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Diversity Is An Outcome

In my profession, I hear diversity and inclusion coupled together, and frequently interchanged with each other. They are not the same. Perhaps more egregious is leaving out equity, which is necessary to change systemic and institutionalized disparities within organizations.

Simply put, diversity is the presence and representation of difference related to identity in an organization or group. We usually think about diversity as a visual distinction, but many identities that are not visible add uniqueness to our perspectives and world experiences, including but not limited to: gender, race or ethnicity, socioeconomic class, age or generation, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness or accessibility, caregiver and/or family status, veteran status, national origin and/or citizenship status, neurodiversity, languages spoken, education level, religion, marital status, cultural affiliations, learning style, and any combination thereof.

Diversity is about representation and identity factors. Some of those identities may be inherent, and we can’t change them about ourselves or others. Other identities, like being a veteran, result from choices we make, and others, such as an adult-onset disability, are imposed upon us.

Equity is ensuring fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of historically underrepresented groups in the public sphere. Equity is about removing barriers to ensure underrepresented groups experience fair treatment.

A very common example of this comes in wheelchair ramps for people who don’t have full mobility so that they have equal access to public spaces, but perhaps less obvious is how names on resumes that are multicultural don’t receive as many callbacks for interviews as European-sounding names do. That’s a barrier which must be removed to ensure that people with multicultural names are being judged by their skills and not their ancestry.

Inclusion is the act of creating environments and cultures of belonging in which any individual or group with different identities can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. Inclusion is about interpersonal relationships.

You may have heard this saying before:

Employees don’t leave organizations so much as they leave managers.

That is a direct result of the quality of interpersonal relationships that people experience in the workplace.

[Related: Companies Are Losing Top Talent Because of Exclusive Behaviors]

The important point to remember is that equity and inclusion are processes. When those processes are executed with intention, diversity is the outcome.

If a company has not been intentional with its culture, then it tends to be a culture of assimilation. When the culture is one of assimilation, people coming to that workplace are expected to adjust themselves to fit the dominant culture — whatever that dominant culture is. And if you don’t fit in, that’s where exclusion occurs. An organization with an assimilationist culture upholds the lowest bar, legal compliance. Many organizations are content to stay here.

To shift that culture, however, the next stage an organization enters is tolerance. This is when a degree of symbolic diversity has emerged. These organizations tend to have diversity champions that push for more diversity; there are pockets of inclusion and pockets of exclusion. This is where the focus needs to be on team-building and building that inclusion muscle.

This stage is very chaotic and is where most organizations give up. It’s hard to bring about a shift in culture, especially because people fear what they will lose in the change and may not have the vision to anticipate what they will gain with an inclusive and equitable culture.

Once the shift toward inclusion starts happening, people begin to question whether policies, programs, even benefits, are equitable. Equity may be difficult to parse since our biases are ingrained and, despite unconscious bias training, people don’t change their behaviors or don’t recognize how their biases have shaped their behaviors. Employees are more engaged when they see the processes around evaluation, compensation, and promotion as fair and transparent because they’ve been made equitable for everyone.

Once the organization is moving toward a more inclusive environment that welcomes all perspectives and values difference and has dismantled the barriers to equity, these qualities ripple outward. At this stage, when an organization earns a reputation through its employees as being a great place to work because it is inclusive and equitable, it attracts diversity.

Diversity is a fact in our society. It is time for diversity to become a fact in our organizations, as well. Inclusion and equity, practiced with intention, lead to diversity.

[Related: Eight Ways You Can Support Racially Diverse Colleagues at Your Workplace]

Will Remote Work Lead to More Diversity in Tech?

ill the pandemic-induced shift to remote work help organizations increase diversity?

Yes, some companies say—at least for technology jobs.

Technical fields have long lacked diversity; some 80 percent of software engineers in the U.S. are white men, according to McKinsey. Despite pledges to diversify, technology companies have yet to make much progress.

Yet, while many organizations laid off staff and scaled back hiring because of COVID-19, demand for technology professionals held steady and even increased. According to recently released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of tech jobs in May 2020 was 1.2 percent higher than in May 2019. The biggest increases were in data science and information security. Salaries were higher, too. 

Increasing their tech talent during the lockdown showed companies how productive and cost-effective remote hiring and working can be. Employers now have the opportunity to recruit from anywhere, opening up more chances for a diverse pool of applicants.

