CIOs Look to Boost Tech Teams’ Diversity

cio diversity

Recruiting more women and minorities could help with talent shortage, executives say

Chief information officers are pushing to bring more women and minorities onto corporate technology teams in the year ahead, using methods such as recruiting efforts, internal training and diversity programs.

Attracting more diverse hires could also help mitigate the effects of the continuing information-technology talent shortage, CIOs say.

Workplace diversity is a chronic problem at technology firms and within IT departments at nontech companies. A U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission study published in 2016 found tech jobs, in comparison to the overall private sector, were filled by a larger share of white and Asian-American men, and a smaller share of women, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Information-technology trade group CompTIA says research and anecdotal evidence shows that there is still a long way to go to make tech departments a more welcoming place for women and minorities. The group cited persistent wage gaps, lopsided executive teams and reports of abusive behavior.

In a study published this year, CompTIA said four out of 10 U.S. companies plan to make IT workforce diversity a high priority in 2020.

Tim Nall, chief information officer at Jack Daniel’s maker Brown-Forman Corp., said this year the company launched a program aimed at identifying tech talent early in their careers.

“One of the goals of this program is to bring in diverse talent as students,” and potentially hiring them after graduation, said Mr. Nall, one of 30 IT executives who responded via email to CIO Journal’s annual end-of-year questionnaire to discuss diversity and other issues.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has created similar mentoring and skills-development programs for young women, said CIO Lori Beer.

“We are creating the appetite for technology early,” Ms. Beer said.

Developing talent early can help usher more women into tech careers and leadership roles. The number of black, Latina and Native American women receiving computing degrees in U.S. has dropped by 40% over the past decade, to 4% from 7%, according to a report last year by McKinsey & Co.

Synchrony Financial CIO Carol Juel PHOTO: SYNCHRONY FINANCIAL

To help bring those numbers up, Synchrony Financial CIO Carol Juel said she works closely with Girls Who Code, a U.S.-based nonprofit that provides education in computer science to middle- and high-schoolers.

“We pair these young women with other women from my team, to help them see others in the field who are succeeding,” Ms. Juel said.

Mike Braine, CIO of Tapestry Inc., the owner of the Coach and Kate Spade brands, said the luxury-goods company recently created “talent councils” charged with ensuring the recruiting process casts the widest possible net. “We are looking at every employee and critically determining the skills and opportunities required to build versatile, confident professionals,” he said.

Travelers Chief Technology and Operations Officer Mojgan Lefebvre PHOTO: TRAVELERS CO.

Insurer Travelers Co. this year launched a similar program that includes networking events and partnerships with external groups, such as Grace Hopper College at Yale University, named after the early computer scientist and naval officer. The goal is to expand the company’s efforts to attract and retain high-potential diverse talent, said Travelers Chief Technology and Operations Officer Mojgan Lefebvre.

“It’s important that we change that dynamic and encourage more women to join the field,” Ms. Lefebvre said.

Another approach CIOs are taking is to provide internal training programs to raise awareness of the need for diversity and foster a more inclusive environment.

PayPal Holdings Inc. this year initiated a series of workshops across its global workforce aimed at establishing a shared language and framework to address issues of identity, diversity and cognitive bias, said Sri Shivananda, the company’s chief technology officer.

Mike McNamara, Target Corp.’s CIO, said the retail giant created a year-long immersive training program designed to help more women engineers take on leadership roles. This fall, it expanded the program to include other under-represented groups, specifically African-American and Latino engineers, Mr. McNamara said.

“Having diverse management at that level is so important, because those managers are really setting the tone for the entire team,” he said.

Iron Mountain Inc., the document-storage and secure-shredding company, over the past year has boosted the share of women on its IT leadership team to 57% from 25%, said CIO Kim Anstett.

“By bringing more diversity to the team, we’re ensuring we have the talent that’s needed to push our transformation forward,” Ms. Anstett said.

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