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Real-World Insight on Diversity in the Workplace Empowers Students

Real-World Insight on Diversity in the Workplace Empowers Students

By Jennifer Spencer

Two upcoming events will seek to educate Fordham students about the realities of diversity in the world of work.

The Career Services Office will host its inaugural Diversity Conference on February 9, and hold the annual Diversity Networking Banquet on March 6.

Maria Aponte, internship and experiential education coordinator, said that the conference, "Diversity in the World of Work: Finding Balance, Achieving Empowerment" is open to all students and will feature panelists from employers including Google, Bloomberg Financial, NBC, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

The conference, which was originally scheduled for November 3 and postponed due to Hurricane Sandy, will include sessions on Communication Across Multiple Generations, Nanobites That Sting: From Microinequities to a Culture of Inclusion, and Diversity in Leadership.

Cassie Sklarz, the associate director of Career Services for the Rose Hill campus, said that though the upcoming events are a great way to build exposure to the services provided by the office, they are just one part of an everyday mission to serve all Fordham students.

"We try to cater our services to every population at Fordham," Sklarz said. "We recognize that there are certain populations who have different needs, whether it's a different major or gender or race or nationality or socioeconomic status."

Both the diversity conference and the March networking banquet give students a chance to meet directly with employers, to network, and learn about the realities of the world of work.

Sklarz said that whether students identify with a diverse population or not, she hopes they will take the opportunity to learn about what some of their friends and co-workers might experience in the workplace.

"Fordham as a university is preparing people for working, living, and contributing in a global society and contributing in a global society. A diverse background contributes to that immensely," she said.

Sklarz said she encourages all students to be both realistic about biases that may exist in the world of work and remain true to themselves. Whether the offending attitude is clear-cut discrimination or a more subtle slight, Sklarz said she always tells students they should present themselves in an interview in a way that allows them to feel comfortable.

"A lot of female students ask if they should wear heels on an interview. I tell them, 'You can wear heels, but if you aren't comfortable, you're not going to be confident,'" she said.

She said the same advice applies to students who have been involved in groups that may be viewed as controversial by some employers, such as gay rights advocacy groups.

"That's a personal decision, if a student wants to out him or herself in an interview, but they absolutely should say that they were president of a group, because there are so many skills that come along with that," Sklarz said.

Charlie Martin is the president of the Rainbow Alliance, a student group that supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. He said that Career Service's presentations helped him think critically about what kind of organization he would be willing to work for.

"Unfortunately, not every single company is as friendly as others, and one of the points [Sklarz] made is that if you find yourself applying to an org that doesn't fully support, or even actively works against, the LGBT community, maybe that's not the kind of place you want to work for anyway," Martin said.

"It brought it to a realistic place, and that was cool," he said.

Students are encouraged to sign up for the Diversity Conference and the Diversity Networking Banquet via CareerLink at the Career Services Office website.

Aponte said she can accommodate a limited number of parent attendees at the Feb. 9 Diversity Conference. Call Career Services at 718-817-4350 or 212-636-6280 for more information.

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