4 Steps To Help Drive Diversity In Tech
AUTHOR: ALLIE BUTTERWORTH
08 March 2021
International Women’s Day. Harmony Day. International Day of Happiness. March is an exciting time for leaders in the tech world to take a step back and look at how their diversity and inclusion strategies can influence not only their business but the whole industry.
Gender equality in tech, or the lack thereof, was put into the spotlight around eight years ago. The conversation around diversity and inclusion has since broadened to include race, sexuality, age, class any many more, mostly thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. We have seen annual diversity reports published, stats broken down into categories, and more Diversity and Inclusion Policies then you can poke a stick at. While some companies are celebrating, progress has been slow.
So how do we speed it up?
1. Educate your leaders and hold them accountable.
As leaders in the industry, we are responsible for modelling behaviours we want our teams to show. Our teams need to see that inclusive behaviour is a core competency and one they will be measured against.
And while we are talking about holding our leaders accountable, unconscious bias is still happening (and let’s not continue sweeping it under the rug). If you see it happening, do something about it. Start the conversation now before it is ingrained into your company culture. Talk about real-life scenarios that our leaders face, such as hiring individuals who they get along with, but who are not necessarily the right fit in terms of experience or skillset.
Did you know 1
When YouTube launched the video upload feature for their app, 5-10% of videos were uploaded upside-down, and Google developers were baffled. Could such a large percentage of users be shooting their videos incorrectly? “Incorrectly” was the keyword.Google engineers had inadvertently designed the app for right-handed users. They never considered the fact that phones are usually rotated 180 degrees when held in a user’s left hand.
With the help of unconscious bias, Google had created an app that worked best for right-handed users and never addressed the possibility of a left-hand user. We think Google needs a little more diversity on their team. Are there any of our left-handed community members up for a challenge?
2. Celebrate the individuals in your team and what brings us together.
We all know diversity in teams leads to better decision making, greater innovation and higher returns. But inclusion is what connects our teams to the business and is one of the core reasons they stay. When was the last time you asked your team how their culture can influence the overall company culture?
Celebrating International Women’s Day, Harmony Day and the many other cultural holidays that occur can help your team feel connected. As a leader, get involved, ask the (appropriate) questions, celebrate the differences and make sure your team feels seen and understood.
3. Listen to your team and put actions in place.
The tech industry is extremely complex and is full of analytical superstars who can solve problems with their eyes closed. And thanks to the events in 2020, we have now thrown in a distributed working model to spice things up. And what has that caused? A listening problem for our leaders, who now must lead a team of superstars who aren’t in front of them.
Monday morning conversations next to the coffee machine have gone. Looking people in the eye while they are talking has dwindled. We have all seen our someone reading an email while on a zoom call, haven't we? When you listen, you can make a change. Lead by example and those actions can build a team ready to conquer any project.
Examples of Effective Listening
- An interviewer asks a follow-up question to gain further clarification on how a candidate has applied a critical skill in a past job.
- At the end of a performance review, a team member restates the specific areas in which his supervisor asks he improve.
- A manager summarises what her team has said during a staff meeting and asks them if she has heard things correctly.
4. Start them young
As leaders, we should be asking ourselves how we can work with schools, universities, and the community to educate the next generation on the many opportunities that exist, regardless of gender, race, age etc. Making real-world connections will help expose the next generation of tech professionals to a different career landscape, help them understand why tech is something they should be studying and help make them aware of their unique attributes so they can envision their full potential.
By connecting tech and other STEM concepts to the real world, we diversify the entry points for these subjects. This will help open avenues for the next generation who may otherwise assume these lessons are not for them. Young people are not going to know about these options unless we make it visible to them. It is our job to step back and look at how the current landscape is stopping diversity and inclusion in tech and start to implement creative and innovative ways to start the next generation on the pathway to success.
Ways companies and leaders can influence the next generation
- Set up a mentor program
- Introduce a holiday robotics day
- Attend career show and tells
Approve work experience and internships
Our desire to drive diversity in tech is the first step in change. We have so much to learn from each other and opening our eyes to diversity and inclusion tactics will ensure the tech industry can be ahead of the rest.