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How to judge a company's real attitude toward diversity and inclusion

Sophia Ahmad, chief marketing officer at Xfinity Consumer Services, explains how you can get beyond the buzzwords and find out if there is action and intention behind a company.
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For job hunters seeking an employer that truly values diversity, equity and inclusion, it can be a challenging time. DE&I discussions have been thrust into the mainstream, which is fantastic — but how can women find out who’s merely giving lip service, and who might be the perfect fit for their careers?

“Look beyond the website, ask smart questions and talk to as many people as you can,” said Sophia Ahmad, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Xfinity Consumer Services, in an interview. “Vet the company. It’s just as important as them vetting you.”

Ahmad is “one of three girls raised by a brilliant mum and dad who moved to England from India in the early 1960s, and they were innovative for their time,” she said. “They were incredibly encouraging and told us we had to get an education and be able to stand up on our own two feet.”

Sophia Ahmad, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Xfinity Consumer Services.Comcast

That’s just what she did. And as she emerged from school and took a position at Ernst & Young, spent 15 years at Sky TV and ultimately came to Comcast, she learned to identify the values most important to her — and to seek them in her job interviews.

Ahmad wanted to find companies where she could “continuously improve and learn,” and she sought positions that offered rich opportunities for her career while valuing her skill, her point of view and her identity as a southeast Asian-Muslim woman. Here are her tips for women seeking an employer that is genuinely dedicated to inclusivity.

Ask about DE&I in action.

Get beyond the buzzwords and find out if there is action and intention behind a company’s avowed DE&I commitment. “It can be as simple as: ‘I read about your diversity initiatives on your website. Can you tell me about how that comes to life?’” Ahmad said.

Note: This shouldn’t be a question just for HR or DE&I executives to answer. If a culture of inclusivity and diversity has truly permeated the company, your interviewer should be able to speak to it — no matter their role.

“If the person you’re interviewing with can’t say they personally truly believe in this value, or it isn’t their area, that can be a problem,” Ahmad said.

Meet with your would-be peers.

Ahmad always recommends talking with people beyond your interviewers. If the discussions seem to be going well, ask to meet with other members of the team. Your would-be peers may be more candid than an interviewer, and a casual conversation may help you feel more comfortable asking certain questions. You’ll also get a better sense of the culture of the team and the personalities of potential colleagues.

“If I want to hire someone, I’d love for them to ask me that,” Ahmad said. “That gives both of us a much better chance of ensuring this is the right fit.”

Beware of a “yes man” culture.

Inclusivity also means welcoming diversity of thought, Ahmad noted: “In coming to Comcast one of the things that was important to me was that we had different types of people – not necessarily in how they looked, but in terms of perspectives. I liked this attitude of ‘Everyone bring your point of view, and we can work through things together.’”

It would be a red flag for Ahmad, she said, if hiring managers seem to employ a “my way” leadership style or if everyone appears to think the same way.

“A team where everyone absolutely agrees with everything and nods along at every comment would not excite me,” Ahmad said. “It shows there’s no opportunity to grow, and I don’t have interest in that.”

Disclaimer: Comcast is the parent company of NBC Universal. Know Your Value is part of NBC News.