“The pandemic and the changes it has brought about in how work gets done provide an unprecedented opportunity for a turning point,” wrote Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., in a December 2020 article in the Harvard Business Review. The concentration of tech companies in specific geographies limits their ability to recruit and retain different kinds of people, he pointed out. “Seventy-five percent of venture capital funding is concentrated in just three states—New York, California, and Massachusetts—and more than 90 percent of technology-intensive innovation-sector growth between 2005 and 2017 occurred in just five metro areas,” he wrote.

Recent research at Tufts identified regions of “tech talent diversity” in the United States, ranked them by “digital readiness,” then factored in information like cost of living to identify six states—Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Texas and Virginia—that represent “an untapped opportunity for the big tech companies to establish recruitment strategies to diversify their workforce,” Chakravorti said.

In March, The New York Times reported that tech companies were adding offices in particular geographies, notably Atlanta, as a way to recruit a more ethnically diverse talent pool. Among them are Microsoft, Google and Airbnb. The city has several historically Black colleges and universities that produce a wealth of tech talent.

“This is absolutely a winning strategy,” said Will McNeil, co-founder and CEO of Black Tech Jobs, a Chicago-based tech recruiting firm, which has been able to recruit Black Atlantans to join Silicon Valley-based tech companies remotely. “As soon as you decide employees can work from anywhere, you can win the diversity battle, you can go where the Black talent is.”

TrustRadius, a 70-person company that publishes reviews of business technology products, last year came out with its own report, “People of Color in Tech,” based on a survey of 1,200 technology professionals. Of all the major cities, respondents from Atlanta were most likely to report an increase in people of color in technology over the last decade. Respondents in Austin, Texas; San Francisco; Denver; and Los Angeles were less likely to report an increase in people of color in tech. Austin—where TrustRadius is based—is the only growing city in the U.S. where the Black population is actually shrinking, according to the report.

Like most companies, TrustRadius embraced remote hiring during the pandemic. About half of the 15 new employees it hired over the last year are remote, said Vinay Bhagat, the company’s founder and CEO. They include people located in Atlanta, Virginia and other parts of Texas.

Increased diversity is just a fortunate byproduct of remote hiring, Bhagat said. He thinks the industry’s outreach is driven more by the need to find high-quality talent quickly as well as—at least for Silicon Valley-based companies—by lower costs in other regions.

Steve Cadigan, a recruiting consultant who served as LinkedIn’s first HR director, hopes that the acceptance of remote work becomes an opportunity to change certain practices that discourage diversity. Some believe that unconscious bias may be less likely during a video interview than an in-person interview, for example.

Although remote work can separate people from their existing networks, it may also encourage the formation of new, more inclusive networks within a company. During the pandemic, for example, some of Cadigan’s clients launched “coffee roulette” programs that deliberately matched up co-workers who did not know each other well, he noted. “That kind of thing disintermediates the way we normally hang out. We can’t hang out at the water cooler with our regular friends,” Cadigan said. “Such new norms of interaction can develop and foster more diversity.”

It’s too early to determine to what extent companies will diversify by hiring more people from different geographic areas. “We’re still in the midst of the great experiment,” Cadigan said. “But there are reasons to believe that there will be some positives outcomes.”

Technology can bridge the workplace diversity gap

After a year that forced the nation to examine its relationship with race and equality, employers are increasingly turning to new technologies to help them gain momentum around diversity and inclusion efforts.

Since last spring’s police killing of George Floyd, corporate America has faced increased pressure to bring significant change to the workplace. Ninety percent of employers said that diversity and inclusion was a top priority for 2021, according to McKinsey.

Employers have turned to technology to help them with the heavy lifting around eliminating recruiting bias and changing corporate culture. These tools are crucial to holding employers accountable and creating a diverse and dynamic workplace.

“We want to fall out of the trap of calling it a trend — it’s up to the employees and the HR department to lead these initiatives and take ownership,” says Natasha Shifrin, global outbound sales director at Hibob, an HR software platform. “Technology allows you to have insights based on real data, so you’re making decisions based on fact and not on emotion.”

The COVID pandemic has also been a catalyst for this work. The widespread adoption of remote work and an anticipated hiring frenzy means that employers are turning to virtual recruiting, presenting greater opportunities to expand their talent pool.

Read more: The biggest recruiting trends this year

Seventy percent of employers plan to utilize remote recruiting strategies in 2021, according to a survey by LinkedIn. Artificial intelligence can help ensure that the recruiting experience is equitable from start to finish. The technology, for example, can identify language in job postings that may exclude certain candidates, a critical first step in committing to inclusive hiring efforts.

