Workforce Diversity: Why You Should Care

By Paula Santonocito

Business group of men and women standing with briefcases.These days, large companies generally include a statement about workforce diversity at their corporate websites and in their job ads. What does the emphasis on workforce diversity mean to you as a single-minded woman?

Statement of Intent

The concept of workforce diversity isn’t entirely new. Years ago, companies often used the term “equal opportunity employer” to convey that all people were given equal consideration as far as hiring and career advancement.

The term workforce diversity offers a similar commitment, but it goes a step further in that it implies a proactive stance.

When a company claims workforce diversity, it suggests the organization employs a workforce that more accurately mirrors the world population in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, and gender. Workforce diversity also extends to people with disabilities.

To be sure, it’s a great concept. The idea that a company encourages all people, including women, to apply for jobs, that it seeks to create a diverse workplace, sounds wonderful.

However, any employer can use the term “workforce diversity.” The proof is in the company’s practices.

Walking the Talk

How do you know if a claim of workforce diversity is legitimate? Thanks to the Internet, it’s relatively easy to find out.

Take a look at the company’s management team. Are there women among the senior-level executives? What about people of color?

Also, look at the company’s board of directors. Does it resemble a good ol’ boys’ club? Or is it more representative of a diverse world?

Visit the Careers section of a company’s website. Large companies sometimes include video profiles of employees or, at the least, photos of employees along with position titles and descriptions of the jobs they perform. Examine these closely. Do women and people of color hold positions of responsibility?

The answers to these questions will begin to give you a true picture of opportunities within an organization.

Detailing Diversity

A company’s diversity statement offers insight as well. A generic tagline, such as, “We encourage workforce diversity,” differs greatly from how Big Four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) details its commitment.

The diversity section of PwC’s Careers site not only defines diversity, it provides examples of diversity in action.

The company points out that it sponsors networking groups, known as circles, to help women, ethnic minorities, parents, and gay and lesbian professionals connect with one another and provide mentoring and learning opportunities.

Meanwhile, when it comes to women and advancement, PwC offers some statistics: More than half of the firm’s new hires each year are women, and the representation of women at the partner level increased 30 percent from 2001 to 2006.

By sharing this information, PwC shows diversity at work.

Further evidence can be found where the company details its commitment to mothers.

The company has also received accolades for its Full Circle program through which senior associates can separate from the firm for up to five years while caring for children or other loved ones. The program allows participating employees, many of whom are mothers, to maintain their credentials, advance their skills, and participate in networking events while on leave.

Like other PwC programs, Full Circle speaks to the company’s commitment to women.

Making the List

Yet another indication of workforce diversity is being named to “best companies” lists.

Working Mother magazine has several lists, including 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers and Best Companies for Multicultural Women.

It’s worth taking note of these and other lists that take diversity into account, such as Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, which can be viewed based on how many women a company employs.

When considering a new job, it’s essential to research how the company measures up in terms of diversity.

As a woman, you want to work for a company that recognizes and rewards your contribution, and supports your career and your life—in all the ways that matter.

Bottom line: If a company doesn’t see the value of workforce diversity, you should see about working for another company. There are companies that get it—and one of them should get you as an employee.

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