TAMPA, Fla.—Michael Cohen has some simple advice for employers concerned about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.
Take it a step farther.
Cohen, a partner in Duane Morris L.L.P. in Philadelphia and a national authority on employment issues, maintains that if an employer considers candidates who offer diversity in non-Equal Opportunity Employee areas, the workplace will be a better place.
Most employers, Cohen said, consider only EEO diversity: areas such as age, gender, race, color, religion, disability, national origin, sexual orientation or membership in any other group protected by law.
“If we look around the room, and all we see is white faces, we say to ourselves, something isn't going quite right here,” Cohen told the Rubber Rollers Group at its recent annual meeting in Tampa, Fla. Cohen addressed the group twice during the conference, including a presentation entitled, “Dear Helga—You're never going to believe what my employer did this time!”
“Your organization will not be as successful as it can be if that's the way your work force is composed,” he said.
But Cohen said if an employer seriously considers diversity in other areas—such as educational background, geographic location, income status, political perspective, work experience and physical stature—the other requirements will take care of themselves.
For example, he took issue with some job postings that require a four-year college degree.
“What is so magical about a diploma and someone who spent four years and a couple hundred thousand dollars to get this degree?” said Cohen, who has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Temple University Beasley School of Law.
He acknowledged that some positions require a license or certification.
“Outside of those, ask yourself why?” he said. “Overwhelmingly, the goal is to hire the best person I can hire for my organization. Very often, that means the person may have a different educational background, a non-traditional educational background.
“You want to make sure that your work environment is one that is inclusive, is diverse and is comfortable for as many as possible as much of the time as possible.”
Diversity was just one of the many topics that Cohen discussed during his talk.