Natasha Shifrin, global outbound sales director at Hibob, an HR software platform.

“The words that we use make a difference for the people you’re going to attract to the role and the company,” Shifrin says. “Make sure the language you’re using is neutral and inclusive to different areas of the population.”

And while the tech industry favors the use of go-getter terms like “ninja” and “hunter” in job descriptions, Shifrin says that kind of aggressive language can actually deter candidates from applying. Identifying these triggering words helps neutralize the hiring experience.

Read more: Remote work can be a tool for recruiting a more diverse staff

Once prospective employees get past the initial application process, it’s critical for HR managers to be trained to identify their own implicit biases. This training requires people to look inward at what may be influencing their interactions and choices, says Howard Ross, an unconscious bias trainer at Udarta Consulting, a corporate D&I firm.

“The brain makes decisions based on previous experiences and those memories guide us in how we deal with current experiences,” he says. “We could go through almost every interaction between human beings in the workplace, whether it’s interviewing, recruiting, making hiring decisions, staff assignments, the marketing of benefits — it’s the real nature of how we interact.”

Virtual training has provided an opportunity for managers and employees to engage in these discussions more consistently, says Elena Goulas, content manager at Epignosis, a learning and development platform. Epignosis expanded their training modules to include more education around inclusion, discrimination and unconcious bias after responding to increased interest over the past year.

Elena Goulas, content manager at Epignosis, a learning and development platform.

“Training is no longer a nice to have; it should be an integral part of company culture,” she says. “Everyone should understand the concepts of diversity and equality and have consistent training to ensure that these values and practices are solid, from interns up to the CEO.”

Read more: Why annual diversity training isn’t enough to combat racism

Moving these trainings from the conference room to an employee’s living room makes learning more accessible and digestible for employees.

“Remote training is inclusive in and of itself because it provides flexibility, and the opportunities are endless when it comes to the content,” Goulas says. “People can participate at their own pace, which ensures that people are completing the courses and benefiting from the knowledge.”

But one training program isn’t going to create lasting change. To create long-term success, employers must commit to their diversity and inclusion strategy. Inclusive companies are 120% more likely to reach their financial goals, according to data from Gartner. Additionally, more inclusive workplaces are more innovative and dominate in their industry, according to the Josh Bersin Academy, a professional development resource.

And while technology can be an important tool, organizations should avoid turning it into a crutch, Shifrin says.

“The technology is only as good as the people using it,” she says. “It’s our responsibility at the end of the day to be mindful and hold ourselves accountable. When people are comfortable and people feel represented, they’re going to do their best work for you.”

Meet Harold Brown: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s first chief diversity officer

CINCINNATI — Bach, Handel and Mozart — those are the names you expect to see in a symphony orchestra program. In more recent years, American and Russian composers have joined the canon, such as Copeland, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin.

But a pattern remains: Overwhelmingly white, western and from a different century.

Fans of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) know, however, that’s not their entire repertoire. For years, the CSO has held shows for contemporary, gospel, film scores, folk and showcased composers from around the world. Still, the image is there, and they hope a new hire can help change that.


What You Need To Know

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra hired Harold Brown as its first chief diversity officer
The role is part of the 10-part plan to improve diversity, inclusion and equity
Brown is focused on recruiting diverse staff and attracting a diverse audience
He hopes to improve the CSO’s involvement with Cincinnati neighborhood leaders

Harold Brown was born and raised in Ohio, growing up as he calls it “on the mean streets of Oxford.”

He said music was always a part of his life, but not necessarily the kind of music he’d associate with a symphony orchestra. 

“I played an instrument through middle and high school,” he said.  “I’ve always sung in choirs from a child in my church to my high school choir, college choir (and) church choir more recently.”

But most importantly, Brown loved it.https://latakoo.com/-/videoembed/8487382/

He went on to Harvard where he studied government and from there he began a career in public policy and later nonprofits. When he returned to Ohio, he became a leader at a number of philanthropic organizations such as KnowledgeWorks. There he focused on equity work, closing achievement gaps and education reform.

Brown said he never expected his career trajectory to land him at the CSO.

“When this position became known to me, I asked myself that question, too: I said, ‘Well I don’t have a classical music background but I’ve done lots of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), equity-focused work in other sectors,” he said. 

He was one of more than 80 applicants from across the country for the CSO’s chief diversity officer position. It’s a first-of-its-kind position for not only Cincinnati but for orchestras of its size across the country. As Brown stepped into his role in March, he said he only knew of one other.

