Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tool Kit
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Tech Industry
To advance workplace equity in a meaningful way, companies must be willing to take on polices that uproot bias and structural racism from its culture. Leadership must value diversity in the same way it values other goals such as productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness.
Back in 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated that, “the lack of diversity among high tech workers is a central public policy concern.” Little progress has been made. An article on the MyDisabilityJobs.com (opens in a new window) article titled, Diversity In The Tech Industry: Statistics 2022 reveals some unflattering industry numbers.
- The total share of women employed in tech does not reach 30% and for black women, the share is under 5% only. The gap is immense compared to their white peers and it is a sign of a lack of strategies and attention to diversity and inclusion in the industry.
- Women in tech management positions made up 16% of such positions in 2019, although only three percent of all CEO positions were held by women.
- 67% of the respondents have 0 to 25% of black executives in their leadership teams.
- Only 30% of white men think that diversity and inclusion are essential in the workplace.
- Although 90% of companies claim to prioritize diversity, only 4% consider disability in those initiatives.
- Female students’ presence in Computer Science was still much lower in 2018 than in 1998, which points to a recession of female interest in this field in the past two decades.
The reasons why the tech industry lacks diversity are complex. In an April 2021 National Public Radio Fresh Air radio segment titled “No College, No Problem” reporter Kirk Carapezza states,
“The tech industry is filled with people who have the same type of education and advantages. As the sector expands, economists say this reinforces inequality.”
Why DEI Matters in Tech
“More than 3 out of 4 job seekers and employees (76%) report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.”
“Nearly a third of employees and job seekers (32%) would not apply to a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity among its workforce. This figure is significantly higher for Black (41%) job seekers and employees when compared to white (30%) job seekers and employees, and is also higher among LGBTQ (41%) job seekers and employees when compared to non-LGBTQ (32%) job seekers and employees.”
“Racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors, and those with gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors.”
~ McKinsey & Company, Why Diversity Matters (opens in a new window)
“Companies with solid DEI cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets as those without, three times as likely to be high-performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.”
“The case for establishing a truly diverse workforce, at all organizational levels, grows more compelling each year….The financial impact — as proven by multiple studies — makes this a no-brainer.”
~ Harvard Business Review.
Recommendations & Resources
Leadership should develop a statement that clearly outlines the company’s commitment to DEI and how the program’s goals are aligned with business strategy. The statement should also define what equity means and how it is interconnected with core organizational values. To demonstrate their commitment to DEI programs, leadership should develop key measurements that track the company’s progress including:
- Budget dollars committed to funding DEI programs
- Percentage of underrepresented candidates that get hired, not just the amount of applicants
- Percentage of diverse/minority employees who hold leadership positions and how long it took for those employees to get into those roles
- Retention rate of diverse/minority employees
- Number of diverse/minority employees involved in mentorship programs
- DEI training and its impact
- Conduct surveys to get employees take on the degree to which they feel included at work and if they see themselves represented in leadership
According to Gartner consulting, “leadership commitment can be gauged by the percentage of leaders sponsoring a resource group, leadership attendance at DEI events and DEI achievements within each leaders’ teams.”
Resource: DEI Competencies (opens in a new window) – State of Washington
“These competencies are designed to be a tool in creating pathways for employees to learn and grow in this critical area of knowledge and behavior as we continue to build work environments grounded in diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect where people thrive, our missions are accomplished, and the public is served.”
Responsibilities of DEI leadership
- Sourcing strategies
- Collaborating with the Learning and Development function to create and coordinate DEI related training, skills and career development
- Tracking progress toward stated DEI goals in terms of hiring, retention, internal mobility, program favorability, engagement, internal communications
- Staying on top of trends, laws, and regulations, and other factors influencing DEI programs
- Advising the executive team on matters related to diversity and inclusion.
This means the DEI officer or team is responsible for creating, managing, and optimizing all efforts related to making the workplace a fairer, more-equitable environment for all employees. Implementing and monitoring a successful DEI program that changes organizational culture is more than what one person can realistically handle. Ultimately, leadership can demonstrate their commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture by being transparent and communicating regularly to employees all progress made related to DEI.
Resource: DEI leadership – and who’s actually doing the work? (opens in a new window) – workable.com
How Skills-based Hiring Can Help Increase Diversity
The traditional degree and education requirements often have the result of disqualifying candidates who could be an excellent asset to your team. By focusing instead on the hard and soft skills necessary to perform the responsibilities of the position, you open the candidate pool to a more diverse set of candidates who are the most capable of meeting and exceeding the requirements. This facilitates hiring a diverse group of employees, which can bring a diversity of backgrounds, insights and knowledge to your organization. This more diverse knowledge set can lead to a more diverse customer base, better talent retention, and increased potential for innovation. Think about how brainstorming and problem-solving are integral to product developments and improvements. The more unique points of view, skills and backgrounds you bring to these processes, the more innovative ideas your teams can generate. You’ll also have a team that can better identify with the needs of your customers.
