Many companies talk about supporting diversity and inclusion, but it is hard to know if they actually mean it. It is essential to know when a company hires diverse candidates, but even more important to know if their contributions are valued once hired. Something I know for sure after my 20 years working in tech is that hiring and advancing people from underrepresented communities is way more beneficial to the organization than to any single individual. According to the World Economic Forum, “the business case for diversity in the workplace is now overwhelming” — improved company culture, leadership and greater innovation are the top three benefits of diversity.
Here are three signs that a company — yours or perhaps one at which you are seeking a job — doesn’t support diversity and inclusion to watch out for.
1. Lack Of Flexible Work Policies
According to SHRM, “nearly a third of workers have sought out a new job because their current workplace didn’t offer flexible work opportunities, such as remote work or flexible scheduling.” Now more than ever, employees are placing a higher value on having flexible work options, and a large number of my employees share how much more productive they are today while working outside the office.
A red flag would be not finding any of the following policies listed online: fair compensation and benefits, health care, flexible hours, telecommuting options and paid parental leave (maternity and paternity). By not offering these resources, companies send a message regarding how accommodating they can be to future employees.
Companies transitioning to a flexible work culture can start small with measures like virtual conferencing, investing in workplace collaboration software and designating a specific block of time daily for meetings to take place. Companies that truly want to retain their employees long enough to help them move into management and leadership positions recognize the need to support them and keep them healthy and productive.
2. Everyone Looks Or Thinks The Same
I believe that true diversity in any organization starts at the top. There is a lack of representation in tech, and top companies today are overwhelmingly white and male with a workforce that is less than 10% Black and Latinx. If you visit a company’s website and find out that their staff directory only shows individuals from the same ethnicity, race and gender, then there is a lack of diversity across the organization, and it’s even worse if this is happening at the senior level. Diversity fosters innovation, and the biggest red flag for me is hearing a manager say, “We’ve always done it this way.” If the executives resemble a homogenous group, there is a lack of attention and respect for important areas of inclusion.
3. They Blame The Pipeline
Claiming that there is a lack of readily available talent from underrepresented populations is no longer a valid point. It is an excuse being used in the tech industry for its lack of women in the workplace, and it oversimplifies the real problem.
To prove my point, please know that there are 13 historically black colleges (HBCU) with engineering programs and 269 Hispanic-serving institutions. It would indeed be better for everyone if more women went into STEM, but it is disingenuous to turn a blind eye to the real reasons we are underrepresented. The real reasons are way more complex and involve harassment in the workplace, a lack of mentorship and support and the myriad of microaggressions that make us feel vulnerable.
Companies need to be intentional and not just aspirational when it comes to creating a culture that promotes diversity and inclusion. We can no longer sit back and expect diverse talent to knock on our doors. Business leaders must instead fund employee resource groups (ERGs), start a mentorship program, have inclusive language in job descriptions, assess where you recruit and implement flexible work policies.
In summary, all companies need to work to guarantee that people of color genuinely feel included; we want to receive the same type of feedback and opportunities for growth and mentorship as white staff. We all want to feel safe speaking up and feel that our voices are heard, and we matter. We are in the year 2020, the year of virtual reality and artificial intelligence. You can’t tell me that we were able to make all of that happen, but can’t find a way to make and keep companies diverse and inclusive. The hesitation is beyond comprehension at this point because the numbers just don’t lie: According to a McKinsey & Company study, companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. In the end, diversity matters, Black lives matter, Latinx lives matter and maintaining a diverse culture is not only the smart thing to do but the right thing to do.
As a Latinx senior executive in tech working in education, I know exactly how it feels to be the only woman in the room. I know exactly how it feels to have others stare at your lips because you have an accent, I know exactly how it feels to see the surprise in people’s eyes when they meet me for the first time, and even more if I mentioned that I also did a TEDx talk. I know how difficult it is for those coming behind me to feel the courage and confidence they also need to succeed. I know we can do better, but it won’t happen unless we make companies accountable for developing, mentoring and supporting women and underrepresented minorities. Let’s make America inclusive again.
This article originally appeared on Forbes and has been republished with permission.