Expert Ellen Pao Gives Her Best Tips On: How to Spot a Company That Cares About Diversity

A lot of companies talk about diversity and inclusion, but how do you vet if they walk the talk?

Ellen Pao has experienced this firsthand: When she was considering a role at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, her future boss’s pitch to her included the fact that it “was one of the few VC firms with women, and he wanted to bring even more onboard; diversity was important to him,” she wrote in her memoir, Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change. She took the job. But several years later, she sued the firm for gender discrimination.

These days, Pao is the CEO of Project Include, a nonprofit organization influencing tech startups to include more diversity which leads to improved teams, more innovation, and increased financial returns. These are her tips on finding a company where diversity and inclusion are more than just talk—and where you can thrive.

1. Check Out Who’s in Charge and How the Company Presents Itself

It’s easy to say you’re working on diversity and inclusion, but if those words aren’t backed up with evidence, they don’t mean much. So, look at who’s in charge, Pao says. Are there all kinds of people in leadership and on the board? Or do they all look the same? If the executives and investors are a homogenous group, it “indicates a lack of attention to important areas of inclusion.”

Then look at the company as a whole and its employees across all levels. “Go to the company website and look for diversity on the team,” Pao says. “Are there people on the team or in the photos on the website from different racial backgrounds?… Do they talk about diversity and inclusion anywhere on the website?”

2. Look at Their Track Record

One of the best indicators of what a company and culture are like in the present is what they were like in the past. So do your research on the company’s history. “You can do searches on Google for the company name and ‘harassment,’ the company name and ‘racism,’ the company name and ‘lawsuit,’” Pao says, “and see what kind of controversies they may have been involved in and see if you feel comfortable with how they’ve handled it.”

3. Ask the Right Questions

You can come right out and ask about diversity and inclusion in your interview, Pao says. “Like, ‘How do you think about diversity and inclusion?’ or ‘How is diversity and inclusion part of your company culture?’”

You will want to dig deeper than that once you know they want to hire you. “After you get the offer, ask them to tell you about a hard situation involving diversity and inclusion and how they addressed it,” Pao says. “No matter how well-intentioned and how inclusive their values, there will be some hard conversations and issues that come up. And the biggest thing is not hiding issues but addressing and resolving them in a transparent way.”

In other words, you shouldn’t expect that a company has never encountered any problems. Instead, you’re trying to gauge how your prospective leaders and colleagues react to those problems and talk about them. “That question can show whether the company is committed to having uncomfortable conversations and resolving issues or whether they kick the can down the road and try not to deal with it right away,” Pao says.

No list of questions and clues can capture everything about how a company handles diversity and inclusion. It can be hard to tell whether a company is truly committed in exactly the ways you find meaningful before you start working there. That said, we always encourage you to think of creative questions, such as these, to dig deeper and vet the company before you make a commitment to them. With this attitude and this information, you can learn a lot more than you may have thought.

Need more tips on vetting prospective employers? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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15 Better Get-to-Know-You Questions for Your Co-Workers

Maybe you’re brand new on your team, or maybe, you’ve been around for a while, but you really don’t know all that much about the people you work with. Either way, it’s time to pull out some get-to-know-you questions. First, because it’s more fun to work with people you feel bonded to, but second, it’s an excellent strategy to be connected to the people who see your work closely. You will all end up being part of a career network that will last your entire career. In other words, connecting with the people around you is both a better way to enjoy your work and also a more sophisticated career strategy. Throw a couple of these prompts out and get ready to bond with your colleagues on a whole new level.

Strictly Business

1.What do you do at [Company] and when and where can we find synergy?

2.What’s a professional skill you’re currently working on?

3. What’s your go-to productivity trick?

4. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

5. What was your first job?

A Little More Personal

6. If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something what would it be?

7. If you could write a book about your life, what would the title be and why?

8. How do you turn things around when you’re having a bad day?

9. What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

10. What’s something you’ve done, but will never do again?

Just for Fun

11. Are you a dog person or a cat person (or neither)?

12. Do you have a hidden talent? What is it?

13. If you could choose a name for yourself, what would it be?

14. If you could only eat one item for every meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

15. If you could only have three apps on your smartphone, which would you pick?

It can be tough to think of questions that go beyond, “What did you do this weekend?” or “It’s a little cold in here today, isn’t it?” Bookmark this list to foster a reputation as the co-worker who can always get an awesome conversation started.

Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you create a better team environment. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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3 Ways Diversity Makes Your Team Stronger

Having a diverse workforce is not about showing a rainbow of faces on your company’s “About Us” page. Diversity makes your team stronger, more cohesive, and high-performing.

Boosted Creativity

The bottom line is that when you bring new ideas, different viewpoints, and communication styles to a workplace, you are engineering a diversity of thought—one that is agile and can solve any problem. We all have a perspective that we bring to the table and a diverse team can reduce a company’s blind spots.

An added bonus is that diverse teams are more creative because employees are exposed to multiple attitudes and means of expression.

Higher Retention

When your brand promotes diversity, you are not just saying you are a progressive company, you are creating and expanding the fabric of the US. Millennials are the most diverse generation in this country’s history, in fact, 44% of them are minorities. And 47% actively look for companies that have diversity and inclusion programs when deciding on a job offer.

If an employee knows their company understands and appreciates the value of diversity—they are going to be more fulfilled because they can be themselves at work, regardless of race or sexuality.

Bigger Profits

As if boosted creativity and higher retention weren’t enough, adding diversity to your team also results in bigger profits.

One study by BCG found that diverse teams can raise revenues by 19%. Why is that? If you have a diverse workforce, they are more likely to relate to and understand the needs of a particular client.

Looking to add diversity to your team but not sure where to start? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you meet your team-building goals. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.