Resource: Skills-Based Hiring Playbook (opens in a new window) – Opportunity at Work
Building a Diverse Candidate Pool
If you want to get serious about inclusive hiring, it’s imperative that you be intentional and proactive about building a diverse talent pool. Don’t follow routine practices and rely on the same places that everyone else does. Go beyond the usual job posts on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Zip Recruiter. Participating in career fairs and events at community and technical colleges, high schools, nonprofits, and community centers allows your organization to engage with the community and demonstrates your commitment to creating and maintaining a diverse workforce. Investing time and proactively developing these relationships should be a part of your organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion.
More recommendations include:
Invest in entry level job candidates
- According to LinkedIn data, employees without a traditional four-year degree stay at companies 34% longer than those with a bachelor’s degree. Those employees often started in entry-level positions. By providing those workers with opportunities to learn and grow via apprenticeships, skills training, and mentoring, they will likely be more engaged, motivated, and satisfied with their employer. Extensive research overwhelming concludes that training is one of the most important factors in retaining employees.
In an article titled Why Hire Entry-Level Professionals? (opens in a new window) tech start-up co-founder and director Rachel Smith of LifeFyle says her company purposefully employs entry level employees to:
- Balance out the demographic profile of the team
- Ensure we have fresh opinions and ideas represented
- Help mentor graduates and help them set off on their career journey
- Keep our staffing costs modest
For smaller organizations that do not have the internal resources to develop training programs, local community or technical colleges are valuable resources that have units geared specifically to be responsive to the training needs of regional employers. In many cases, a community college can be an agile partner to help meet an organization’s continuous learning and upskilling goals.
Consider an apprenticeship model
- Helps companies establish a new, broader and diverse talent pool beyond traditional college recruitment
- Enhances retention and job satisfaction. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, 91 percent of apprentices that complete an apprenticeship are still employed nine months later.
- Improves the upward mobility of diverse talent, which is a key measurement of an organization’s DEI goals
- Creates flexible training options that ensure workers develop the skills that meet specific industry and company standards – graduates will be skilled, productive and fully versed in workplace processes and protocols
- Lowers long-term recruitment, onboarding and training costs
Case in Point: Accenture
“The company (Accenture) launched an apprenticeship program in 2016 and has since hired 1,200 people, 80% of whom joined the company without a four-year-degree. Earlier this year it expanded the program with the goal of filling 20% of its U.S. entry-level roles — everything from application development and cybersecurity to cloud and platform engineering — from apprenticeships.”
—Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America states, from No college degree? No problem (opens in a new window)
How to create an apprenticeship program (opens in a new window) – Apprenticeship USA
How to run a successful IT apprenticeship program (opens in a new window) – CIO.com
Job Descriptions and Requirements
It is important to think critically about what traits and skills will help a person succeed in the position. Will excellent communication be necessary? What about time management? Innovation? Consider these and other soft skills and then focus on the hard skill requirements the employee would need to get the job done. Be clear in the job description about what skills and traits are required, without adding unnecessary disqualifying requirements such as education. Be sure that your application tracking system is also set up to not unnecessarily exclude those who have the right skills.
The following are important issues mentioned by Inclusion Hub (opens in a new window) that need to be addressed when creating more inclusive job descriptions.
- Gender Coding – If a job description is coded too heavily to either gender, it is more likely to result in the exclusion of certain applicants—regardless of the actual skills or qualifications those candidates may have.
- Age and Experience Bias – Terms like “digital native” may limit or exclude applicants. Replace such terms with an inclusive alternative.
- Cultural & Racial Bias – racially or culturally explicit phrases or requirements should only be present in a job description if they are directly relevant to the position itself.
- Be Inclusive of Candidates with Disabilities
- Realistic job duties and requirements – not an aspirational wish list
- Consider what if any degree requirements are truly necessary
Fair Screening Practices
There are inherent biases in policing and the criminal justice system in the United States. Background checks (opens in a new window) must be used appropriately and responsibly, and in compliance with the law to ensure that your screening practices are fair. In addition to following EEOC guidance (opens in a new window) , Elizabeth suggests you talk to your background check provider about what they can do to help you support fair hiring and to build fair hiring practices (opens in a new window) . This may include:
- Automated adjudication: This feature (opens in a new window) allows customers to build rules for grading background check results. Then it makes sure that those rules are consistently applied, regardless of who’s viewing the results.
