Diversity is not just a word to me. It is the backbone of what makes a great community. The culture we have at AlleyNYC is made up of all different people, working in all different industries. This is not by chance, but rather by thoughtful design. Putting the same people with the same backgrounds in a room together, talking about the same thing is like watching paint dry.

Diversity is not checking the box for us, it's a MUST.

For large, bureaucratic institutions, diversity has become a hot topic and, much like any political topic, most companies are simply checking the box. I personally think it's awesome that the conversation is happening, but are we doing everything we can to help balance the playing field? In my opinion, the playing field is completely screwed up and unbalanced, so how do we fix it? How do we get out of the old school “Mad Men” tendencies and grow up already.

I met up with Star Jones, former host of The View and current president of the Professional Diversity Network, to see how she feels about this imbalance and what she is doing about it:

Q: What do you believe is the biggest issue?

A: That is easy. Equal pay for equal work. Women working full-time today, on average, earn 78 percent of what men make. For black women, it’s worse. We earn 64 cents to every dollar a man earns. Think all of that is bad? How about this... Hispanic women earn 56 percent of what men earn. Without a doubt, this is the biggest challenge to American professional women. If a woman is doing the same job as a man, she should earn the same wage.

Q: What is the Professional Diversity Network?

A: As the name implies, Professional Diversity Network is committed to providing professional diverse candidates with access to employment opportunities. At PDN, we develop and operate online and in-person professional-networking communities dedicated to serving diverse professionals in the U.S., as well as employers seeking to be inclusive and hire diverse talent. As the only diversity-specific resource that partners with leading organizations like the National Hispanic MBA Association, National Association of Black Attorneys, the NAACP, National Urban League, Veteran and LGBT organizations, the ultimate goal of PDN is to make every workplace across America more inclusive.

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The merger of NAPW and PDN brought together PDN’s 4-million-plus registered job seekers with NAPW’s 700,000-plus professional members, making for a powerful pipeline of diverse professional talent that business can tap into to reach their diversity and inclusion goals. It’s important to remember that diversity isn’t just about race. It includes women, veterans, disabled persons and professionals in the LGBT community. That’s my charge at PDN—to help all Americans find good paying jobs.

Q: How specifically does PDN help?

A: Diversifying the workforce is a tough job. Employers must engage the RIGHT partner to recruit qualified, diverse candidates. It’s as much art as it is science. And that’s where PDN comes in. We match diverse talent with employers looking to hire diverse candidates. We do that using technology. Our latest tool available to hiring companies is a software program called Hire AdvantEdge. It allows employers to establish search criteria and baseline qualifications for prospective candidates. That information is imported to the software program, which generates a report of candidates who meet the employer’s criteria and qualifications. The employers take it from there. PDN also offers a complimentary résumé critique, as well as a service called Résunate, our résumé optimization tool, an online portal with more than 100,000 job listings, and countless events and networking opportunities for NAPW members through our 200 local chapters.

Q: How can someone join the PDN?

A: Diverse job seekers can join PDN free at www.prodivnet.com. It’s simple. Select an affinity, create an account and start accessing all of our job search tools and services.

Q: Star, we spoke a lot about how companies today are simply "checking the box" and not doing anything that is really moving the needle on this topic. How do you feel this is going to get companies to not just "check the box?"

A: Diversity is not just about doing what's right, it's about doing what's good for business. Countless studies have shown that companies with diverse employees—particularly in positions of leadership—outperform companies that are homogenous. Diverse employees bring different experiences and perspectives that often lead to innovative ideas. That innovation impacts positively to a company's bottom line.

When it comes to women in leadership roles, the data is quite conclusive. A recent McKinsey and Company study entitled "Women Matter" showed that companies where women are most strongly represented at board or top-management levels are also the companies that perform the best. A six-year global research study conducted by Credit Suisse, beginning in 2006, of more than 2,000 companies worldwide showed that women on boards improve business performance by key metrics, including stock performance. A third study at Oklahoma State University found that board diversity, including diversity with respect to gender and ethnicity, is associated with improved financial value. Better performance, strong stock performance and improved financial value all areas that matter to all companies, and that's why diversity makes good business sense.

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Q: What are some events coming up that people can sign up for and attend?

A: We have relaunched our regional networking events as a three-city National Networking Summit Series. The first stop in the series is Chicago’s Navy Pier – Lakeview Terrace – on Friday, June 26, followed by Los Angeles on August 7 and New York City on November 6. The all-day event includes unlimited networking opportunities for the attendees, 20-minute training / educational sessions, an inspiring “Whole Woman Power Panel” of accomplished businesswomen and a Professional Diversity Career Fair. Attendees will walk away with new contacts to continue to build their professional network; tips and advice on a number of workplace issues and a renewed focus on advancing their career and empowering their lives. Our 200 local chapters around the country host meetings and events throughout the year. A full calendar listing is available on our website, www.NAPW.com.

Q: Why is this so important to you?

A: Over the years, I’ve built a strong portfolio of professional experience – from attorney, news correspondent and talk show host to producer, fashion designer, businesswoman and now President of Professional Diversity Network and NAPW, making me one of small handful of African-American women leading a public company in the U.S.

The key for me has always been maintaining a consistent personal brand that connects organically and authentically with my professional brand. Clearly the mission of PDN and NAPW connect seamlessly to my goals and core values. Our mission is to utilize the collective strength of our members, partners and unique proprietary platform to be the standard in business diversity recruiting, networking and professional development for women, minorities, veterans, LGBT and disabled persons globally. My professional reputation as a legal authority and advocate for women and diversity and inclusion strengthens and increases my credibility when using my access to a worldwide media platform to redefine diversity in America.

I would like to say that I wholeheartedly believe in what Star is doing. Look for updates on these initiatives as well as really great things we are doing at AlleyNYC to move the needle on this topic. Until then, HUSTLE ON.

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