Diversity in Tech: What you can do to change the status quo

Diversity is the hottest topic of 2017, particularly in Tech. But not everyone knows how to approach it.

There are many who would love to have an impact on the diversity at their company, or who have opinions on its importance – but who simply don’t know how to approach this topic without being overly PC or saying something offensive.

Women and minorities are often the ones raising their voice about discrimination, but HBR reports they’re often penalised and subtly undermined where white males are not. And if we know that there are more Executive Board Members called Peter than there are female Board Members and that culture comes from the top, then it is critical that men champion change and encourage greater diversity in leadership and technical positions.

First off its important to establish that diversity is not just about doing what is right or creating equal opportunity. Diversity and inclusion is also a organisational trait that provides access to greater talent and which corresponds to superior products and profits. A McKinsey study found that of 366 companies, ethnically diverse and gender diverse companies are on average 35% and 25% more likely to achieve financial success, respectively.

So what can companies do to encourage diversity? If we look at the hiring life cycle there are 3 pillars that require attention:

Attraction 

  • Company branding
    • Do you explicitly encourage diversity? By ensuring that you visibly include individuals from a diverse background in any company collateral (on and offline), and that you articulate the importance of diversity in your company mission and / or value statement you are sending a message to the world that your workplace is an inclusive environment.
  • Interviewing practices
    • Have you standardised your interview process to make sure all candidates are assessed against the same criteria? This is a quick win which will not only make your hiring process more efficient, it will be fairer too.
  • Flexible Work
    • The number one request from Women and minorities is flexible work. If you offer it (and you really should) then ensure this is communicated.
  • Language
    • Do you speak to the audience you wish to attract? A 2013 study found that women are less likely to respond to job ads which included traditionally masculine language such as “competitive,” “dominate,” and “leader”. We recommend using gender neutral or warm language that encourages collaboration,
  • Engagement with niche networks
  • Truly embrace diversity – without using ‘culture fit’ as a cop out
    • We’ve seen some line managers, HR teams and recruiters advocate and source diverse candidates, only to excuse themselves from hiring these individuals by saying that they’re not a culture fit. It’s important to self check this assessment incase the real issue isn’t that their different perspective  is too confronting.

So once you’ve sourced this diverse talent, what next? Its essential to create an inclusive environment to ensure that your new hires flourish and encouraged to share their diversity perspectives with Engagement strategies.

Engagement 

  • Champion Diversity
    • Seek out women in the company and ensure that their good work is highlighted. Your entire workforce will also benefit from a culture of appreciation.
  • Giving them a voice 
    • In some instances women wait to be asked for their thoughts on a topic and are less likely to volunteer information. Encourage women to contribute to a discussion by asking what they think.
  • Sponsor, don’t mentor
    • Mentors and sponsors serve different purposes, but their end goal is the same: to support an individual to achieve their goals. Sponsors are the ones who will advocate the visibility of an individuals work – this is critical to help women (or other diverse talent) who typically don’t self promote get promotions and acknowledgement for their work.

Given the demand for diverse talent, your new recruit is likely to be headhunted regularly. If you don’t create a truly inclusive and progressive environment then you may find your diversity efforts wasted. So what are the Diversity deal breakers?

Retention 

  • Mansplaining
    • Mansplaining happens. A lot. This can be defeated with a wry comment through to a direct confrontation. If Mansplaining is rife in your organisation it is unlikely that Women will stick around for the condescending experience!
  • Embracing Flexible Work 
    • Some workplaces have a nasty habit of talking the talk, but not walking the walk. Make sure that you are genuine in your flexible work policies. Open the option up to all Employees, and ensure that those who opt to utilise this are not subtly undermined. Seemingly innocuous actions like the time at which meetings are scheduled should be considered to ensure those responsible for the school run aren’t penalised.
  • Promotional opportunities 
    • Strongly correlated to sponsorship and the championing of someone’s work – its important to ensure that diverse individuals are transparently considered for promotions and the opportunity to work on exciting projects. If not you may find your talent promoted elsewhere
  • Ensure Discrimination is taken seriously:
    • This one should be a no-brainer, particularly when overt and visible. But what about when its subtle and used to undermine someone? Subtle discrimination is difficult to prove and prevent, but careful monitoring of workplace activities and strict enforcement policies help minimise them. Not only should you take all complaints on board and address them with rigour, you could also create a panel to monitor workplace discrimination issues. This ‘advisory board’ can review policies and procedures to prevent inbuilt discrimination and provide recommendations for specific diversity challenges being faced.

We hope that these pointers help to encourage diversity in your organisation. It really is everyones responsibility to make create a diverse and inclusive workforce. And when you do be sure that the rewards will follow.