“I was on the phone with my counterpart in Philadelphia who just assumed this position in November,” he said. 

Brown said the CSO entered his sphere a few years ago through their annual show, “Classical Roots.”

“Combining gospel music with the symphony was something that was very powerful for us so we became league donors and brought other people to those concerts and then we started to come to additional CSO concerts,” he said. 

Brown believes shows like that have the power to open doors. He knows from experience it did for him.

“Folks who may not want to or never have or maybe even fear coming to Music Hall for a traditional performance, it’s a way to expose them to that genre,” he said. Brown at his desk

It’s also what Brown said attracted him to leave his seat in the audience and join the CSO leadership team, though he said their efforts to improve inclusion and diversity did not start and end with him. The CSO launched a 10-point, 10-year Diversity, Inclusion and Equity plan last August.

“The CSO had already started a very aggressive plan that we will continue to build on and hold ourselves accountable for,” he said.

In his first few months, Brown said that will mean a lot of listening and learning. He’s still meeting with staff, performers and community members. From there, Brown hopes to build on the existing structure and goals the CSO has in place to recruit and train a more diverse staff and attract a more diverse audience.

According to CSO president Jonathan Martin, just 1.8% of orchestras across the country are Black and about 2.5% are Hispanic. Those statistics do not represent the country and they don’t represent Cincinnati, he said.

That’s why Brown said training and recruiting performers that represent their community is so important. 

“We want to be in that game we want to be out there making sure the CSO has every opportunity to bring those folks in,” he said.Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra digital performance

Despite the difficulties 2020 brought to the CSO, he said there has been a lot of innovation he’s hoping to build off of.

“The digital work that we’re doing has opened up a brand new vista,” he said. “That isn’t going to be just until we’re open again that’s going to be I understand a permanent part of what we do.”

Brown said it makes the CSO more accessible and he hopes it opens up more doors to Cincinnati audiences, though he said there is plenty more room to grow. For that, Brown said, he’s relying on local leaders to help him out. 

“We’re not there. We’re not raising our hands and saying we’ve arrived because we’ve hired this position and we have a diversity equity and action plan,” he said. “But I hope the community works with us, shares ideas and gives the CSO the opportunity to demonstrate that the commitment to a more inclusive experience is genuine and authentic.”

Majority of employees want to work for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion, survey shows

KEY POINTS

  • Nearly 80% of workers in the most recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey say that they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Sixty percent of workers in the survey say they approve of business leaders speaking out on social and political issues.
  • Far fewer (36%) say they want their own leaders speaking out.

Workers want business leaders to speak up on social and political issues and think companies can do more when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, according to the latest CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey. The C-suite should take notice: a majority of employees say it’s important for them to work at an organization that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. More than half say it’s very important to them. The poll was conducted among 8,233 employed adults across the U.S. between April 8 and 18, using the SurveyMonkey platform.

 The wave of news events over the past several months—voting rights debates in Georgia and other states, anti-Asian violence, and the trial and conviction in the George Floyd death—have prompted business leaders to wade into heated issues in a very public way. And while 60% of workers in the survey say they approve of business leaders speaking up about these hot-button social and political issues, far fewer (36%) say they would back their own company’s leadership speaking out regardless of what they were advocating.

Those at the top of the organization—CEOs, business owners, and other C-suite leaders—are the least likely to say business leaders should be speaking out. A little over half in this group approve of those in leadership positions speaking out on social and political issues, compared with 62% of the rank and file.

Diversity and inclusion matters, say employees

There’s far more agreement on diversity and inclusion issues. Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, and a third said their companies are doing “a lot” of work on this area.

“Workers who are satisfied with their company’s efforts on [DEI] issues are actually happier with their jobs,” says Laura Wronski, a research science manager at SurveyMonkey. “They are more likely than others to say that they have good opportunities to advance their careers, and they are more likely to feel like they are paid well for the work they do.”Workers who are satisfied with their company’s efforts on [DEI] issues are actually happier with their jobs.Laura Wronski, research science manager, SurveyMonkey

While the social implications for valuing diversity and inclusion resonate with workers, the business case is equally strong. As companies position themselves for growth in the wake of the pandemic, they need the very qualities that define diverse and inclusive cultures—innovation and resilience.

“Our business came to standstill last year, and it would have been really easy for us to say ‘let’s have a time out and focus on the financials,’” says Laura Fuentes, chief human resources officer at Hilton and a Workforce Executive Council (WEC) member. “Instead, we leaned into conversations around privilege, racism, and how men need to show up and become an ally.”

