How tech start-ups can build diversity into their DNA
Technology controls nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Everything from how we work, eat, shop, and interact with one another is controlled or influenced by technology. Through their decisions and innovations, tech companies have incredible power and influence over our lives. This makes it essential that tech companies create inclusive environments that are diverse and representative of the global population. A single demographic cannot be allowed to have full control over the changes that are influencing our society. Creating a representative and diverse workforce is a significant challenge for many tech companies.
Although most tech companies have taken steps to diversify their traditionally white male workforce, little progress has been made. A recent study by Reveal from the Centre for Investigative Journalism shows the extent to which tech companies in Silicon Valley are still struggling with diversity:
10 large tech companies had no black women employees
3 large tech companies had no black employees at all
6 large tech companies had no female executives
One-third of large tech companies had no executives who were women of colour
59 percent of executives at tech companies are white males
A logical first step towards improving diversity is to establish quotas. Many tech companies have embraced quotas on the assumption that ‘what gets measured, gets done’. On the surface, quotas seem like a good solution, but basing diversity decisions on data points is flawed. Diversity quotas remove the human element and do not encourage comprehensive diversity ideas and practices. Instead of creating an inclusive culture based on an interest, respect, and value for differences, quotas drive a granular focus on diversity metrics.
To positively affect the diversity in their organizations, tech companies need to focus on leadership, measurement, and accountability. A culture of inclusiveness comes from a shared belief that diversity is important and a shared responsibility to making the company more accepting of differences.
Some ways to work towards a more diverse organization are:
Think about diversity as a business activity, not a compliance activity. Diversity is proven to drive bottom line results. Tying diversity to financial success will help prioritize it and motivate others in the organization.
Diversity is important, but don’t forget about inclusion. It’s impossible to retain a diverse workforce if the organizational environment isn’t inclusive and accepting.
Find and promote inclusive leaders. Inclusive leaders are curious and emotionally and culturally intelligent. This behaviour in leaders sets expectations for how others in the organization are to act.
Make diversity a part of all talent management practices. Decisions about recruitment, promotions, and succession planning should put diversity issues front and centre.
Provide resources to employees. Don’t rely on employees to self-train or seek out resources. Organizations need to provide employees with things like unconscious bias training to help create a culture of inclusiveness. It’s also important that organizations offer resources to all employees and not just certain groups of employees.
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture is critical for tech companies. A broad demographic representation is essential for the development of new technologies. People of different cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and genders all can offer unique insights that will shape innovations and the future of our society.
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