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Being authentic with DEI in the workplace

It happens every June. Rainbow-colored company logos start popping up everywhere, from small startups to massive, Fortune 500 corporations. Some even drop trending hashtags like #loveislove or #poweredbypride. At face value, the sentiment is positive, with companies showing, at least with their branding, that they value diversity and inclusion and are acknowledging several lifetimes of societal oppression.

But is this bare minimum effort really authentic? Do companies fully understand why they’re even doing it, or is it a way to earn a participation ribbon until they can change their logos back on July 1st? How can companies be authentic with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace when it comes to hiring talent?

Matt Abbott with The Sourcery. Submitted photo

Understanding DEI

Trainingindustry.com provides a great definition of DEI. DEI describes programs and policies that encourage the representation and participation of diverse groups of people, including different genders, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, religions, cultures, ages, sexual orientations and people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, skills and expertise.

Creating a Safe Space for LGBTQIA 

Many companies want to be more inclusive by increasing employment opportunities for members of the LGBTQIA community. Without a job candidate addressing it unprompted, it can be difficult to know how they classify themselves. Even though the employer is inclusive, it’s still a deeply personal question you shouldn’t ask.

How someone identifies is personal and asking if someone is LGBTQIA, especially during a recruiting call or interview, can cause an adverse reaction. How can companies create a safe environment to openly discuss that they are supportive of LGBTQIA and are open to hiring?

As a company, just putting it out there in the form of rainbow logos and saying “we’re inclusive” can feel like pandering. The best way is to simply be authentic and show in your actions that you and your company are supportive and an ally of the LGBTQIA community. If you have created a positive and inclusive culture, the candidate may already feel comfortable going into the interview to address it themselves.

There are also opportunities to address DEI if the candidate asks about company culture. This is a great way to organically discuss LGBTQIA inclusion policies and resources that the company provides for employees.

Hiring Women and Minorities

Some laws prohibit discrimination in the workforce, but it doesn’t always guarantee that, especially with smaller companies or startups that aren’t required to follow an affirmative action plan. Start by establishing a culture that is inclusive of female and minority employees.

Some people haven’t had the same opportunities because of their sex, ethnicity or background. Update the job post by keeping job requirements broader and tailor them for females or minorities. Before applying for a position, men usually research salaries; women research culture, history of fair treatment and diversity when applying for a position. Focus on what’s most important for women in the job posting, and you will see a rise in female applicants. Use your social media to highlight female employees, so when they’re researching your company, they will notice.

A way to show higher character and authenticity for your company is to hire a woman or minority that requires a mentorship to learn the trade skills and nurture the employee to help them grow into the role. Many companies want a ready-made employee and don’t want to spend the resources on such an initiative, so they just decide to hire more females or minorities.

Authenticity in Company Size

More prominent companies and corporations have a more challenging time having a consistent, authentic culture across the board, whereas smaller companies and startups make it easier. If you have a smaller team, you have more of an ability to influence change. Larger companies have more voices and opinions, and aligning values is much more difficult.

However, larger, progressive companies can affect change more quickly and efficiently than smaller companies. When authenticity comes from the top, they can invest more resources than smaller companies. Also of note, companies founded by women or people of color tend to communicate more conscientiously and empathetically.

Keeping DEI authentic in the workplace

If you’re running a company and want to promote DEI in your workplace, simply being authentic and building a culture with an inclusive environment will attract the candidates you’re looking for. Create a safe and caring place and put in the work to build a diverse workforce instead of hiring to “meet a quota.”

Matt Abbott is the general manager of The Sourcery, a recruiting firm for tech startups.

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