Greg Cunningham, chief diversity officer at U.S. Bank and a WEC member, says that enlightened companies understand that equity is a catalyst for business growth. “It’s not just the Black community or the Asian community or women,” he says. “This time it feels like we’re all in solidarity with each other.”

Indeed, nearly 40% of the workers surveyed said that the events of the past year have made diversity and inclusion more of a priority at their companies.

“I think we’re at this inflection point where employees and leaders realize that the only way to grow and move forward is to bring more people into the tent,” Cunningham adds. “We all win when we all win.”

Job satisfaction connection

One of the biggest challenges companies are facing as the country works its way out of the pandemic is the ability to find the right talent. Tech companies have long struggled to fill demand, and the skills gap remains a significant hurdle. Respondents to the CNBC Technology Executive Council quarterly survey, for instance, said it had become harder to find qualified job candidates. In fact, the survey shows that almost half of respondents say that finding qualified employees remains their biggest risk.

Keeping employees happy and engaged is therefore a crucial element in this talent war. And an employee’s perception of his or her company’s DEI efforts has an impact on their job satisfaction, according to the SurveyMonkey poll. Those workers who say their company is “not doing enough” to prioritize diversity and inclusion have a Workforce Happiness Index score of 63, well below the average score of 72.

DJ Castro, chief human resources officer at Synchrony, and a WEC member, says millennials, Gen X and Gen Z are purpose-driven generations that act on principle and hold organizations accountable. “They’re opting to work for companies with clear value systems and corresponding behaviors around inclusion, transparency, fairness and sustainable business practices,” he adds.

Keeping and attracting the best talent, says Kevin Price, a WEC member and head of inclusion and diversity for Dixon Hughes Goodman, will be determined by “how well a company can saturate the talent lifecycle with the key principles of diversity and inclusion,” he says. “Remember, you want the culture on your walls to align with the culture in the halls.”

There’s a surprising shift taking place in the way white entrepreneurs are approaching diversity

Businessman assembling puzzle of collage of smiling face

People of color have long borne the burden of solving for diversity. We shouldn’t. 

Consider that my initial instinct for this column on how startups think about diversity was to call Black and brown sources, from funders to consultants to companies themselves. Then I recalled my recent column about why white managers must take on the work of “code switching.” 

Startups led by white entrepreneurs are increasingly trying, I found. Their hand has been forced by a few factors:

Companies launching in this startup boom—business applications were at record highs last year, up 24% from 2019—have a chance to set things right. Fixing hiring practices, missions and work cultures that exclude is as important as the disruption startups already represent to the status quo. 

“The past year allowed us to say out loud that the system is broken,” said Hadas Drutman, who consults on experience, communities and culture. “A lot of people think of diversity as a project. It’s not. If you are doing it in a way that’s right, it has to touch every aspect of the business.”

What founders are thinking about:

Be aware of your privilege 

“A small minority of born and lived identities provide structural privileges that are essential to success in general,” said Devin Soule, founder of Chicago-based Further Faster, a venture studio that advises startups, “specifically in how the startup ecosystem is set up.”

He rattles off all the ways privilege plays out in startup land, terms that are taken for granted but inherently problematic and exclusionary: 

  • “bootstrapping” 
  • “permission to fail”
  • “friends and family rounds”

The first step is being aware but that comes “at a material and emotional cost to everyone else,” he said. “The onus is on us to use whatever means we have to dismantle it.”

Hiring is everything and yet not only the thing 

Startups within the diversity space are also booming (disclosure: I have one, too) and are fueled by a hunger for Black and brown talent. Mathison is a technology platform that helps employers manage diversity hiring in one place, including systems of measurement. I asked the co-founders, who are white, about whether they are self-conscious of their own race. Dave Walsh and Arthur Woods answered by email. “Even though we have diverse dimensions (Arthur is part of the LGBTQ community, first-generation, and Dave is an Irish immigrant), we see it as our single most important action to practice what we preach and build the most diverse team,” they said. “We are doing deep internal cultural competency work and training to ensure our entire team is rooted and supported in our DEI work.” 

One shift Drutman encourages is to stop filling roles with individuals. “You are not hiring people. You are designing a team,” she said. “You’re investing in building diverse teams not for optics’ sake. Diverse voices and lived experiences around one table…this is where real change and innovation comes from.”

