How to Check if Your Workplace Takes DEI Seriously

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (‘DEI’) have become prominent buzzwords in the modern workplace. Companies plaster them across their websites, mission statements, and social media feeds. But how do you, as an employee or potential employee, know if a company’s commitment to DEI goes beyond mere words? Is the company genuinely encouraging a work environment that celebrates differences and empowers everyone to thrive?

Here’s the not-so-secret truth: many companies pay lip service to DEI. They might have a fancy brochure outlining their initiatives, but the lived experience for employees may paint a different picture. So, how can you see through the facade and assess a company’s genuine commitment to DEI?

Leadership and Culture: The Bedrock of DEI

A company’s leadership team sets the tone for everything. Here’s what to look for:

  • Diversity at the top: Does the leadership team reflect a range of backgrounds regarding gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity? A homogenous leadership team may be less likely to champion genuine DEI initiatives.
  • Visible sponsorship: Do senior leaders actively sponsor DEI efforts? Are they talking about their commitment to DEI initiatives? Do they attend events focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion? Their visible involvement sends a powerful message about the importance of DEI.
  • Focus on belonging: Does the company culture promote a sense of belonging for all employees? Look for initiatives that create a welcoming environment, celebrate a wide range of holidays and traditions, and encourage open communication.

Scrutinize Policies and Practices

Beyond statements, a company’s policies and practices can reveal its true commitment to DEI.

  • Recruitment and hiring: Does the company use various recruiting strategies to attract a wider pool of candidates? Are there unconscious bias training programs in place for hiring managers? Do the company’s job descriptions include a DEI statement? 
  • Promotion and development: Are there clear and objective promotion criteria that ensure fair opportunities for all? Does the company offer mentorship programs specifically designed to support marginalized groups?
  • Pay equity and benefits: Does the company conduct regular pay audits to ensure equal pay for equal work, regardless of race, gender, or other factors? Are benefits packages designed to cater to the needs of a diverse workforce?

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

Employee Resource Groups play an important role in supporting inclusion and community.

  • Active ERGs: Does the company have established ERGs for various identity groups? Are they well-resourced and actively supported by leadership?
  • ERG impact: Do ERGs have a voice in the decision-making process? Have their initiatives led to positive changes in the workplace culture?

Open Communication and Psychological Safety

A truly inclusive environment promotes open communication where employees feel safe expressing concerns and ideas.

  • Employee feedback mechanisms: Does the company have anonymous channels for employees to report discrimination or bias? Are there regular surveys to assess employee’s sense of inclusion?
  • Psychological safety: Do employees feel comfortable speaking their minds and sharing diverse perspectives without fear of judgment or retaliation?
  • Conflict resolution: Does the company have a straightforward and effective process for addressing complaints related to discrimination or bias?

The Power of Lived Experiences

Sometimes, the most telling insights come from current or past employees. Here’s how to tap into their experiences:

  • Glassdoor reviews: Look for employee reviews on platforms like Glassdoor that discuss the company’s DEI culture. Pay attention to both positive and negative experiences.
  • Whisper networks: Find whisper networks to get the real scoop on companies you’re considering working for.
  • Professional networking: Talk to people who work or have worked at the company. Ask them about their experiences with diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Company events: Attend company events or webinars to observe how employees interact with each other. Do you see a diverse mix of voices being heard and valued?

Remember, It’s a Journey, Not a Destination

DEI is an ongoing process, not a one-time achievement. Here are some additional points to consider:

  • Transparency and accountability: Does the company publicly share its DEI goals and metrics? Are there clear benchmarks for progress and a transparent process for holding leadership accountable?
  • Continuous improvement: Does the company demonstrate a commitment to learning and adapting its DEI efforts? Do they seek feedback from employees and incorporate it into their initiatives?

Taking Action: What You Can Do

By actively assessing a company’s DEI efforts, you enable yourself to make informed decisions about your career. If you’re interviewing:

  • Ask questions during interviews: Don’t be afraid to ask interviewers pointed questions about the company’s DEI initiatives. Ask about specific programs and their impact on employee experiences. Inquire about the company’s plans for future DEI initiatives.

If you’re already employed at a company:

  • Join or start an ERG: If your company doesn’t have an ERG for your identity group, consider starting one. ERGs play a vital role in advocating for DEI initiatives.
  • Mentor and sponsor: Become a mentor or sponsor to colleagues from underrepresented groups. Investing in their growth strengthens the overall diversity of the workplace.
  • Speak up: Don’t stay silent if you witness or experience discrimination or bias. Speak up and report the incident through the appropriate channels.

While companies need to talk the talk of DEI to show everyone that it matters, it’s critical that they and we also take action. Showing up authentically for all employees means using your power to make positive change in the workplace and the world and holding companies accountable for their actions.