- Record filtering: This feature allows you to tell your provider what kinds of records to include on reports, based on how old they are, the severity of the offense and the type of charge. You can also tell them which offenses you don’t factor into your hiring decision and should omitted from the report, so they’re not visible while making a decision. This mitigates the risk of viewing information that’s not applicable, old or that the EEOC discourages employers from using.
- Demographic filtering: This feature removes race data points from background checks, which is required by law in New York City, but optional elsewhere.
Carefully devised onboarding process can make all the difference in helping a new hire not only get settled in and ready to contribute but also to feel included and valued.
Additionally, the onboarding experience should spell out the company’s code of conduct for the new employee, and for the behavior they can expect from other team members. What you want to avoid is to have a new hire question her choice of coming onboard or to feel like she is left to figure everything out for herself.
What should be included in a DEI-oriented onboarding process? The website wavelengthasana.com (opens in a new window) provides several important suggestions:
- Give an overview of your DEI policies.
- Explain your company’s DEI goals, including the progress made toward those goals.
- Introduce your new hire to the employee resource group — a voluntary, employee-led group whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace.
- Share your team’s current roadmap or strategy to give every new hire an understanding of what the team does and their priorities at the moment.
- Set expectations on how the team works together.
- Preparing your team for how the new hire will participate is key: What are their responsibilities? Who will they be working with or reporting to? Are they taking on any work from other team members? What does that handoff process look like?
- Emphasize that inclusivity is everyone’s responsibility.
- Establish a buddy system, where every new hire is paired with a longer-tenured employee to show them the ropes. Their buddy is there to welcome them on the first day, answer questions and be a dedicated resource through their first few months.
“An inclusive onboarding experience is like adding someone to your game of musical chairs: You can’t add someone new without stopping the music and adding a chair. Creating a meaningful experience means slowing down, making adjustments, and including your new hire.”
— Sonja Gittens-Ottley, Head, Diversity, Inclusion Belonging at Asana
Best Practices for Inclusive Onboarding (opens in a new window) – The Diversity Movement
Onboarding Empathy: 12 Best Practices For DEI Training (opens in a new window) – Forbes
Retention and Development
So, you’ve started putting the pieces in place to build a diverse and inclusive organization. You’ve broadened your recruiting practices to reach a more diverse pool of candidates and have reassessed your interviewing process to root out bias. But all your efforts may come to naught if your new, diverse talent decides to leave suddenly because they feel isolated and left to drift without support or mentorship. How do you go about retaining your diverse employees? You will need to have effective retention and development programs in place. Executive coach Lisa Ong, a specialist in DEI, states in an article by the American Marketing Association (opens in a new window) , “You’ve got to look at the soil in which you plant the seed. What are you doing to prepare the soil for all this amazing talent you’re bringing in? Otherwise, you’re going to start blaming the seed when they fail, and I think you need to look at the farmer.”
Reasons diverse employees tend to quit their jobs and companies:
- Lack of career growth among diverse candidates
- Lack of an equitable and inclusive environment
- Lack of leadership connection opportunities
- A hostile, biased work environment
- Poorly articulated, tepid policies related to diversity and inclusion
- Subjective and biased evaluations by managers that assess how a diverse employee “fits” in the workplace
Ways to Improve Retention
- Improve mentorship opportunities that help new diverse hires network with a range of senior management and top-performing employees.
- As a compliment to mentorship programs, provide a sponsor/advocate who can actively speak for a diverse employee and champion them.
- Hold managers accountable for antidiscrimination efforts and require them to measure diversity turnover and its costs.
- Create personalized retention plans that include stay interviews—conversations that identify and reinforce the positive reasons that keep diverse employees with the company.
- Address head-on that racial disparities exist and persist. Call in experts and consultants to conduct equity audits to uncover the social, physical and financial disparities that exist within your organization.
- Be transparent about the success or failure of DEI efforts. Set goals and benchmarks for your department and organization and publish them on your websites. This shows sincerity and commitment to your efforts.
- Foster inclusion through Employee Resources Groups (ERGs) that are aligned with employees’ expectations and with the business’s DEI priorities. Read more about ERG’s in the article listed below.
How To Retain Diverse Talent (opens in a new window) – Forbes
To Retain Employees, Focus on Inclusion — Not Just Diversity (opens in a new window)
– Harvard Business Review
Effective employee resource groups are key to inclusion at work. Here’s how to get them right. (opens in a new window) – McKinsey & Company