Questions to Ask in an Interview to Assess Whether a Company Supports Diversity and Inclusion


It’s no secret the biotech industry is actively striving to meet modern day inclusion and diversity standards. Although there are many paths to take, as the biotech industry as a whole has been mainly dominated by white males since its beginning, more and more women and minorities are opting for a biotech career over other STEM opportunities at an increasing rate. Recently, many women stated that being the only female working a biotech job at a male-dominated company can lead to some awkward moments, culture-clashes and microaggressions. Undeniably, unless the company is dedicated to hiring more qualified minorities and women, cultural problems in the workplace can make time on the job somewhat uncomfortable and isolating. However, this raises a very important question – how can a candidate tell if the company he or she is interviewing with is determined to encourage and support diversity?

Luckily, there are several ways to assess if a biotech company has plans in place to diversify their workplace or if they have already achieved this milestone.

Who Manages the Company? Who Will the Candidate Work Under?

Businesses determined to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion will take it all the way to the top. Are the managers solely white men? The owners? Some of this information, such as the names (and pictures) of the owners, can be found while researching the company and then doing a little detective work. However, the managers and other leaders’ presence won’t be as obvious online, meaning that the candidate will need to ask this question during the interview process. Who will the candidate work under? If the answer is a woman or a person of color, and this is represented throughout the leadership, then the company most likely actively supports diversity. If not, then they either haven’t jumped aboard the inclusion boat or they may be just starting out on their diversity journey. It takes time and commitment to diversify a company culture.

How Are Their Work Hours and Benefits Structured?

Companies that are dedicated to workplace diversity and inclusion will have less structured work hours and more flexibility. Their benefits packages, including things like maternity and paternity leave, will reflect this as well. If the workday is a strict 9am to 5pm with no exceptions (except for the required overtime when a project needs to be completed to hit a deadline), then their culture may not be as diverse as wanted. The same is true for biotech companies that expect everyone to put in 14-hour days Monday through Friday. Those businesses usually aren’t family-friendly for working parents and are probably not as inclusive as one may like. However, flexible schedules, great benefits and the pressure to leave work “at work” are signs that the company is modern in many ways and that stems all the way to the diversity of their employees.

How Do They Define Inclusion and Diversity?

During the interview process, ask about how the company defines inclusion and diversity. The ones that truly want a diverse workforce will have clear definitions in place, without a focus on numbers. The companies that immediately state they have a certain ratio of female / minority workers are clearly not thinking in terms of inclusion. Instead, they are adhering to a quota system.

A biotech company that thrives on diversity and inclusion will not only have working definitions of both these terms, but they will also have a workplace culture that brings everyone together. It’s about making sure that everyone has a voice, and no one is left out. The longer the definitions and description of their culture, the more work that has gone into ensuring that they are truly as diverse as they claim.

Ask to See the Workplace

Finally, ask to see what the workplace looks like. While a candidate may not be able to physically walk through due to privacy laws protecting proprietary information, there’s a possibility that the person interviewing will be able to bring in a future co-worker or even have a way to show off what everything looks like without giving away trade secrets. However, this is a question that should wait until the second or third round of interviews, as the odds of being able to look around are higher knowing the candidate is actually in consideration for the job. While getting a tour of the place, glance around at the employees. If there are numerous women and minorities present, then the company clearly wants to ensure they are diversifying their team and promoting inclusivity.

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