Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): it’s so much more than a title or a line in your company’s mission statement.
It’s building an inclusive community that encourages continued growth for everyone, regardless of their background.
Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) empowers Latinos by providing opportunities, resources, and space for networking. I’m the former president of the University of Illinois’s student chapter. I used to work at a restaurant taking orders. I was miserable. Now I’m getting relocated across the country while getting paid for doing work I’m passionate about. ALPFA helped change my mindset and taught me how to maneuver the networking and corporate world.
Building a diverse pipeline is the first thing companies must work on, but this can be hard because some students don’t know about opportunities. The hardest part isn’t getting students in the talent pool but making sure inclusion is driven throughout the company. It’s important to build culture, make sure everyone knows the mission, and raise awareness of implicit bias.
First, a company should start with mission goals and transparency with diversity reporting. Also, opportunities that have employee resource groups are significant. When I was searching for companies to work at, I asked about the DEI initiatives and ERGs. I noticed some companies didn’t prioritize creating inclusive spaces, and therefore I chose not to join. I needed to see representation because it’s motivating to see other people like me succeeding and seeking mentorship.
You hear pipelines everywhere with diversity, but companies need to emphasize the experience during the recruiting process. It can feel like you're just treated like a number or like valuable cargo. Companies will pay a pretty buck to get diverse talents, but if it doesn't work, they'll immediately pivot to the next diverse student organizations. It's essential to be more mindful when recruiting and not abrasive when giving job offers.
You can see this in the recruitment process of business fraternities. They need to meet diversity quotas to reach out to multi-cultural organizations. In the interview process, you begin to see implicit bias when interviewing. The social fit questions in the process make the interviewers think: Do you speak like me? Act like me? Are you the same as me? This social fit criterion is a significant problem when the organizations are predominantly white as it continues to leave diverse students out.
The same thing happens in corporate America. Recruiters need training to recognize implicit biases during the interview process. Some people don't have interview experience or parents who have interviewed. Companies should provide inclusion resources before the interviewing process. Google gives a document that details how to interview with Google and recruiting office hours if you have questions. Before the interview, companies should set up diversity programs that help expose students to resources to get them in the company and feel included.
Students don't apply, especially first-gen students, because they don't know what's there and don't feel qualified. You see more white male candidates who are very confident in their qualifications because they have people in their circle who have gone through the process. When you don't have someone in your circle who pushes you or helps with interview prep, resume-writing, etc., you don't even get to the applying part. Exposure is a huge part of not feeling imposter syndrome, thus applying.
I joined Paragon One as a Diversity Engagement Intern. I wanted to continue to empower members of ALPFA with externship opportunities. I drove 98 applications from students across the nation by networking with five ALPFA chapters. To do this, I thought, "What platforms do I have access to, and how can I be a resource without shoving marketing materials?" I accessed the ALPFA president's GroupMe chat and asked if anyone wanted to hop on a Zoom call to learn how to do corporate sponsorship packages. I would then walk them through how our chapter got up to 13 sponsors this year and show them how to get their first one with Paragon One. As a result, 28 applicants through ALPFA completed the PwC externship program and said they found it very valuable. When running for leadership within ALPFA, they even mentioned the PwC externship and its application to philanthropy.
Paragon One runs remote externship programs (powered by our software) for PwC, Facebook/Meta, Pfizer, National Geographic, Snapchat, Cargill, HP, etc., to provide an opportunity to underserved students through professional experiences. We scale these externships to many students while minimizing the impact on manager/HR time at companies.
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Interested in running your remote externship program that targets diverse talent? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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