DEI is no longer new in the tech space. In fact, it has been in existence and used for decades. Yet we’re still not seeing the desired results and impact in the industry. Why?
The tech industry is supposed to be a meritocracy: If you’re talented, you’ll succeed. But that’s not how it works or what we see today. Studies have shown that there are minoritized groups within the industry even though these groups have similar qualifications and experiences as their other folks. This narrative needs to change if we want to fix the problem — and investing and promoting DEI is a major step towards making that happen.
The good news is that there are many ways tech organizations can promote DEI. But first, let’s consider why the effort is worthwhile.
Why should Tech firms invest in DEI?
DEI is critical to building a competitive advantage in a marketplace where innovation, speed and agility are paramount. And it’s especially important for tech companies. A group with a diverse background will most likely have different ideas and creativity than one composed solely of a group of people from similar backgrounds or experiences. No doubt, DEI fosters creativity and innovation.
Another reason why tech firms should invest in DEI is in terms of problem-solving and decision-making. The reason for this is not far-fetched, this is because different perspectives are being considered when decisions are made. This is what we know as the diversity of thought: DEI helps companies find new perspectives and make good decisions on how to solve problems or innovate on current processes.
Diverse teams bring a wider range of perspectives to the table, which can help everyone see problems from different angles. This is especially important when it comes to making decisions because sometimes we get stuck in our own ways of thinking or find ourselves making assumptions based on our own experiences — both of which can lead us down paths that don’t always work out well for everyone involved.
The benefits of DEI are unlimited: enhanced organizational culture, increased market share and profitability are other reasons tech firms should invest in DEI
With these advantages and many others which have not been mentioned here, let us consider why the tech industry faces some challenges in achieving diversity.
Barriers to achieving a successful DEI implementation in the Tech sector
Uncovering Unconscious Bias
By now you probably have heard about unconscious bias. It is present in recruiting and promotion practices. Unconscious bias is the attitude or stereotype that affects our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious way and this can be difficult for tech companies to deal with. If you think about it, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your unconscious biases are. You might be more likely to hire someone who looks like you or shares common interests with you over someone who doesn’t. You might also be more comfortable with people who speak with an accent similar to yours or share your political position.
The problem is that many of us don’t realize we have these biases until we’re confronted with them directly — like when a male hiring manager says something like, “hiring a woman coder might disrupt the camaraderie of the team.”
It’s important for the tech industry to understand its own unconscious biases, especially in recruitment and promotion so it can work toward addressing them through policies and training programs that emphasize DEI principles
Addressing the Lack of Representation
The lack of DEI in tech firms can be traced back to many factors, one of them is certainly the number of minority employees who hold positions of power in these organizations. This creates obstacles for minority employees to succeed
In addition to being underrepresented in leadership roles, minorities are often relegated to low-level positions or given undesirable tasks. Black professionals face more discrimination in the workplace. This is because there are fewer opportunities for them to apply for jobs in the tech industry.
The underrepresentation of minorities in leadership positions within the tech industry has a significant impact on the ability of other minority individuals to succeed. When individuals from diverse backgrounds do not see themselves represented in positions of power and influence, it can create a sense of exclusion and limit their sense of belonging. This can result in a lack of mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, making it more difficult for minority individuals to advance their careers.
The recent recession in both tech and economic systems also has an adverse effect on the tech industry. One major area where the tech industry has been affected is in terms of budget restraints. Budgets have been more restrained and this poses a hindrance to introducing and implementing DEI policies and principles.
As companies face financial challenges, some may see DEI initiatives as a luxury or non-essential expenditure, potentially leading to budget cuts or reduced resources for these teams. This can limit the ability of DEI teams to implement necessary programs and initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Additionally, economic uncertainty can increase the stress and tension DEI professionals and companies face, potentially exacerbating existing diversity and inclusion challenges.
DEI in the Tech Industry: Moving the Needle
Many tech organizations claim they value diversity but are not seeing the results they expected.
So what’s going wrong? Why are these organizations still struggling with DEI?
The answer lies in the way these organizations approach DEI. The tech industry will need to rethink its approach to DEI in order to make real progress. Current DEI practices are not effective because they are focused on the wrong things.
DEI work needs to be based on science, or it fails.
DEI efforts must have a scientifically grounded approach. Opinion-based approaches to DEI can be limited, potentially divisive, and may not effectively address the underlying issues. Instead, DEI work should be based on scientific research, data analysis, and evidence-based best practices.
This approach helps ensure that DEI initiatives are not only well-informed but also effective in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Science-based DEI approaches allow for continuous improvement and measurement of progress, allowing organizations to assess the impact of their initiatives and make necessary adjustments. By adopting a data-driven, scientific approach to DEI, organizations can build a more inclusive and equitable work environment that leverages the strengths of diversity and creates long-term benefits for all employees.
DEI and the Bottom Line
MESH’s Co-Founder and Head of Behavioural Science, Dr, Leeno Karumanchery, recently shared his thoughts on the effectiveness of DEI efforts. In order to be successful, it is essential that the outcomes are business-relevant. Organizations must understand the connection between DEI work and business results, such as increased productivity and decreased employee turnover.
We know that a diverse and inclusive workplace can drive innovation and creativity, helping organizations better meet the needs of a diverse customer base. By making DEI work business-relevant, organizations can ensure that these initiatives are fully integrated into their operations and have a lasting impact on the company’s success.
So how can a tech company make DEI progress that is sustainable, systemic and scalable?
It starts with creating a culture of Inclusion.
Inclusive leadership is a management style that sets teams up for success by proactively addressing, mediating and minimizing the impacts of systemic discrimination. Research shows that Inclusive Leadership is a hallmark of workplace cultures where team members are:
More innovative and collaborative
More willing and able to contribute to organizational success
More open-minded, curious and respectful of differences
Less likely to burnout or quit
The role of inclusive leadership in promoting DEI is critical. It creates the platform to understand that inclusion is essential for the organization’s overall success and that everyone can bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table.
It is safe to assume that most leaders want to be part of an inclusive workplace environment that supports all employees. These environments create opportunities for people from different backgrounds to work together so they can learn from one another and build relationships. This promotes enhanced teamwork and collaboration that will help the organization succeed in the long run.
The best way to promote inclusion is by capacity building, and this is exactly how MESH supports Tech organizations in creating inclusive cultures.
Inclusive Leadership In Tech
The MESH Inclusive Leadership Program Is an immersive, interactive online training program designed to provide individuals with the concrete tools they need to create inclusive teams and inclusive workplaces. Leaders know that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and that’s why the MESH Inclusive Leadership Program exclusively combines interactive learning experiences with measurable individual data assessments.
The MESH Inclusive Leadership Program runs for six months, and participants are able to revisit any concept throughout the year.
The journey to building an inclusive leadership environment is worth starting now. We’re here to guide you at every step of the journey. Book a call and learn how MESH can help set up your team for success.