To Highlight or Hide: Navigating Diversity in Internship Applications was originally published on College Recruiter.
In an increasingly competitive job market, internships have become essential stepping stones for students to gain valuable experience and build their professional networks. As students from diverse backgrounds navigate the internship application process, they may wonder whether to highlight or hide their identities as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, First Generation, Black and African American, Latino, economically disadvantaged, or women. This article will explore the pros and cons of emphasizing diversity on internship applications, considering the potential benefits of standing out as well as the risks of facing discrimination.
Benefits of Emphasizing Diversity
- Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs
Many organizations have affirmative action and equal opportunity programs aimed at increasing diversity in the workplace. By highlighting their diverse backgrounds, students may increase their chances of being selected for these programs. Emphasizing diversity can help to signal to employers that the student is a good fit for their organization’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment.
- Unique Perspectives and Skillsets
Diversity is often linked to innovation and creativity, as individuals from different backgrounds bring unique perspectives and experiences to the table. Highlighting one’s diverse background can demonstrate to employers that the student has valuable skills and experiences to contribute to the organization. For example, bilingual students may have language skills that are highly valued in certain industries.
- Scholarships and Grants
Some organizations offer scholarships, grants, or other forms of financial assistance specifically for students from underrepresented backgrounds. By showcasing their diversity, students may become eligible for these opportunities, making it more feasible for them to pursue internships.
Risks of Emphasizing Diversity
- Discrimination and Bias
Unfortunately, discrimination and bias continue to persist in the workplace. By emphasizing their diverse background, students may inadvertently expose themselves to discrimination, both in the application process and during the internship. It is essential for students to be aware of their rights and to report any discriminatory behavior they may encounter.
Tokenism refers to the practice of including a few individuals from underrepresented groups in a team or organization, primarily for the sake of appearing diverse or inclusive. Emphasizing one’s diverse background could potentially lead to being perceived as a “token” employee, which may limit opportunities for growth and development during the internship.
- Stereotyping and Prejudice
Highlighting one’s diverse background can sometimes lead to stereotyping or prejudice, as people may make assumptions about the individual based on their identity. Students should weigh the benefits of emphasizing their diversity against the risk of encountering these negative attitudes.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether students should highlight or hide their diversity when applying for internships. Each student must consider their unique situation and weigh the potential benefits and risks. For some, emphasizing diversity can open doors to opportunities and enhance their internship experience. For others, it may be best to focus on their qualifications and achievements, without drawing attention to their diverse background.
Ultimately, organizations should work to create inclusive environments where diversity is valued, and employees are judged on their skills and contributions, rather than their backgrounds. In the meantime, students should be mindful of their rights and resources as they navigate the internship application process, regardless of whether they choose to highlight or hide their diverse backgrounds.