Startups also say they are taking more time to get the mix of hires right. “There’s a whole world of brilliant people out there,” said Soule. “Just try as hard at finding diverse talent as you do at finding sales prospects or investors.”

Diversity is a part of your culture, mission and values 

Company after company has been forced to reckon with their own role in systemic racism. Press releases last summer amid the Black Lives Matter protests vowed to do better. Last week brought another spate in the wake of the historic verdict finding Derek Chauvin guilty. 

Newer companies can build with the advantage of hindsight. Entrepreneurs treat their mission statements as gospel. Many say baking diversity, equity and inclusion into that mission is the only way to ensure work around DEI actually gets done.

“We believe that building diversity into your organization only gets harder the bigger you get so it’s essential to start early,” said Mathison’s Walsh and Woods. 

The post-pandemic economy is all about diverse communities 

Partly a result of the pandemic, partly a result of the loneliness that preceded it, partly seeking to solve for intense polarization, many new companies focus on connecting users with each other. Here, too, requires sensitivity around diversity and on whose terms connecting is occurring. 

“Community is very much a buzzword but there’s a lack of understanding of what community means. It’s not an audience and not your customer base,” said Drutman, who worked for 4 ½ years at Glossier, a skincare and makeup company. Glossier announced a $500,000 fund last year to support Black-owned beauty businesses. 

Businesses focused on community, said Drutman, must first: 

  • Create the environment for users to care about something.
  • Create the conditions for users to connect with one another.
  • Form a community together. 

“Community is not about bringing together like-minded people. That is very much misunderstood,” she said. “For a community to be unique and make an impact, you need to bring diverse people together and think about things really differently and allow in that space the opportunity to learn from each other.”

Put your dollars toward diversity 

Whether it’s holidays gifts for teams or the legal counsel to incorporate, startups say an easy way to support diversity to seek out diverse vendors. They say to practice this until it becomes a habit and the way you do business. 

“Being able to intentionally create new habits is one of the things every successful founder needs to be able to do on many levels,” said Soule, “so there’s no excuse not to do it with something so vital to our collective ability to thrive.” 

Commit to the long haul 

Scaling efforts around diversity is just as important as audience and revenue, entrepreneurs repeatedly said. They also advise white people become comfortable with the lifelong nature of this work. 

“The combination of the pandemic, murders of George Floyd and the Black community alongside all the racism and atrocities against the AAPI community created an even greater urgency for organizations and leaders to respond,” said Walsh and Woods. “For many, rather than approach DEI efforts in a long term and permanent way, they pursued immediate gestures of support that weren’t focused on long-term sustainable or strategic change.”

The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology

It’s not news that technology has become an important factor in almost every aspect of our lives. More people are getting rid of traditional satellite TV and moving to streaming services, Alexa letting us know when to water our plants, and the average person spending almost 3 hours and 30 minutes of their day just on their phone. It’s safe to say technology is an essential part of our day-to-day lives.

ReadWrite

ReadWrite5 days ago·6 min read

It isn’t just limited to entertainment and convenience in our personal lives either; many of us could not do our jobs without technology. Whether we’re graphic designers whose entire role exists within a computer, to supermarkets whose tills use complex software to keep the shop running.

The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology

Our lives revolve around technology in many ways, which raises the question of why the UK is falling behind in adopting newer technology such as AI and deep learning in the workplace?

What if diversity in the technology industry is a related factor in whether or not your business will fall behind.

What does diversity have to do with technology?

A criticism often given to technology is that its level of diversity and inclusivity fall behind many other industries.

The technology sector is currently expanding 3 times faster than the rest of the UK economy, but the diversity numbers fall beyond other areas. Gender diversity is estimated at just 19% in tech, and this is compared to 49% in other industries. When you get to higher-level executive roles within the tech industry, gender diversity falls to just 5% of women in senior positions.

From a business perspective, McKinsey’s Diversity Matters Report found companies with high diversity levels are 33% more likely to outperform competitors.

There are four types of diversity that can be found in the workplace.

  • Internal — These are things individuals are born with that are difficult or impossible to change, such as ethnicity, age and gender.
  • External — Refers to characteristics an individual is not born with, but are shaped by their experiences and circumstances such as education and appearance.
  • Organizational — This refers to whether organizations have a wide variety of job functions, union affiliations and work locations.
  • World View — Dealing with the experiences that shape how an individual views the world, such as their political leaning or cultural background.

