Diversity has been a hot topic of conversation in the tech industry since 2014 (if not earlier). In that time we’ve seen major companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and IBM release diversity plans, recruitment strategies and statistical reports, all in the name of demonstrating and achieving improved gender, racial, and other minority equality. Substantial efforts have been made to close gaps, but in the tech industry specifically the issue remains – women are still significantly underrepresented.
Perhaps for some there is some confusion about what it means to be a truly diverse organisation, and for others it simply isn’t a priority. Primarily, it’s not just about making the environment comfortable for underrepresented minorities. Instead, it’s about creating opportunity for all and a healthy and fair environment across the board.
In order to realise our goals of diversity, it’s crucial that the tech industry recognises and addresses any bias or unconscious workplace practices that prevent the retention of talented minority employees. A diverse team is a dynamic team; one that incorporates and celebrates different backgrounds and cultures. Diversity breeds innovation and creates an environment that fosters creativity and success.
For those committed to the diversification of their workplace, I have some suggestions:
Avoid fake diversity
You’ll find that some companies use the term diversity as a superficial way of improving their image, or avoiding conflict, without much substance behind their talk. In truth, the focus should be on devising and implementing a workplace strategy that actively fosters an inclusive and open environment. Being a diverse company is about more than simply ticking a box or saying you do something. Authentic diversity is created by having the right processes in place that address equality in a meaningful manner. Consider and set what these are for your organisation, and start from there.
Pave the path to success
It’s important to highlight a career path for employees that enables them to envisage potential advancement opportunities. Adequate support and a clearly defined plan can help talented employees feel valued and can see that there is a vested interest in their success. Creating opportunity for those that otherwise would be underrepresented is an important part in shifting the needle.
So is education. In many cases, achieving diversity goes beyond current employees to future employees too. If you’re not finding the right talent for the job in the candidate pool, more needs to be done to change the pool.
Organisations serious about creating a dynamic workforce should be looking outside their own walls at how they can help gear up the next generation of workers, as well as those they already have on staff. This could include the development of internship or exchange programs, or more part time entry level jobs.
Flexible working is all the rage at the moment, and it is a key trend that will encourage greater diversity in the tech world. However, for a flexible working program to be truly successful it can’t be small minded.
Some of the greatest employees are locked out of jobs because they can’t commit to a full time role, or because they simply have to leave at 3pm everyday.
Putting HR policies in place that allow for people to work flexibly, be it from home, part time, or with flexible hours, is a great way to open the talent pool and achieve better workplace balance. With the technology available to each of us today as well, there is even greater reason to trust that the job will get done, even if your team member is on the other side of the world.
To achieve this, both the employee and employer need to set clear expectations about what is expected upfront.
Learn from those doing it right
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There are several companies out there doing a fantastic job at diversity, and those struggling with making a change should look at who is already succeeding for inspiration.
The pressure to achieve greater diversity in technology companies will only continue to increase. While major tech companies have been open and transparent with their goals for increased diversity, society is now calling for evidence of change. For those truly invested, it’s easy to produce.
And remember, while goals won’t be achieved overnight, that’s no excuse not to make a conscious movement towards a better tomorrow today.
Aleksandra Bugajewska has over 10 years experience in HR in both the business and not for profit sectors. A passionate leader who understands the workforce changes required to foster leadership and fuel a digital culture. As People & Culture leader at Travelport Locomote, Aleksandra focusses on aligning the People and Culture strategy with the growth of the business.