the signs to watch for is whether or not that company has a good understanding and respect for diversity. If a company is respectful of cultural differences, if a company makes an effort to ensure that people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds can feel welcome and be successful, if a company’s leadership reflects the diversity of the communities that the company serves, then all of these are signs that the company is a good place to work.

What are some signs to look for to see if your company is doing a good job of respecting/understanding diversity? Whether you’re currently employed or looking for a new job, there are some questions you should ask yourself to find out if you’re working for a company that truly “gets” diversity.

• Does the company have a diversity council? Some of the most diverse companies have dedicated leadership councils focused on monitoring and improving the company’s diversity efforts – everything from employee benefits to recruitment policies to mentorship programs to how many culturally diverse employees get promoted to management. If a company has a diversity council, and the council has real responsibilities and accountability for results, that is a good sign that the company understands the importance of diversity.
• Do you see diverse employees getting promoted to management? It’s sometimes hard to believe that a company cares about diversity when the top ranks of management are uniformly white and male. This doesn’t mean that companies should use quotas or arbitrary rules of getting more diverse managers, but it does mean that truly diversity-aware companies know how to create opportunities for talented people from all backgrounds – not just white guys.
• How many managers are women? Women have historically been underrepresented in the management ranks; women tend to be penalized career-wise if they decide to slow down or take time off to raise children or care for ailing parents. Companies that value diversity know how to create “on ramping” programs to get women back into the workforce and back on track. The way a company treats women’s careers is also a sign of the company’s true value for work-life balance – women are often more likely than men to be called upon at various times in their lives to sacrifice their careers for their families. If a company knows how to create opportunities for women, that is a sign that the company is a good place for men to work as well.
• Are there mentoring opportunities to build a strong pipeline of talent and future managers? Mentoring is one of the most important ways for companies to cultivate future leaders. Whether or not you’re a culturally diverse employee by virtue of your background, you will likely be able to benefit from the kinds of mentoring opportunities that a “diversity aware” company can provide.
• Are there networking opportunities and training seminars to give you a chance to learn about other cultures and meet people from diverse backgrounds? Employee resource groups (at larger organizations) are an ideal way to learn about diversity, make new friends at work, and find career-enhancing volunteer and leadership opportunities. Companies that “get” diversity are happy to invest some time and effort in teaching their employees about how to capitalize on the full talents and expertise of the people in the organization. Employee resource groups can be a lot of fun, as well, offering everything from multicultural potlucks to movie nights. Who says learning can’t be fun?

Does your company's marketing reflect diversity? Companies that truly value diversity find ways to tout this message in all of their marketing – in everything from multilingual brochures to ethnically diverse stock photos. If you don’t see anyone in your company’s marketing materials that looks like you, that could be a sign that your company doesn’t really understand diversity.

Ben Gran is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Des Moines, Iowa. He is an award-winning blogger who loves to write about careers and the future of work.
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