In many ways college is a safe space, a place where the burdens of under-representation for African Americans can be slightly offset by the pedagogical drive to innovate and create new knowledge. This is particularly the case at HBCU’s where students have the room to embark on the path of creating knowledge, developing the skills that they’ll need, but also growing in a space that positively cultivates their Blackness in tandem with its rich history. So for many of these African American students, the idea of exiting post-secondary and entering into a largely male and monochromatic professional workforce, can be daunting.
Diversity in technology
Recently, Fast Company published an article about how leaders in technology companies are trying to change the game when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Regardless of your individual drive to work in tech or not — if the workplace diversity has you feeling nervous— here are some things to look for in prospective employers.
Has one of your parents ever said, “you look like you’re up to something”? They probably put that out there because you actually are up to something. See, you as a prospective employee know what all parents know, which is that honesty takes the shape of forthrightness and the absence of a pensive attitude. If you get into the interview and your prospective employer downplays or outright doesn’t want to answer your questions about diversity, get out of there. The article points out that the most progressive CEO’s are pushing to make their diversity initiatives, and whatever successes they net, public knowledge. If an employer has diversity stats worth noting, you’d better believe they’re down to boast about it. Still, we can’t solely rely on the raw diversity data, which leads to the second thing you should be looking for.
2) Progressive Company Culture
The Fast Company article notes how Warby Parker’s main office has 25 conference rooms, each named after a famous literary figure. Upon further inspection, CEO, Neil Blumenthal noticed that less than half of the rooms were named after women or people of color. Things like this are dead giveaways when it comes to how much diversity is at the front of your prospective employer’s mind. How purposeful are they about diversity? Go into the interview and take a good look around the space. Are all the paintings or artifacts reflective of diversity? Are a majority of the people of color wheeling around office chairs or mop buckets? Is there a daycare facility, or perceivable benefits for employees with children? These are all things you can use to get an idea of how considerate the employer is of people with different needs who come from different backgrounds.
3) Who is Supporting Their Vision?
In this world that is becoming more and more fixated on the burgeoning sphere of startup/tech culture than it is traditional company dynamics, research who it is that provides the organization with investment capital. When CEO’s are on the hunt for seed money, etc., what they’re really on the hunt for is a person who shares their vision, and who that person is can dictate a lot about what the company’s diversity prerogatives might be. If an investor only has the finances and bottom line in mind, they might sidestep what they see as costly or time-consuming improvements to company culture, like recruiting outside of the “friend pool” or ensuring that the workplace is as accessible for disabled employees. Investor temperament can even affect things like the quality of your benefits package or the willingness to pay you what you’re worth.
Finding your workplace home
Above all else, find a place that makes you comfortable. If you love your work, take the job! Is your workplace not diverse enough yet? Then figure out how to bring that conversation to your boss. When it really comes down to it, the worst thing we can do for diversity is say nothing!
Article by Raz Robinson, journalist and freelance writer, based in New York City and Philadelphia. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, email at razrobinson9(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow on Twitter.
Feel free to send your questions about workplace diversity to firstname.lastname@example.org.