Monday, July 18, 2011

Making the Most of Who You Are: Corporate Diversity Programs

Being different is no longer is looked down upon or is it? Answering this question tells you much about the culture of the community that surrounds you, the organization that you work for and country that you live in. The levels of acceptance and inclusiveness differ greatly across borders and continents, and with this world becoming smaller and smaller, the job seekers can really choose and pick the organizational cultures that are most welcoming and inducing productivity. Hence, increasingly more companies are putting greater efforts to appeal to a wider population of diverse talent: how to pick one that would be right for you? Choosing the right culture is of utmost importance since it is not merely about feeling great – it is the main determinant if you are going to be successful in your job. 

There is a ton of information that you can get about a company even without talking to anyone there: the internet contains most of the answers if you know what to look for. Let’s take a glance at the key elements (most of them will be directly available on the company’s career website, or alternatively you can explore specialized career portals like Vault, Glassdoor or even LinkedIn):
  • Definitions: how does the company define “diversity”? Is it just women and people with disabilities? What words are they using? Do the definitions of YOUR diversity group offend you? Think about it: using “limited capability” instead of “crippled” hints at a greater degree of sensitivity to the issue; using “LGBT” instead of “gay” demonstrates awareness which is a one step further towards understanding and inclusion.
  • Statistics: many large companies would publish sustainability reports that have a Talent section in them with graphs, charts and numbers boasting great advances in diversifying their workforce. Analyze those carefully and draw your own conclusions. Having 30% of women in senior management is great, but why not 50% or 60% while it was proven by much research that increasing the number of women in senior management is positively correlated with shareholder returns?
  • Internships and Scholarships for Diverse Candidates: old proverbs generally hold water no matter what – put your money where your mouth is. One might hail the virtues of having a diverse workforce and do nothing about it while someone else will have a varied program of scholarships, apprenticeships, internships and other -ships for minority employee groups or potential candidates and not being very vocal about it. Search for facts and real diversity interventions from the company’s side rather than believing everything you see or hear coming out from the mouths of its managers.
  • Employee Groups and Networks: if there are many networks and diversity affiliate groups and they are active and closely linked to the business, it is a very good sign. What is really difficult to do is to fake the employees’ interest in something that is artificial and clearly top-down. Try to contact the representatives of those groups with any personal questions you might have about the general atmosphere in the workplace and diversity initiatives that the company is pursuing; I am more than confident that you will get honest answers.
  • Diversity & Inclusiveness Plans and Other Documentation: failing to plan is planning to fail, as a well-known saying goes. Having a solid Diversity & Inclusiveness plan in place is already being half-way there. Undoubtedly, often those plans of action mean mostly lots of plans and no action, so what would be really important is to see the progress, or what exactly the company is doing to carry out those plans. Additionally, read testimonials, corporate diversity newsletters and magazines, diversity profiles and other bits of diversity information that more and more companies are willingly share with the general public these days.
  • Diversity Statement: if it there, it’s already a plus. I agree, words are words, but often even in the way the diversity statement is phrased you can pick up the genuine corporate attitude to managing diverse talent. Whose name is signed at the bottom – is it the HR Director or the CEO?
In closing, I would like to note that looking for a job is like marrying. You will never be sure until the moment you start living together (figuratively and literally). So, I guess following the 80/20 principle is a good bet. Being 80% sure of your decision based on all the information you have collected following the steps outlined above is a high confidence level already to say “yes”. In both cases you will also suffer from the “Apple syndrome”: you always know that there is a new better version available if you wait just a little bit. 80/20 rule will work here as well: collect enough critical information and act on it.

Blending in is no longer an option – being different is your competitive advantage so make the most of it. 

Yet, be careful: not everywhere diversity is celebrated and being unique appreciated. 

If you are keen to learn more about the topic, I encourage you to explore the Vault/Inroads Guide to Corporate Diversity Programs available at


  1. Sergey, I was so impressed with you blog. It is well put together and well balanced.Then content is smack correct of the times we live in. I work in a very large corporate Bank in South Africa where Diversity & Inclusiveness is not only incorporated into the Values of the company, but they also follow the constitution of our country where no discrimination on basis of race, gender,creed,age,sexual orientation,religious believes,political affiliation and freedom of association can be used to stop an employer to employ and promote any person within their employment.Being a gay man in my mid 40's I have not been so luckily to be eating from the fruits of this "new Constitution purely because of the constitution only coming into affect in 1994 and most laws take about 10 to 15 years to have a real and tangible impact on peoples lives after a few years.My contribution actually to your article, is just to say to all that reads your blog is for them to know that YES, Embrace your difference and let the company you work or plan to work know that as well so that they can see you skills,but let that "difference" be you selling point to show that you are the best man/woman for the job not because you are different.Be careful not to use you differences as a blank cheque but as a uniting factor. WAY to go Sergey, may your blog grow from strength to strength- Johann Swanepoel ...Linked in



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