Under-representation of minorities among tech employees: How to build diverse teams for diversity of thought

May 18, 2021 7:33 PM

Diversity of thought is about having people from diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences and diverse point of view.

When same kind of people with similar life experiences develop a solution, their vision is tunneled. (Representational image)

By Rashim Mogha

The disruption in the Tech industry continues to be in focus given the impact that it has on everyday life. There is no industry that is not touched by technology – Think Edtech, HealthTech, FinTech etc. The Tech industry is seen as the place where innovation happens, where professionals get a chance to create new products, and career growth is guaranteed if you have right skills.

But a deeper look at Tech industry, and you get to see the not-so-shiny side. The industry still lacks diversity. It continues to be male dominated with underrepresentation of minorities including women, LGBTQ+, and People of Color (POC). This lack of diversity and in turn diversity of thought affects the products that the companies develop. When same kind of people with similar life experiences develop a solution, their vision is tunneled. They think of the same solutions, which focus on a subset of the population as opposed to the entire population. A great example is the bias that we see in AI algorithms because they are written by a non-diverse set of tech professionals.

Not Just a Buzz Word

Diversity of thought is about having people from diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences and diverse point of view. According to the Diversity Wins report published by Mckinsey, companies with gender diversity in their executive teams were 25 percent more likely to experience above-peer average profitability than companies who didn’t have gender diversity in their executive teams.

Similarly, companies that have gender and ethnic diversity are 12 percent more likely to outperform companies that do not. For every 10 percent increase in ethnic diversity on the senior team, there is a 0.8 percent increase in the company’s earnings. Companies realize that they will not be successful if they don’t create products, solutions, and services that resonate with their global audience that comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. And the only way they can build these real-world solutions is by having diverse teams create them.

How to Make it Happen

So how can companies build diverse teams and promote diversity of thought? It requires a systemic approach which focuses not just on diversity but also inclusion. Not just having the seat at the table, but also having a voice at the table.

  • Share the commitment to diversity initiatives: It is important that the company shares its position on diversity and diversity goals with the entire workforce. It sets the tone for the workforce on company’s stance on building a diverse and inclusive workplace that doesn’t tolerate discriminatory behavior and microaggressions. This message should come from the executive team and the company should share the progress on diversity initiatives at townhalls. Doing so, not only keeps the executive leadership accountable but also sends a message to the workforce that the company is serious about being a diverse organization.
  • Focus on hiring diverse talent: Companies should focus on training the recruiting teams and the hiring managers to consciously look for diverse candidates in the entire hiring process, right from how the job requisitions are written to how the interviews are conducted and the offers are made. This can be done by removing conscious and unconscious bias and setting data-driven targets for representation of diverse talent in the hiring process.
  • Drive inclusion by providing psychological security: Having a diverse team has no value if the team cannot bring their ideas and voices to the table. Companies can encourage this by providing psychological safety where teams feel comfortable with sharing their experiences and propose solutions without the fear of being reprimanded.
  • Provide equal opportunities for growth: Companies need to set clear data-driven criteria for promotions, pay raise, and advancement to make sure that there is no bias in the process. Managers need to be trained and coached on how to have the opportunity conversations with the team members.
  • Hold leadership accountable: Companies need to clear set goals on diversity numbers and hold leaders accountable for not just hiring diverse talent but also retaining it. They also need to coach the leaders to foster a culture of inclusion in their teams so that they can reap the benefits of diversity of thought.

(The author is Customer Market Leader & GM, Leadership and Business, Skillsoft. Views expressed are personal.)

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