Newly published Author, Jen Welsh, recently sat down with Pangea.app to discuss the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Jen is a Pangea client and member of New Degree Press, a publishing agency whose authors have had success hiring Pangeans as publishing assistants. Detailing their experiences hiring for a non-profit teacher preparation program, Jen provided great insight into how businesses can hire with DEI in mind, and offers advice to historically underrepresented groups and members of the LGBTQ+ community who may be entering the job market for the first time.
Did the organization you were hiring for have any practices in place regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?
It was a value of this non-profit to make sure their teacher trainers reflected the diversity of the teachers and students they were serving. Our teachers were serving predominantly low-income communities with high percentages of children of color. We wanted our staff members to reflect that population as much as possible, so we aimed to hire 50% people of color in these roles.
For us, it was important that all students and teachers had role models who looked like them or shared similar identity markers. This way they could have that mentor, that person they could connect with on all levels.
What were some of the challenges you faced trying to accomplish these goals?
I think awareness of our program was one. Just making sure people knew we existed and were offering summer opportunities for teachers and school leaders to gain additional compensation and professional development. Then, it was just knowing where to recruit. It was more than just putting a listing out on our website. It requires more proactive recruitment of people from different backgrounds.
When we first connected, you mentioned that one of the things you heard most often was that companies simply don’t have a lot of people of color or LGBTQ+ community members applying to their jobs.
Yes, I think there are different recruitment avenues. For us it was asking people for recommendations, going into schools and giving presentations on the program, and just putting a lot of effort into the recruitment phase. Once you get candidates into the pipeline you have to go with the best, so making sure there is diversity in your recruitment process is an important step towards having diversity in that final candidate pool.
Your new novel, Of Marks And Murder is centered around a member of the LGBTQ+ Community, correct?
Yes, my main character, Olivia, identifies as a lesbian. The story navigates relationships and life as a woman on a film set. I think that’s an industry that has historically been dominated by men, so it touches on gender representation as well.
When it comes to businesses being more proactive in hiring a diverse, equitable, inclusive staff, what would be some of your advice to them?
I think it would be to recruit in as many places as possible. Be aware that people who grew up in under-resourced communities might take longer to get the skills and resources they need to succeed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Startups especially move super fast and need people who are going to work really hard and get things done, but they might miss out on someone who is coachable and just needs a little more development.
Consider the path someone has taken and whether or not they’ve shown resilience along the way. Their path might not look the same as someone graduating from an Ivy League college, but that’s okay.
What advice would you give members of the LGBTQ+ and other historically underrepresented communities entering the workforce for the first time?
I would say mentorships and networking is really important. Find what resources are available to you locally. I’ve had mentors in every space I’ve been in, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. Even with the experience writing my first novel, my two biggest mentors at NDP were a lesbian couple who went through the program before. Just put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to reach out to members of your community. There are so many local and virtual groups who can help you find those valuable connections.