Beyond the Language of “Equal Opportunity Employer”​

“We are an equal opportunity employer.” Companies are required to include this statement or a similar phrase in their job descriptions, a supposed attempt to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But how inclusive is this short phrase? Does this generic line truly encourage individuals of underrepresented groups to apply to […]

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“We are an equal opportunity employer.”

Companies are required to include this statement or a similar phrase in their job descriptions, a supposed attempt to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But how inclusive is this short phrase? Does this generic line truly encourage individuals of underrepresented groups to apply to the job at hand? Does it guarantee a woman’s application will be judged with the same expectations as a man’s, that Black individuals will not be held to harsher standards than white individuals, that the transgender community can expect the same treatment as cisgender people? Most of the time, no. This standard language is exactly that: standard, if not the bare minimum. As such, this standard must be changed.

While there is more to ensuring diverse, inclusive workplace environments than modification of language in job descriptions alone, these smaller steps are just as crucial to the big picture as larger ones. By going above and beyond the standard statement and providing additional, detailed information about inclusivity in the hiring process, companies make important progress in generating inclusion all around. Consider the two examples below:

Deloitte:

“Our diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture empowers our people to be who they are, contribute their unique perspectives, and make a difference individually and collectively. It enables us to leverage different ideas and perspectives, and bring more creativity and innovation to help solve our client most complex challenges. This makes Deloitte one of the most rewarding places to work. Learn more about our inclusive culture.”

“What we do for our clients, we strive to do for our own people: make an impact that matters. We are regularly recognized as a top employer across a range of categories, including inclusion, well-being, innovation, leadership, and places to start your career. To learn more, check out our latest accolades.”

“From entry-level employees to senior leaders, we believe there’s always room to learn. We offer opportunities to build new skills, take on leadership opportunities and connect and grow through mentorship. From on-the-job learning experiences to formal development programs, our professionals have a variety of opportunities to continue to grow throughout their career. Learn more about our commitment to developing our people.”

Mastercard:

“We cultivate a culture of inclusion for all employees that respects their individual strengths, views, and experiences. We believe that our differences enable us to be a better team – one that makes better decisions, drives innovation and delivers better business results.”

A crucial element present in both of these statements can be summarized as “the why.” Not only do these organizations emphasize that they are equal opportunity employers, they provide explanations into why equal opportunity and diverse employment is essential for their workplace. When a company can articulate the reasons behind their desire for diversity, it is a sign they truly value different perspectives. If an organization is able to recognize and lay out the benefits they gain from a diverse and inclusive workplace, then it is safe to conclude the environments they foster are inclusive not just in language, but in practice, too.


Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company. Her mission is providing guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within their organization.

Through keynote speeches, training programs and executive coaching, Dima has empowered thousands of professionals across the globe to expand their leadership potential.

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