When it comes to innovation in the tech sector, diversity, equity and inclusion across the workforce is a must to ensure varied ways of thinking of new ideas
Despite this, many members of certain people groups, including women and black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people, still find it difficult to enter and progress in tech. There is also the matter of ensuring that new tech products are as inclusive as possible. With this mind, we take a look at the biggest equity and inclusion trends in tech.
Establishing DEI goals, and gaining feedback
It’s vital that tech organisations set diversity, equity and inclusion goals early on, to ensure a good chance of progressing in this area. According to Colum Twomey, vice-president, product development at Zendesk, this, along with listening to staff from marginalised groups, is a step in the right direction.
“We’re learning to really appreciate the value of DEI. We realise that this is not just a box ticking exercise, but it’s simply the right thing to do, and by happy chance it’s also something that serves our teams, our company and our product well,” said Twomey.
“We want all our people to know they are valued where they work. We take care to review our practices through a DEI lens. We have concrete DEI goals and track progress against these goals. We’re very inquisitive when we don’t meet these goals – asking multiple levels of why, getting to the core of any issues and striving to improve.
“Corporate guidance can get lost in translation as it percolates through the levels in an organisation – whilst the best intentioned leaders messages may not be understood all levels. So we’re implementing practices that help empower managers at all levels with the skills and training to be an ally and have meaningful conversations around inclusion with their teams.
“We try to listen – to ensure underrepresented groups in our organisation have a safe channel of communication to get support – such as with employee communities – and equally voice when their experiences are less than great.”
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Another aspect to consider here is the need to tackle bias, both among staff and within machine learning (ML) models, as explained by Jill Morris, senior HR business partner at Hitachi Vantara.
“Within the technology sector specifically, striving for equality is certainly a top priority for business leaders. However, tackling established, sometimes institutionalised, biases isn’t easy. There must be a focus on equity and an acknowledgement that people might face different barriers or experiences to achieve the same goals,” said Morris.
“Leaders must factor in these differences and give everyone the support and encouragement to follow their chosen career path. We’ve certainly made positive progress in the tech sector, but there’s still a long way to go until the industry is truly inclusive.
“As part of building an inclusive workplace, many companies are already focusing on developing equitable hiring systems, whereby technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), can support.
“By removing the ‘human element’ of bias, organisations can enable automated hiring systems which are inclusive by design. The challenge here is to train these systems in ways which flag and remove bias within data sets in the first place. Another way is by reducing jargon in job postings and focusing on inclusive language that appeals to diverse talent.”
Investing in diverse talent
It’s important to take a look at the hiring strategy, and make sure that it attracts a diverse talent pool. Nabila Salem, president at Revolent Group, commented: “For the tech industry, there is more than just a moral imperative to solve the issue of missing equity. The lack of diversity within the tech sector also compounds upon a very real business challenge for organisations: a lack of available talent.
“The consequences of not plugging this skills gap are of great concern: GDP growth across the G20 nations could be stunted by as much as $1.5 trillion over the next decade, if companies refuse to adapt to the needs that tech presents to us.
“One way to overcome this is to invest in new, diverse talent to help solve both the skills gap and the lack of representation in tech. New, innovative programs like the Salesforce training provided by Revolent specialise in fuelling the market with the diverse, highly skilled new talent it so desperately needs.
“There is an opportunity here, to address the issue of a lack of representation and an overall skills gap, all at once. Companies must be open to the idea that the average applicant is not as homogenous as they think. Great talent comes from all walks of life. And by opening new pathways for people from more diverse backgrounds, we can harness this opportunity and unleash the true potential of cloud technology, and the tech sector in general.”
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Creating an equity culture
Finally, tech organisations should look to establish a culture entrenched in diversity and equity, starting at the very top.
“Pushing equity is the only way to level the playing field at the speed gender equality needs to happen,” said Andrea Rowe, principal consultant, people and organisational development at Civica.
“Senior leadership in tech must create a culture where junior employees feel comfortable reporting microaggressions or unconscious biases.
“Male senior leaders have a key role to play in pushing for gender equity, by being champions of gender equality. Only when everyone in the sector understands the benefits of a diverse, inclusive and equal workplace, will gender equality be fully achieved.”
Laurence Mott, executive vice-president, development & engineering at Tetra Pak, added: “We’ve made diversity and inclusion a central tenet of our Future Talent graduate programme to help usher in the next generation of engineers and leaders and launched a representative panel to oversee our global D&I strategy.
“We’ve also launched a global mentoring programme that ensures employees from minority ethnic backgrounds have a role model and confidante within the business.”