By DeVry University
August 25, 2021
20 min read
August 25, 2021
20 min read
The U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043 and by 2060, 57 percent of the U.S. population will consist of racially ethnic minorities, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This means that companies, business leaders and organizations must create effective solutions to recruit, support and retain a more diverse workforce. While many business leaders may already realize the importance of these population changes, certain companies still struggle to understand the best methods to achieve diversity, how to properly define diversity in the workplace or why diversity is so important.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people say they want to focus on diversity because, ‘It’s the right thing to do,’ but that’s not what this is about,” says Morales. “Being inclusive of individuals from underrepresented groups is a value add. It impacts the bottom line.”
In fact, a Boston Consulting Group survey of employees in 1,700 companies found that of the companies surveyed, those with more diverse management teams earn 19 percent more revenue from innovation than their less diverse competitors. Seventy five percent of employees surveyed at these same companies—spanning Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Switzerland and the U.S.—also reported that “diversity is gaining momentum at their organization,” underscoring how workplace diversity continues to shape business decisions within U.S. and global markets.
A McKinsey & Company report echoes similar findings stating that of the companies surveyed, those with more ethnically diverse executive teams are 33 percent more likely to outperform their peers on profitability. Similarly, companies with greater gender diversity among executive teams generated more profitability and value creation than companies with fewer women in executive positions.
“Diversity significantly improves financial performance on measures such as profitable investments at the individual portfolio-company level and overall fund returns,” Paul Gompers, an economist and professor at Harvard Business School, and writer Silpa Kovvali explained in an article published by Harvard Business Review.
For several years, Gompers analyzed data from venture capitalists and investors to discover that “even though the desire to associate with similar people … can bring social benefits for those who exhibit it, including a sense of shared culture and belonging, it can also lead investors and firms to leave a lot of money on the table.” In other words, leaders who don’t diversify their business practices or associate with people who are different from them miss opportunities for revenue and growth.
As diversity emerges as a key indicator of business performance, organizations around the world are accepting the value and urgency of honoring difference—they realize the undeniable importance of diversity in the workplace, according to Vijay Eswaran, an Executive Chairman of the QI Group:
“In this era of globalization, diversity in the business environment is about more than gender, race and ethnicity,” he wrote in an article for the World Economic Forum. “Companies are discovering that, by supporting and promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, they are gaining benefits that go beyond the optics. The case for establishing a truly diverse workforce, at all organizational levels, grows more compelling each year. The moral argument is weighty enough, but the financial impact—as proven by multiple studies—makes this a no-brainer.”
“Diversity allows companies to adopt a different lens to solve challenges, operate the organization and keep it strong,” says Awwad. “If you have multiple people thinking the same way, you don’t really grow or innovate.”
Awwad says diversity has also helped her team improve:
“When business leaders talk about diversity as code instead of being honest about the representation issues they wish to improve, they risk losing white men and women who can be allies in this work, so I think organizations can really benefit from just calling diversity what it is: a way to improve representation of people from underrepresented groups,” Morales says.
This is a more effective way to discuss workplace diversity because improving representation offers a cause all employees can support, whether they are members of an underrepresented group or an ally.
Traditionally, the way organizations arrange recruitment teams requires one recruiter to focus entirely on networking and building relationships for diversity recruitment on their own. But this isn’t the most effective strategy to spur company-wide change, explains Morales.
Instead of assigning diversity recruitment to only one recruiter in your department, take a creative spin: “Every recruiter should be a diversity recruiter,” Morales recommends. Supporting diversity in the workplace starts with collaborative, team-based thinking—a mindset Morales has refined through 12 years of consulting with organizations on diversity and recruitment strategies. To make diversity recruitment more inclusive, she encourages companies to strengthen the cultural capital and skill of their teams. What that means in practice: “Business leaders must train recruiters and HR managers on culturally competent practices,” she says, referencing training exercises, workshops and organizational programs. “This helps recruiters build the skills and competence to authentically connect with individuals from underrepresented groups and community organizations.”
CREATE PROFESSIONAL GROUPS AND PROGRAMS.
The goal of professional groups for women and diverse employees should be two-fold: To build community among people from underrepresented groups while offering them the culturally competent support they need to succeed.
This is precisely what Awwad had in mind when she co-founded EDGE: Empowerment Diversity Growth and Excellence—a network of scholars and professionals dedicated to supporting women in leadership which has since grown to include 23 chapters worldwide. As the executive sponsor of DeVry University’s EDGE Chapter, Awwad helps provide opportunities for her female colleagues to learn more about leadership and feel empowered enough to pursue roles of higher responsibility.
“We provide access to career coaching, speaking engagements, workshops and webinars on various topics related to women in business,” Awwad says. “We even have a Workplace group where we share information with members ranging from development opportunities to TED Talks. The goal of EDGE is to create a community of women and people from diverse backgrounds who feel connected and understood.”
DIVERSIFY YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION.
It may seem like a minor detail but the way a job description is written can attract or repel the right candidate from a position within your company. Terri Wallman, Director of Employer Relations and Internships at DeVry University learned this lesson firsthand while helping recruiters identify women with engineering degrees to apply for an electrical engineering position their company struggled to fill.
To properly assist, Wallman coordinated virtual focus groups across four DeVry campuses and asked female graduates from DeVry’s College of Engineering and Technology to attend. During the focus groups, the women examined the company’s job description and Wallman discovered an interesting conclusion: many graduates were turned off by the way companies had written the job description for the electrical engineering position. By the end of the focus group, Wallman and the DeVry graduates in the group rewrote the job description to make it more gender-neutral and attractive to underrepresented candidates.
