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Diversity, inclusion and equity aren’t just buzzwords. They’re important to a lot of us, including in the workplace. But sometimes understanding the differences is confusing. Here’s a rundown on what these words really mean and what to look for if you want to work for an organization that values these qualities, too.

Diversity isn’t just about gender and race. Diversity can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Think generational differences, white collar, blue collar, single parents, LGBTQ folks, older people, people with prison records, military veterans, people of faith and persons with disabilities. These are just a few of the kinds of people who contribute to diverse workplaces, and each group has characteristics that make them different from one another, regardless of what they have in common and how well they work as a team. But different doesn’t have to be a negative.

Companies are acknowledging this fact more than ever, and many are putting their money where their mouths are by investing in policies and programs designed to foster not only diversity, but inclusion and equity as well.

So, how are these things different, and how can understanding them help you be an informed job-seeker? Let’s look at each.

Diversity

When it comes to organizations, diversity points to the variety of different kinds of people working there. Companies are finding that the more diverse their employees, the more competitive the company can be. Having a diverse talent pool brings more ways of solving problems and enhancing the bottom line. And communities benefit when companies reflect the diversity within them.

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Inclusion

Companies that are inclusive not only have a diverse employee base, they do what they can to help those employees feel valued. Some organizations hire inclusion and equity staff whose jobs can include assisting employees in forming their own groups, sometimes called employee resource groups. Often companies sponsor ethnic taste fests, field trips and other off-the-clock activities to bring employees together. When people who work together play together too, the resulting good will can spill over into strong working relationships. Helping people find common ground who might otherwise have a harder time relating, tends to be good for business.

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Equity

It’s not enough for a company to be diverse and inclusive if it doesn’t value equity. Organizations that are equitable, take care to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities whether they be hiring, training or career advancement. A lot is being done to help level the playing field for candidates and employees alike. Some companies are investing in hidden bias training, especially for employees with hiring authority. Hidden biases are prejudices anyone can develop from the experiences and messages to which we’ve been subjected all our lives. Hidden bias training can shake those prejudices loose so we can get past them.

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Get Face to Face with the Facts

Let’s say you value diversity, inclusion and equity. You’d like to know that the company you might go to work for values the contributions from older workers, persons with disabilities and others. How can you probe for these qualities in your job search and during interviews? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Cherchez la femme: That old phrase is French for “look for the woman.” Actually, you should look for more than one woman and people of color and persons with disabilities and the presence of other kinds of folks whose presence indicates an organization’s preference to hire from diverse backgrounds. Pay attention as you research websites or stroll around the building.
  • Ask people familiar with the organization about what they’ve observed.
  • Go online to read newspaper and magazine accounts about what the organization has been up to. Do a search coupling the organization’s name with the word diversity and see what happens; check out their social media.
  • Raise the topic when you interview. It’s not out of line to politely ask about diversity at the executive level, or what the company does to promote diversity, equity or inclusiveness.

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Want some help with that? 10 Interview Questions To Determine If A Company Is As Inclusive As It Claims

To borrow from the old folk song, “the times, they are a changin’.” Probe for signs that the company you might join is keeping pace. For other ways to check up on what companies are really all about, read this: Six Kinds of Info Job Ads Supply that Might Be Helpful to Your Job Search

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