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November 05, 2021

3 Strategies for DEI Internship Programming

Fostering inclusion and belonging is central to building a successful internship. Our research finds that “feelings of belonging” is the top driver of intern conversion and among the top five drivers of satisfaction. 

Here, we’re sharing three key strategies you can leverage in your DEI internship programming to foster belonging and show interns your commitment to inclusion and diversity.

(1) Draw on Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and affinity groups.

Employee Resource Groups and affinity groups are great ways to bring employees with similar identities and experiences together in a supportive environment. These groups can also be critical for connecting interns from underrepresented groups and providing them with a community that can help foster feelings of inclusion and belonging.

First, get in touch with ERG leaders early on to talk about welcoming interns and hosting intern-specific events. You can even consider establishing intern-only groups if your program size is large enough.

Remember to ensure interns are aware and in the loop about the opportunities they have to get involved with ERGs and affinity groups through orientation and direct invitations

Finally, ERGs provide a lot of value to organizations and do a lot of work to advance DEI as whole, not just for DEI internship programming. As your organization looks to them for additional support of interns, make sure to acknowledge, reward, and compensate them for this labor.

(2) Engage leaders from diverse backgrounds.

Along with meeting fellow interns and other employees through ERGs, interns are interested in connecting with company leadership, as well. Identify a diverse group of leaders and executives at your organization to participate in roundtables and other executive presentations to talk about their experiences and answer interns’ questions. A robust DEI strategy overall is valuable to any organization overall, and that trickles down to interns as well. 

Encourage leadership to talk to interns more directly as well through coffee chats or informational interviews. This shows interns that they are valued and appreciated by the organization. Make sure that there is equity by scheduling coffee chats for all interns or utilizing an internal tracker to check that all interns are getting the opportunity to connect with leadership equally. 

(3) Leverage individual relationships.

Finally, help interns build connections across your organization. Supporting interns in establishing relationships with employees both from similar and different backgrounds can help them feel like they belong and are fully included. 

Frequent one-on-one conversations with managers and mentors are key ways to check in with interns on their experience and ensure they are getting the support they need.

Together, these three strategies can go a long way in building inclusive internship programs that foster a real sense of belonging and community among interns. As you build out your programming, you can also consider bringing on an internship inclusion coordinator to be a point-person for all DEI-related events and activities and to help implement each of these strategies.

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