When a company looks to create all four types of diversity, they create an inclusive environment where there is no status quo on how an employee should look, or be. Research shows employees who feel they work in an inclusive environment work harder and are more likely to tackle difficult tasks with a positive attitude due to their sense of purpose and loyalty.

These varied issues don’t just lead to a better work environment — they lead to a better product.

How does diversity create a better product?

Timnit Gebru, a Microsoft researcher and co-founder of Black in AI, says the lack of diversity will definitely affect the development of artificial intelligence and progress in computers:

“There is bias to what kinds of problems we think are important, what kinds of research we think are important, and where we think AI should go.

When problems don’t affect us, we don’t think they’re that important, and we might not even know what these problems are, because we’re not interacting with the people who are experiencing them.”

Gebru’s argument is that because there is a lack of diversity within technology, there is a lack of diversity in the technology it produces, especially when it comes to complex artificial intelligence.

When we look back at only 19% of tech workers being female and how Apple’s first promised “expanse” health app tracked blood alcohol but not menstruation cycles, you can understand why a more gender-diverse team may have seen this addressed before public release.

For many people, adopting new technology can be difficult because the technology is simply not built for them.

We’ve seen soap dispensers with sensors programmed to only recognize lighter skin tones that simply don’t register darker skin tones. Then there is voice recognition, with many examples of people having to fake southern English accents so that Alexa can actually understand requests and statements.

If the newer technology can’t recognize your voice — this creates an idea that technology is not designed with a diverse society in mind. Therefore, it can’t be used by a diverse society. Some of the voice programs have AI — so it’s just a matter of ML that will eventually get your voice tones — so keep trying to be understood!

Microsoft report shows only half of UK employees use AI to work faster, compared to 69% of employees worldwide.

The demand for AI and deep-learning technology is not going to slow in demand anytime soon.

Industries increasingly see uses for it, not only to solve complex data problems but to predict customer behavior and habits. However, only 32% of UK employees actually feel their workplace is doing enough to prepare them for the growing necessary use of technology.

Technology relies on not just testing in developmental stages, but real-world applications to evolve and improve.

With the UK’s slow adoption rate of some technologies, it limits a technology company’s ability to fully realize the potential of some applications.

When you look at technology through the lens that it may not be made for you, and therefore may not work for you — it becomes easier to see why people have a negative bias towards it in some countries.

Is there any way diversity and technology can work together?

Part of why it’s important to be critical of technology is because it’s become so important to us, and we’ve seen the incredible work it can do with regards to diversity and inclusion.

One of the many ways technology can improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace is through dedicated diversity and inclusion technologies. 43% of D&I technologies are used for the purpose of talent acquisition, including candidate sourcing and selection, and the key to many of these technologies is artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence can help remove unconscious bias in recruiting throughout the entire hiring process.

AI has actually been used to write job postings, where it can write factual descriptions without leading statements or biased language that could be seen as exclusionary.

We’re also seeing AI being used in applicant screening, where it can be programmed to ignore demographics like race, age — all of which have been shown to give candidates an unfair disadvantage whilst applying for jobs.

Research shows applicants with “white-sounding” names have a 25% chance of being called for an interview, whereas applicants with “BAME-sounding” names only have a 10% chance of being invited to interview.

AI will screen CVs without registering this information instead of focusing on relevant skills, experience, and keyword matching to ensure it’s the best talent for being interviewed for roles.

Technology can also be used to improve existing problems in the workplace, not just focus on finding new talent. We’re seeing increased use of intelligent automation in employee benefits and compensation.

By combing through multiple sources, a cognitive bot can offer accurate insight into the compensation and benefits patterns across your organization, giving an unbiased view of gaps across your workforce and creating an even working environment.

Technology has its part to play

Compared to many industries, technology as we know it is an incredibly new industry. But, it’s important to note that while it still has a long way to go to become the diverse, inclusive space it needs to be to create the most cutting-edge technology, it is actively working towards this and helping support other industries in this pursuit.

The biggest takeaway is that technology is still a product of human design, which means it is not a completely unbiased creation.

If we want to create programs and tools that the wider workforce can adopt, it needs to be designed by groups that represent the wider workforce and can look from a variety of angles.

The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology was originally published on ReadWrite by Amy Hunt.

Oscars Diversity: Historic Firsts for Non-Acting Categories and Ceremony Accessibility

Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to win best director, among other non-acting categories that saw diversity firsts at the 93rd Academy Awards.

