By 2045, people of color will make up the majority of America’s population.
This demographic shift, predicted by the US Census Bureau, is one reason companies are starting to take diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace more seriously. In American businesses, this has been manifested in part by the proliferation of diversity officers, who are tasked with creating policies and climates that are favorable to workers of diverse backgrounds.
In 2012, 60% of Fortune 500 companies had diversity executives, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s becoming the norm in all businesses,” says Allison Scott, director of research at the Kapor Center, which aims to increase diversity in the tech and entrepreneurship sectors. “I think this is a promising and important sign.”
However, having a diversity manager on the payroll is not a panacea, according to the researchers.
“It all sounds good, but in the past there wasn’t as much responsibility for it,” says Kisha Jones, assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University. “You might get an A for effort for trying the different practices without having to show how the change happens. ”
Nonetheless, the presence of a diversity manager in the C suite is a sign that job seekers should look for when assessing whether a company is equipped to hire and retain diverse workers and effectively market the heterogeneous customer base of the future. .
Learn more about what these leaders do and other signs to look for when assessing a company’s commitment to diversity.
Obligations and conditions for success
The work of diversity officers, also known as equal opportunities professionals, transcends departmental borders. They influence the hiring, training and cultural practices of the company that relate to three “big buckets,” says Archie Ervin, vice president and director of diversity at the Georgia Institute of Technology and president of the National Association of Technology. Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
For hiring, diversity managers can work with human resources and recruiting teams to measure the distribution of candidates and candidate pools by gender, race, and other characteristics and suggest changes to remove barriers to employment. hiring preventing different groups of people from getting a job. They may oversee training programs related to unconscious bias, run workshops on effective team communication, or plan civility at work classes. To better understand the state of a company’s climate, executives can post surveys asking employees how satisfied they are with their role, then look for trends in the results that suggest racial, gender, or other disparities.
Some of the critical conditions for a successful diversity officer include reporting directly to the CEO, having the mandate to strategize, and having the power to hold managers and workers accountable for achieving goals. One of the most important conditions is to build a solid business case to justify their work.
“They may have that moral position, but that position alone will not be enough motivation,” Jones said. “For organizations, it always comes down to the basics.”
Challenges facing diversity officers
With movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, diversity dominates today’s headlines. The fact that these efforts are controversial indicators of the setbacks that diversity officers sometimes face from “people who resist diversity” and “people who feel they are not represented in diversity initiatives”. diversity, ”Jones said.
To put it bluntly, she explains, “If white men think things are being taken away from them, that’s a tension that needs to be dealt with.
Google faced this problem in August 2017, when a software engineer shared an essay that criticized the company’s efforts to improve the reputation of female employees and questioned the general suitability of women for tech jobs. In response, Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity and governance issued a statement reiterating that the company is “unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are essential to our success as a company, and we will continue to defend and commit to it for the long term”.
Episode illustrates the common misconception that “diversity officers are only interested in particular groups” which is “false,” says Richard Anthony Baker, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Assistant Vice President of the Office of Equal Opportunity Services at the University of Houston and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity. “They care about the overall health of the organization by caring about everyone.”
Workers and managers who aren’t necessarily averse to diversity may still find it uncomfortable to talk about it, having grown accustomed to “colorblind models” of operation that experts consider outdated, Jones says.
“We’ve learned that we’re not talking about race, that these protected classes are things that we don’t discuss openly, strategically,” Baker said. “It’s a challenge to overcome that apprehension to have the conversation.”
Other indications that companies value diversity
In determining whether a company takes diversity, inclusion and equity seriously, diversity leaders are just one factor to consider. Research from the Kapor Center identified four other criteria critical to the success of such efforts in technology companies:
Information on most of these criteria should be readily available to job seekers on a company’s website, says Baker: “It shouldn’t be difficult for me to find a diversity statement, diversity office or programming. within governance? ”
Today’s corporate diversity goals should go beyond standard statements, Scott says. When evaluating potential employers, she recommends looking for “really sophisticated messages about why this is important and built into the work they do and the product they develop.” Likewise, verify not only that employee resource groups exist, but also that they have significant budgets to implement programs and channels for communicating with company leaders.
Job interviews give candidates the opportunity to do more research. Baker recommends that job seekers ask interviewers about company policies on issues important to them, such as accessibility, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
“If they didn’t know, I would be concerned,” he said. “I actually want to hear from employees if that’s part of the consistent message.”