Ask SGO: How do job applicants evaluate DEI initiatives?

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I often look for a lot of things when I’m considering applying for a position at a company. And the first thing I look for is a statement or commitment …

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I often look for a lot of things when I’m considering applying for a position at a company. And the first thing I look for is a statement or commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. And it’s really important, first of all, to see the terms that a company is using. I have seen people use “equality” instead of “equity”, and sometimes that’s a flag for me. Not to say that the company is horrible or that they aren’t doing amazing things, but it helps me understand, perhaps, where their understanding might be as it relates to DEI work. So I know some companies might use other acronyms like JEDI, where the J stands for “justice,” or DEIB, where the B stands for belonging. I think what’s more important for me is to see how the terms are being used, and what those terms mean for that company, how they are actually implementing the DEI, DEIB, or JEDI.

From there, I’m looking at written language. So not just the statement or commitment, but also what does language look like on the website? Are we using gendered pronouns, for example, where there’s no need to do that? Are we making assumptions about certain identity groups in perhaps the work that we’re describing? All of those things matter to me because, again, it helps me know where the organization is in terms of their journey. 

And then I look at images. I love clicking through a website, just to see who’s represented, and who’s not. So, I’m not only looking at the staff or team page, which I’ll get to in a second, but I’m also looking at general pics. If you’re describing a program or you’re sharing about the community that you serve as a company, what does that look like? Are there images of one identity group doing more work than another identity group? Are there stereotypes, whether implicit or explicit, or intentional or not intentional, being shown through these images?

Now, moving on to staff and team. I love clicking on that button on the website, and I’m not just looking at who works here, and I recognize not all companies have images of their employees, so there’s that, but when you do have images, I’m also looking at how people are represented. For example, there are some company websites that I’ve seen where the executive team, for example, are the only people who are shown via images and then everyone else is sort of either a hyperlink or just a name listed. I recognize that if you are a company of 1,000 or 2,000, or hundreds of thousands of people, you have employees internationally, it might be hard to list every single image on a website. If that’s the case, and leadership looks almost homogeneous, (and when I say homogeneous, that doesn’t mean that everyone looks or thinks alike, but I’m saying that if I just went off of image, for example, in, my assumption about someone’s racial background) and I’m like, okay this leadership team is mostly white. What does the rest of the company look like? Will I be accepted in this space, and or will they understand my own background, or will they take my feedback or suggestions? These are things that come to mind, and it doesn’t mean that the company is doing a horrible job, or something is wrong with the leadership. These are just things that I look for, so I can feel like perhaps I might feel like I’m included or that I belong somewhere.

Another thing I look for is transparency. Now, I recognize that not everyone can be transparent with every single thing that they’re doing at the company or organization, but I also appreciate companies that share how they’re doing diversity, equity, and inclusion work, whether that’s internal or external. For example, some companies might share, “here is our racial equity commitment, but here is what we’ve done in the past year or the past two years. Here is a list of our goals, we said by 2025, we’d do X, Y, and Z.” In terms of transparency as it relates to pay, some companies are listing that. Really, just thinking about what you can be transparent about is important. On the external side of things: What’s your work? What’s your goal? What are you doing to raise awareness and to be conscious about inequities that exist in our large world? As a DEI facilitator, I know that personal and professional often merge together. We’re not just leaving a part of ourselves at the door when we start working, whether virtually or when we enter a work space, and so I also know that because this is the case, I’m interested in working somewhere where people care about what’s happening socially in the world. Because I know that if I can’t come to work today because social unrest is occurring, or there’s something negatively impacting the community that I’m from, my company organization will understand that.

All right, so beyond the website, I’m giving you all some bonus answers, I might go ahead and look at three other things. First thing, social media. I want to know what your social media presence is as a company. Are you making statements? Are you responding to things that are happening in the world? Are you clear about where you stand? These are all things that I’m looking at. I’m also looking at who’s represented on your page. So if you have an Instagram account, for example, and you are an outward facing type of company where you work with clients, consumers, and most of the people who you’re working with or providing service to don’t look like me, I might be a bit skeptical, or I might think, “Hmm, I wonder what they’re doing on the marketing end. I wonder if they have diversity, equity,and inclusion throughout their company- not just on their website or not just in their statement.” These are all the things that I’m thinking about. 

Another website that I might look at beyond the company’s website are hiring websites or websites where people share their experience at a workplace. Platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed, Rate My Manager, or Rate My Employer. All of these websites will at least give me an idea to see what people are saying. If I see there’s a high turnover, and or a lot of the people who are leaving or don’t feel comfortable there are people of marginalized identities? Then I’m not sure if that’s the company I want to work for. 

And lastly, I love LinkedIn and any form of professional networking, but I’m going to be interested in some informational interviews. So let’s say all the things I just listed, for the most part, I feel very confident about the person or the company’s DEI focus. I’m now interested in talking to your employees. I want to hear from them what their experience has been.

And I’m probably going to check out maybe one or two people who have similar backgrounds as me and or maybe someone else. Just to see, what’s your experience? What’s working? What’s not working? And I think it’s really important to check in with the team that you’d be working for. So if I’m applying for a position, and there are two or three people that I’ll be working with, or one person I’ll be working under, I think it’s so important to say, “hey, tell me more about your team. Tell me more about the company, tell me more about the culture,” and so forth. 

And so all of these things that I’ve listed for you, which I know might be a handful, are super important for those of us who are looking for an employer and a company or organization where we can feel comfortable. There we can feel like we’re valued or we can feel like the company’s mission, and not just their mission, but their actions, also align with our idea and understanding and practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

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