“A job description can really impact diversity in the workplace because it’s the applicant’s first impression of the company’s culture,” says Wallman. “This particular electrical engineering role required weekend work, long hours and some traveling, but the way it was written seemed very rigid and unwelcoming to women. If the applicant was a single mother or had a child, or if she desired to invest in her own development outside of work, she’d immediately think, ‘I can’t take this job. This wouldn’t be a good fit for me.”
But after rewriting the job description, adding in phrases that focused more on flexibility and an accommodating work culture, more female tech candidates expressed interest. “Once we rewrote the job description, it changed the entire perception of how women in the focus group viewed the position,” Wallman says.
Ultimately, the company hired one of DeVry’s alumni who attended the focus group, proving that interactive recruitment that fosters connection—rather than aloof applications or online announcements—can successfully attract underrepresented candidates.
HIRE CULTURALLY INCLUSIVE LEADERS.
“Having leaders who reflect what the company values means so much for building workplace diversity,” says Awwad. “That’s why I take my role as a leader very seriously in this organization. I know other women within are looking to me as an example.”
A 2018 Diversity and Inclusion report from Deloitte strengthens Awwad’s point, demonstrating how inclusive leaders play an integral role in shaping the perceptions of employees and their productivity. Authors of the report found that “the behaviors of leaders can drive up to 70 percentage points of difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and the proportion [of employees] who do not. This effect is even stronger for minority groups,” according to Deloitte.
While many conversations around workplace diversity tend to focus on top-down strategies, there are creative ways individual employees and job-seekers can also support diversity in their careers. Consider one of the tips below to help improve your job search or help gain mobility in your career.
If you’re looking to find a company that will support your identity and differences, take time to ask the right questions to screen employers. Use your interview as an opportunity to discuss topics around diversity that the average applicant may avoid. “If diversity is important to you, ask about it,” Morales suggests. “Don’t be afraid to ask recruiters or the person interviewing you about diversity at their company because the question should be welcomed and if it isn’t, then you may have your answer.”
Research the company, as always, but once you do, feel free to ask honest questions. “Even during a phone screening, it’s fine to say: ‘Diversity and inclusion are very important to me. Can you tell me some of the ways that shows up at your company?’ This question can invite an open dialogue around work culture and values that you’d like to have on the job,” says Morales.
In addition to preparing personal questions, she encourages jobseekers to also ask interviewers about their own experiences with gender and diversity in the workplace. As the recruiter shares stories, note the details you hear and follow-up questions you’d like to ask. This can give you a sense of what you may experience while working at the company and if it offers the right culture for you.
BUILD YOUR INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL NETWORK.
“No matter your identity or where you are in your career, you should make every effort to build your network—and that doesn’t just start at your job,” Morales says.
There are a number of professional organizations that support women and individuals from underrepresented groups, such as The National Association of African Americans in Human Resources, Propsanica: The National Association of Hispanic Professionals, Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. These groups are usually organized according to profession, so you should be able to find one that aligns with your career goals and needs.
Also, if you’re a jobseeker, research companies that already offer established programs that can help build your internal network. For instance, LinkedIn provides an Allyship Academy that focuses on training employees to remove bias from their language and support inclusive partnerships at work. This kind of program provides opportunities for underrepresented employees to build new allies across LinkedIn and learn leadership skills while bolstering their network.
Whether you’re searching for your first entry-level job or planning your next career move, make researching diversity programs and professional organizations part of your routine job search or career planning. When you speak to a hiring manager for a company, be prepared to ask about networking groups, workplace diversity and programs that support your goals.
SEEK "MENTORING MOMENTS."
If you ask someone to be your mentor, depending on their work schedule and availability, sometimes that request can feel like a long-term commitment which can be difficult to maintain. For this reason, instead of requesting a lengthy mentorship, Morales encourages employees and jobseekers to consider “mentoring moments.”
“Yes, mentorship is important but it doesn’t have to all fall on one person,” Morales says. “I focus more on having mentoring moments. That means when I have a question about a career move or an idea that I want to discuss with someone I trust, I call that person in my network and ask them out for coffee. During that conversation, they may coach or advise me, which is a mentoring moment. Strive for those in the early stages of your career.”
Awwad also encourages women to pursue similar mentoring moments. For instance, members of EDGE were encouraged to participate in Girls on the Run, an event that allows female mentors to identify a young girl from the Girls on the Run organization to accompany during a 5K marathon. The girls and mentors run together during the event where they have a chance to interact and learn more about each other.
“It’s really fun,” says Awwad. “We run with the girls and talk about their goals or anything on their minds.” Small, event-based activities can help foster “mentoring moments” that feel authentic and create opportunities for future networking.
DO GREAT WORK AND HIGHLIGHT IT AT YOUR COMPANY.
“Culturally, depending on a person’s background, it can be very challenging to discuss your accomplishments and work because some people may associate this with bragging and boasting, but it’s not,” says Morales. “Some people are encouraged to lead more with a community mentality that focuses on ‘us’ rather than ‘self.’ If a person comes from a culture or background where talking about themselves isn’t common, focusing on their own accomplishments may feel unnatural—but it’s essential.”
To succeed in business settings, jobseekers and employees from underrepresented groups should become comfortable discussing their accomplishments among business leaders because “that’s a key component to thriving in a company or corporation,” says Morales. “Heads down and hard work doesn’t get you very far, so find someone who can help you amplify your work because when you share your work, you find sponsors and leaders who are willing to support you, which is precisely what you want to grow in your career.”
1For a complete list of eligibility requirements for the Women+Tech Scholarship, visit our Scholarships page.