DE&I has been a huge buzzword for organizations and job seekers alike in recent years. However, many companies' diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts may not be as effective as advertised, and employees don't realize it until they're on the receiving end of racism and discrimination.
According to Bain, a management consulting company, less than 25% of Black employees feel included at work, showing that businesses' DE&I campaigns aren't always translating in the office.
During an interview, when asked 'do you have any questions for us?,' most candidates will inquire about mobility, the future of the company, or opportunities for training. This would also be a great time to get the scoop on the company's culture, before it's too late.
Ekow Sanni-Thomas, DE&I strategist and founder of Inside Voices, a web platform where employees of color can anonymously review DE&I at their company, is no stranger to being blindsided by workplace racism and discrimination. While working in financial services, Sanni-Thomas felt like he thoroughly "vetted" companies, but still ended up having a negative experience.
"I was discriminated against by another employee, I reported it, and the company failed to protect me and eventually pushed me out," Sanni-Thomas shares with CNBC Make It. "And when I was on the way out, I had conversations with people that, had I been able to have before I joined, I never would have joined."
For jobseekers curious to find out more about a company's culture and dedication to DE&I during the interview process, Sanni-Thomas recommends asking these three questions:
- How transparent and measurable are your company's DE&I goals?
- Do you know what percentage of diverse groups you're trying to hire, and by when?
- Are these numbers available to the public?
Sanni-Thomas says that companies that are truly dedicated to antiracism and DE&I will be completely transparent and eager to share their methods for ensuring their employees feel safe and supported, such as affinity and employee resource groups. They'll also share how they keep track of diversity in their organizations.
"Even if the interviewer doesn't have the numbers on hand, they should be happy to send them to you afterwards. And if that isn't something that the company is able to share with the public, I can assume it's only going to be lip service."
Though necessary, having these conversations can be pretty daunting, especially when speaking to someone like a potential boss or executive. Sanni-Thomas shares that he, too, approached these issues with hesitancy at the start of his career, but over time, his attitude changed.
"Over the course of my 13-year career, I've learned that it's quite common for people to enter the workforce aware of the discrimination they may face, but with a belief that they will be able to weather the storm," he says.
"I was one of those people. But as I rose through organizations, I had the opportunity to be more vocal. And my audience and tone changed over that time. I went from politely trying to point out this was happening, to realizing that people knew it was happening, and feeling like I needed a megaphone to galvanize support."