Students’ Take on Diversity Programs

Courtesy of Blue Ridge Community College.

Written by Krithika Kommana

With the competition so rigorous and these programs so targeted, students seem to perceive diversity as a tag, or label, that can be leveraged and exploited rather than embraced. This completely defeats the purpose of diversity as a critical component to a workplace, and most importantly, as a concept.

It’s no secret that a significant number of Stern students decide to recruit for careers in finance. A recent wave has begun across the corporate world in an attempt to raise awareness and create momentum for diversity in the workplace. In recent years, every bulge bracket firm has established diversity and women’s programs to acquire as many minorities as they can to be a part of their bank. The objective to implement these programs is to ensure to potential candidates that diversity in the workplace is a critical component of the firm’s corporate social responsibility. Having these programs attracts talent from all backgrounds and fosters a good reputation for the firm, giving opportunities to minority groups.

Simmi Uppaladadium, an incoming sophomore scholar for Girls Who Invest (a nonprofit organization targeted towards women pursuing careers in asset management) comments on how diversity programs have affected her.

“Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is inspiring because it gives you a chance to move up the corporate letter and the gap seems to be lessening,” says Simmi. “Getting into a selective program like Girls Who Invest has given me confidence that I have the skill set I need to succeed in this industry. It’s becoming  more inspiring than it is limiting.”

Pedro Tenreiro, an openly gay senior who will be an incoming full-time analyst at J.P. Morgan and is a member of J.P.’s Proud to Be Diversity program, speaks on how this helped him.

“I felt that my program, Proud to Be, helped me because I felt really included and found a great community,” says Pedro. “It provided a lot of mentorship and support and helped understand the struggles I was going through. These diversity programs help level the playing field and incorporate underrepresented groups. ”

While students definitely experience the positive aspects of diversity programs, some of the implications don’t exactly serve the purpose of these programs. A new dialogue claims that these programs can be deemed as “unfair” or a way for students to get an “easier access,” completely neglecting students’ talents and qualifications. For some, these diversity programs serve as an excuse for why people get internships that undermines their success. Jodie Miller, president of Undergraduate Stern Women in Business, provides insight on this new controversy.

“I’ve noticed something damaging that comes out of these diversity programs,” remarks Jodie. “It seems that females feel as if they get an unfair advantage. There’s an idea that these programs make it easier to get a job, and that they only get it because of a diversity program and underrepresentation rather than their qualifications. I don’t think it’s an easier way at all. It’s quite damaging for these young women because it defeats the purpose of having these programs. It makes them feel like their achievement doesn’t have worth.”

With the competition so rigorous and these programs so targeted, students seem to perceive diversity as a tag, or label, that can be leveraged and exploited rather than embraced. This completely defeats the purpose of diversity as a critical component to a workplace, and most importantly, as a concept.

“[Diversity programs] need to have a culture of support that allows them to be supportive, rather than a one time meet-and-greet,” says Pedro. “Adding a label to the candidate, whether you’re a person of color or a woman is counterproductive, because that is discrimination. These programs should be about inclusion.”

The fact of the matter is, the trend towards fostering a diverse workplace and shifting the demographics have only begun. It possibly might even take another 10-15 years to see a more significant shift in statistics for minority groups to have a stronger presence, especially when trying to move up a corporate ladder. But something important to remember is that these diversity programs ultimately aim to help facilitate a sense of inclusion for minority groups who are interested in the financial services industry.

“I came to NYU because it was such an international campus, and as an international student, I really wanted that global experience,” says Jodie. “I was able to deal with different types of people. Even if you don’t agree with a person’s perspective, you can learn from it, be exposed to more and gain something out of it.”

Rather than seeing these diversity programs as an exploitation or an easy way into internship programs, it’s important that we take a take a step back as a student body and remember what diversity actually means beyond the scope of gender, race, or sexual orientation.  It is an opportunity to challenge the status quo of the corporate culture and make a difference with what they can bring to the table. The diversity of perspective, thought, and skill embody who we are as unique individuals. These programs should be seen as ways to foster mentorship and inclusion, and congregate our individuality to encourage a powerful community. How we use these opportunities to create momentum is what will gradually spark significant changes in the culture of the corporate world.

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