Companies such as Microsoft, Alaska Airlines and Port of Seattle all offer diversity initiatives and employee resource groups focused on disabilities, Native American employees, gay and lesbian employees and even baby-boomer employees.

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Microsoft employs more than 97,000 employees in more than 110 countries, developing products and services as varied and unique as its markets. “In order to be successful around the world, we need to be a fully diverse and inclusive environment,” says Keami Lewis, the company’s director of global diversity and inclusion.

A diverse workforce can even help a company test a product’s market appeal and interest. For example, Microsoft’s cross-disability employee-resource group helps test functionality of software. It’s not just about offering opportunity — it’s also smart business.

So Microsoft — along with many other global companies — takes diversity seriously. The company invests in creating a “talent pipeline” via career fairs, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives and outreach to professional groups.

Diverse employment categories include women and men in non-traditional jobs, and underrepresented groups in specific career fields. Some organizations may broaden diversity to include sexual orientation, disability status, veteran status, age and other categories.

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Want to get in on this talent pipeline? Join in-person professional networking groups, suggests Kristen Fife, a Puget Sound-area recruiter.

A few such groups include Digital Eve (digitaleve.org), the National Society of Black Engineers (nsbe.org) and the National Society of Asian American Professionals (seattle.naaap.org). These organizations often hold recruiting events, and they offer tools, conferences and resources, Lewis says.

Find a professional group

The University of Chicago’s HR services department has a list of national professional organizations for women and minorities.

Locally, visit iloveseattle.org for a list of professional organizations and networking events.

Recruiters, by law, can’t ask about age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status or sexual orientation. But job seekers can indicate involvement in various organizations on their resume or professional profile.

A recruiting goal is to get “as many diverse candidates applying as possible,” says Fife, and to reach out to all qualified applicants. The job itself comes down to the right person for the job, recommendations and networking affiliations — not skin color, gender or orientation.

If you’re in an underrepresented group, don’t hesitate to reach out to a company’s recruiter to find out more about the company’s pro-diversity initiatives, job fairs and other talent pipelines.

Companies such as Microsoft, Alaska Airlines and Port of Seattle all offer diversity initiatives and employee resource groups focused on disabilities, Native American employees, gay and lesbian employees and even baby-boomer employees.

How do you know if the company will be a good fit for you?

“Scope out the hiring institution, agency or business,” says Beryl Fernandes, an independent management consultant who has also helped mentor low-income students and students of color for 18 years. She says that there can be a discrepancy between the organizational mission that promotes diversity, and what really happens once hired by the organization.

“Being hired is not the end of the process,” Fernandes says. “Once you get in, are you going to get the support you need to function at your best?”

The CEO may support diverse hiring and retention practices, but lower-level managers may have unresolved issues about working with diverse groups.

Look at the organizational chart to see how diversity plays out in management and supervisory positions, Fernandes suggests. Another positive: a balanced workforce throughout the organization (representing multiple backgrounds) and all-staff activities that help build rapport and understanding.

“If they’re having fun together, it’s a good indicator,” Fernandes says.

But if there’s a more homogenous organization that wants your perspective, consider it an option, Fernandes says. “Go with your gut,” she suggests. Even if a manager is of the same group (gender, race, orientation, age), it doesn’t mean that he or she is necessarily going to be supportive, she says.

Fernandes suggests that people of color, women and other historically underrepresented groups keep an open mind when seeking a mentor. “There are white males who are supportive and sympathetic who are incredible,” she says.

“Look at the person and their willingness to help you,” she says, “rather than the color of their skin or their sexual orientation.”