How to Find Out if Your Potential New Employer is Prioritizing Diversity & Inclusion.
Congrats! You’re on the job hunt and lining up interviews left and right. Your resume is polished, your answers are practiced and you are ready to jump into the next kick ass part of your career.
But how can you know that the company you end up with is committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? Sure, they probably have a statement on their website…but how do you really know?
And, if it turns out to be all lip service, are you passing up other opportunities just to get a job you want to leave within a year?
How will that look on your resume?
Before you start salary negotiating, make sure you understand an organization’s true commitment to DEI. Here are Fourteen* Questions You Can Ask In Your Interview**:
*Even for us, 14 is a lot. Pick which ones resonate and maybe go with 5.
**These questions can not and should not be reserved for marginalized identities. White folks, ask these questions. Men, ask these questions, Straight people, ask these questions.
1. How do you define diversity here? How do you define inclusion?
This seems simple. This is huge. How an organization defines these terms gives you a real understanding of their philosophy on DEI. Is the company trying to bring marginalized voices to the table and re-balance systems of power? Or are they trying to show a lot of colorful faces and talk about “everyone being diverse”? There are many, many excellent ways to define these terms – there is no ‘right’ answer. You will know if you’re reading platitudes or if you’re looking at a company with a strong foundation for growth and transformation.
2. How many leadership positions are held by Black women?
We could ask this a different way, and try to get the general composition of the workforce along racial and gender lines. But hearing about “30-some percent women and 20-some percent people of color in the total workforce” doesn’t really paint a clear picture. What if most of those women are in low level admin roles? In the company’s data, do women of color count as both women and “people”?
You can get a great sense of an organization’s true journey both with the answer to this question AND by the reaction of the hiring manager when you ask it.
3. What Employee Resource Groups exist here? How does leadership engage with the ERGs?
Plenty of great companies have ERG programs that are just getting off the ground. There aren’t necessarily red flags around how long the program has been in place, but more how it is valued internally. Are they robust programs with funding? Do they have leadership support and engagement? If you’re really feeling a good fit with an organization, ask to speak with someone from an ERG group and hear more about their experience.
4. Is there a dedicated D&I team in-house? How many folks work within that department exclusively?
Again, there is no clear line on how long a DEI program should be in place, or how many people should be on the team. Every organization is at a different stage and is resourcing at a different pace. You can take notice if the company’s DEI program consists of one person (probably a woman of color) running DEI in addition to her full time job as a project manager. That person is likely doing incredible work with limited resources – but it likely is a sign the organization isn’t putting their money where there mouth is when it comes to DEI.
5. How are incidences of sexual harassment or discrimination handled?
If an organization can tell you clearly and succinctly how they report and escalate incidents like these, you can probably breathe a sigh of relief. Conversely, if there is no process or you start hearing things like ‘that never happens here’…run away!
6. Does the organization audit salary and wage information across lines of race, ethnicity and gender to ensure equitable pay?
Like defining Diversity and Inclusion, this question speaks to an organization’s philosophy. Are they only dealing with issues of pay inequity when they are brought to their attention? Or are they actively holding themselves accountable to pay equity in their company? There’s a big difference.
7. Does the organization have a Supplier Diversity program?
It is key to understand if the organization is working on DEI at all levels. Are they working to diversify their vendor relationships and have a greater impact on equity in the business world? A Supplier Diversity program speaks to a company’s real commitment — they are literally putting their money where their mouth is.
8. What sort of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training or learning have you personally been a part of?
Ask this question if and when the others get too intense – it will give the hiring manager a break and allow them to speak from experience. It can be very illuminating to hear how often the workforce is going through education and how it is being perceived and adopted internally.
9. Does the company’s medical insurance cover domestic partner benefits?
This is a yes or no. If the answer is no, ask if there is a specific reason for this.
10. Can you share the company’s parental leave policies?
This should be another easy one for the hiring manager – most policies are clearly outlined. Evaluate the policy holistically: Does the policy offer realistic benefits to women after childbirth? Does the policy include adoption or fostering benefits? Is there a partner leave policy (and is it written only for men)?
11. How are cognitive or emotional disabilities recognized here?
It is important to understand how your potential employer thinks about “disability”. If an employee is on the spectrum, or someone suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder – how does the company provide equity to that employee? If your hiring manager is willing to engage in this conversation, that could be a good sign in and of itself….many organizations struggle (as does most of U.S society) to support and acknowledge these differing abilities.
12. How are different abilities considered within the physical space?
Did the organization consider physical abilities when situating the space? What efforts are made to create access for all in spaces?
13. Is there a flex holiday policy for employees?
Some employers offer PTO days in lieu of official holidays. Some follow the standard U.S holiday calendar. This question can lead to a conversation that not all identities and religions celebrate the same U.S “bank” holidays. A flex policy allows employees to self-prioritize time with family and their own observances.
14. How do you recommend I set expectations with my manager about abilities, boundaries and communication styles?
A problem in corporate culture today is the ‘one size fits all ‘management approach that flies in the face of diversity and inclusion. Beware the organization that has a culture of “wearing many hats” and “doing anything it takes”. You should be able to talk to your manager about your boundaries in different areas – and find agreement on how best to accomplish your responsibilities whilst honoring those boundaries.
In any job interview process, the relationship is a two-way street. You are evaluating the company for the “right fit” as much as they are evaluating you.
By making these values as important as the salary negotiation, we can normalize the expectation that a truly great place to work is a diverse organization that is committed to pursuing inclusion and equity at all levels.