8 Strategies to Innovate and Achieve Diversity in Tech
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No matter what industry you work in, inclusivity is an essential factor. While many see inclusivity policies as paying lip service, it is something that every business should be encouraging. While great strides have been made across several sectors in moving toward equality and parity, some are lagging behind. One of those sectors is the tech sector.
In fact, diversity in tech still has a long way to go. There are massive gaps when it comes to inclusivity when it comes to both racial and gender diversity. This is especially true at the management or executive levels.
If you look at the largest tech companies in the US (Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple), women only make up 34.4% of the workforce. At the executive level, 88.3% are caucasian, and 71% of those executives are male. How can you promote diversity in tech and make your organization a more inclusive one?
Why is Diversity Important in Tech?
Diversity in computing and other tech sectors is not only important for moral reasons. Your customer base is likely very diverse. So, a diverse workforce not only reflects that customer base, it can also contribute towards a better understanding of buyer needs.
Clinging to anachronistic business models that exclude women and/or people of color (POC) can reflect badly on how the public perceives you. Diversity is everywhere you look, and diversity in tech should be a natural progression from that.
Let’s focus on the gender gap for a moment. Consider, for a moment, the fact that women contribute to 85% of consumer spending. Do you think women will choose to spend money with a company that promotes diversity or one that clings to those outdated, discriminatory models?
The other thing to consider when promoting inclusivity is that a diverse workforce brings more than their experience and skills to the table. They also bring different backgrounds and opinions to your business. This encourages a diverse company culture, which can bring new ideas and innovation to improve different areas of your business.
One advantage of diversity that many businesses do not consider is that it widens the talent pool you can draw on. By utilizing technology such as a recruitment CRM system, you can nurture diversity while improving the skillsets of your workforce.
Having robust inclusivity policies can make people more invested and engaged in your business. This can attract the best talent available.
8 Strategies for Innovating and Achieving Diversity in Tech
So, you recognize that diversity could bring many benefits to your business. It may even be the case that you have – until now – clung to the outdated models mentioned. But where do you start? What strategies should you implement that can increase and promote inclusivity?
1. Set Goals for Diversity and Track Your Progress
Of course, your recruitment policies will always include an element of merit. There are, however, plenty of women and POC who have the requisite skills you are looking for Let’s imagine you are developing a hybrid integration platform to better manage business data. You can create a shortlist of women who have previous experience working on similar projects.
If you are serious about achieving diversity in your workplace, then you need to start setting hiring goals when it comes to your recruitment process.
You may consider using diversity metrics to track your efforts and success in this area. Once you start promoting diversity in tech, you will find that you may face several hurdles. By analyzing the diversity metrics you are using, you can identify these hurdles and find ways to overcome them so that you can create a truly diverse workforce.
2. Create An Environment Where Everyone Feels Welcome and Respected
Even putting diversity aside for a moment, a good company culture is essential. Your staff should feel welcome and respected by both management and colleagues and not discriminated against. If you do find that there are any issues in this area, you can hold workshops and seminars to promote an inclusive culture.
Your DEI policies should also recognize the cultural and religious differences of your workforce, and any relevant holidays or events should be acknowledged by your business. By doing so, you can educate others and encourage integration. When someone knows more about a colleague’s religion or culture, they better understand and respect them.
3. Make Sure Job Postings Are Accessible to Everyone
Unconscious bias can often exist in the recruitment process. That does not necessarily mean that your recruitment teams are racist or misogynistic, it can just be a reflection of outdated processes or the way jobs are advertised. You should review every step of your recruitment process, from advertising to interviews, and see if any steps encourage unconscious bias.
Even something as relatively simple as the wording of your job ads can put women and POC off applying. Ensure that any ads use neutral language and that they also mention how much you value diversity and any DEI strategies your organization uses. If your business uses any form of recruitment technology, then you should be using it to highlight suitable candidates from underrepresented groups.
4. Offer Unconscious Bias Training to Employees
That unconscious bias may not only exist in your recruitment process, it might also permeate every level of your company culture. Having strong DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies and initiatives can demonstrate to customers, employees, and potential employees that you value diversity and recognize that it should be an integral part of your company culture.
That can mean that not only should you consider changes to your hiring policies, but you should be offering awareness training to all your employees. The whole concept of unconscious bias centers on the idea that it is ‘unconscious.’ People may not realize that they are showing any form of bias, but training and reflection can overcome these issues.
5. Ensure Products and Services Are Accessible to People With Disabilities
Inclusivity in the tech sector is not only about who you employ but who your customers are too. Your DEI policies should recognize the needs of your disabled customers just as much as you would be looking to the needs of all your customers. This means that any products or services you provide should be as accessible as possible to people with disabilities.
For example, let’s assume that your company has developed an automatic call distributor. If the call center or company that buys that technology employs disabled staff, does your product have added features that make it usable by someone with a disability?
While full accessibility may not be possible for every product or service, you should be looking at making things as accessible as possible. Lack of inclusivity always sends the wrong message.
6. Take Advantage of Your Diversity Grant by Funding Various Projects
There are many grants out there, at both state and federal levels, that encourage businesses to promote diversity in tech. These grants should be used in ways that produce tangible results when it comes to inclusivity. They can cover a wide range of DEI subjects that can contribute to your overall organizational diversity.
For example, you may not have a staff member who knows how to deliver diversity training. A grant can help you meet the costs of hiring an external consultant. Some grants also help offset the costs of hiring someone from an underrepresented group, such as developing accessibility for a wheelchair user.
7. Use Technology to Reach Underrepresented Groups
You’re working in the tech sector, so why not use technology to address the lack of inclusivity? This might involve implementing talent acquisition software or using social media platforms. Utilizing similar methods to connect and engage with customers, you can locate the candidates you need.
Identify pertinent groups or forums and advertise vacancies. Be sure to include a strong focus on your plans for improved inclusivity and your existing or planned DEI policies.
Partner With Organizations That Are Promoting Diversity In Tech
Your efforts in promoting diversity in tech do not exist in a vacuum. There are many organizations out there that are doing just that already. Look at forming partnerships with some of these organizations to provide access to emerging fresh talent. Partnerships can lighten the load and can help you achieve true inclusivity.
Additionally, consider applying problem-solving techniques like the 5 Whys to better understand and address any roadblocks you encounter along the way. By delving into the underlying causes of diversity challenges, you can develop more effective strategies for achieving your diversity and inclusion goals.
Inclusivity is an issue that affects many people, not just women or POC. Discrimination exists in the workplace against people with disabilities, transgender individuals, and many other groups. A person’s gender, skin color, or sexual orientation does not affect their ability to do their job.
If you want to promote diversity in tech, you should first be looking at your existing workforce and your DEI policies (if you have any). That can give you a baseline to build a more diverse workforce and a company culture that accepts and respects everyone. Thankfully, diversity is here to stay. It’s your responsibility to promote an inclusive environment as we move towards equality.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.