Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) has become a top priority for organisations across industries, and around the globe. The technology sector is no different, and by all accounts, is still lagging behind others when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Despite pledges of corporate support for increased diversity, the State of DEI in Tech 2021’s report on DE&I in 240 of the world’s largest and well-known tech companies reveals that Asian women hold less than 4% of tech executive roles, while Black, Latino and Indigenous men and women, in total, make up less than 5%.
So how can technology leaders drive real progress when it comes to DE&I? Create an agile action plan.
In order to achieve real change, it’s vital to assess your current DE&I strategy and create an action plan that better positions your organisation for the future of work.
This begins with addressing four key factors that underpin a successful DE&I programme:
1. Gather and act on data
Companies already have a treasure trove of data at their fingertips, from hiring and pay data, to who is getting promoted and when. By analysing the data, you can discern patterns and trends, such as how and where opportunities for advancement are most frequently being afforded and how equitable those opportunities really are.
For companies that have recognition and reward programmes in place, recognition data can shed light on unconscious bias. For instance, Workhuman research on recognition and reward programmes shows that women receive awards for teamwork one and a half times more often than other award types than men do, but that the awards received were about 12% less in value, including from other women.
Likewise, reviewing how people write and talk to one another within an employee recognition programme can reveal areas of bias and show where there’s room for improvement.
Once you’ve gathered and analysed the data, you can work on building a specific action plan and setting targeted goals.
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2. Cultivate purpose-driven leaders
Fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging starts at the top. Management buy-in makes all the difference, but it requires a genuine shift in how management views DE&I.
As Torin Ellis, Diversity Strategist explains, “You are going to have to shift your pursuit of D&I from a cost to a value at all of the key points internally.” Ellis adds, “It will require that
your leaders model a different conversation – that they suggest and show you that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is promising rather than punitive. That the behaviour that they exhibit becomes a compliment to the organisation. Shift from cost to value.”
Purpose-driven leaders who embrace DE&I’s value to an organisation will be more apt to adopt inclusive management skills – helping to hardwire inclusivity and belonging into the organisation and impart these principles to future leaders.
3. Develop employee networks
A lack of community is one of the most significant factors behind the challenges organisations are facing when it comes to representation, retention and advancement.
As Melissa Dawn Simkins, founder of the She-Suite notes, “Connections are critical to everything…It’s about owning and building the right network.” Simkins relates that, “People are feeling more isolated than ever. Building common connections and community is not only important, it’s a retention strategy.” A supportive community helps create the psychological safety needed for a DE&I strategy to flourish in a workplace. Further, when employees have a safe space to share, consult and connect with their peers, they can build relationship that encourage engagement and move their careers forward.
4. Encourage workplace allies
Once leadership is aligned with DE&I goals, you need an allied workforce ready to act. This includes mentors and sponsors who can cultivate a sense of belonging and advocate for people.
Not only does this mean having designated role models to guide and support employees, but also proactive sponsors who champion people even when they aren’t in the room.
As Monica Jackson, VP of Inclusion & Diversity for Eaton, a global power management company with 85,000 employees, points out, the willingness and ability to be proactive rather than reactive is vital to being a strong ally, and to the overall effectiveness of a DE&I strategy.
While there are certainly more than four elements to a successful DE&I action plan, the above steps are an excellent place to start. By formulating a concrete strategy, organisations are well on their way to fostering a true sense of belonging and being valued at work – something that benefits not only DE&I, but the business, and its people, overall.