#OscarsSoWhite was coined by April Reign in 2015 to describe the lack of diversity among the 20 acting nominees, but when it came to inclusion at the 2021 Oscars, it was categories behind the camera that saw multiple milestones take place.

Chloe Zhao is now the first woman of color (and second woman overall) to win best director. Taking the stage early Sunday evening at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles (in two other breaks from tradition), she quoted the opening line of 三字经 (Three Character Classic), the 13th-century text that many Chinese children around the world have been taught to memorize: “人之初,性本善” (at birth, people are innately good). Zhao later became the second Asian woman, after Parasite‘s Kwak Sin-ae last year, to pick up an Academy Award for best picture.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom‘s Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson are the first Black winners in makeup and hairstyling, sharing the award with makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera. “I stand here, as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling, with so much excitement for the future,” said hair department head Neal, who in the trio’s acceptance speech described the racial barriers her father, a Tuskegee Airman and Northwestern graduate, faced amid his accomplishments. “Because I can picture Black trans women standing up here, and Asian sisters, and our Latina sisters, and indigenous women, and I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking, it will just be normal.”

After three previous Black nominees in best live-action short, Two Distant Strangers‘ Travon Free became the first Black winner in the category, sharing his award with his co-director, Martin Desmond Roe. Free, a former writer for The Daily ShowFull Frontal with Samantha Bee and Black Monday, used his acceptance speech to draw attention to police killings, which disproportionately impact Black people. “James Baldwin once said the most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other people’s pain,” said Free. “So I just ask that you please not be indifferent, please don’t be indifferent to our pain.”

Going into the ceremony, there was a real possibility that the Oscars could see four non-white acting winners for the first time ever. But in the end, actors of color prevailed only in the supporting categories. In her final charming acceptance speech of the season, Minari‘s Yuh-Jung Youn forgave everyone who butchered her name; dedicated her Oscar to her first director, Kim Ki-young; and wondered if she won because of “American hospitality for Korean actor.”

Meanwhile, Judas and the Black Messiah‘s Daniel Kaluuya paid tribute to his parents for conceiving him as well as to the man he played, the late Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton. “[Hampton and the Party] showed me how to love myself. With that love they overflowed it to the Black community and to other communities, and they showed us the power of unity,” said Kaluuya. “When they play divide and conquer, we say unite and ascend. There’s so much work to do, and that’s on everyone in this room.”

Also striking a note of unity was Tyler Perry, who dedicated his Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to “anyone who wants to stand in the middle,” he said, describing the anti-Black racist attacks his mother witnessed throughout her life and declaring his refusal to judge or hate anyone, controversially including police officers alongside a list of racial groups. “That’s where healing happens, that’s where conversation happens, that’s where change happens.”

Elsewhere, non-white winners at the 2021 Oscars included Jon Batiste sharing best original score for Soul with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; H.E.R., Tiara Thomas and D’Mile winning best song for Judas‘ “Fight for You”; and Mexican sound engineers Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc and Carlos Cortes sharing best sound with their Sound of Metal teammates Nicolas Becker and Phillip Bladh.

Among everyone who took home at least one statuette at the 2021 Oscars, 25 are white men, eight are white women, four are Black men, four are Black women, two are Latino men, one is a Latina woman and three are Asian women. H.E.R., who is of Black and Filipino descent, is counted in two categories. Two people won multiple Oscars, Zhao and best actress/best picture winner Frances McDormand.

Inclusion at the Oscars wasn’t demonstrated only in the winners list. Bong Joon Ho presented best director in Korean, with English translation by Sharon Choi, while Marlee Matlin presented the two documentary categories in American Sign Language. According to the Ruderman Family Foundation, this year’s ceremony (produced by Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins) featured for the first time an ASL interpreter in the media room, as well as an accessible stage with a ramp and closed captioning and audio descriptions sponsored by Google (which aired an ad during the ceremony featuring a Chinese American man who is a CODA, or child of deaf adults).Volume 0%03:4000:1103:40 READ MOREOscars: The Complete Winners List

How To Cultivate Diversity In Every Area Of A Tech Company

2021 is the year that tech companies must take actionable, results-driven steps to diversify their industry. The tech world is severely lagging in diversity and inclusion initiatives, with racial minorities still ranking as less than twenty percent of employees at major companies like Google. Deloitte determined that 2021 is the year the tech industry remedies this issue. With more companies, especially in tech, moving to remote work standards, hiring is no longer limited by geographic region.

With this in mind, Deloitte said this is a prime opportunity for growth in the tech industry because companies can hire from a broader range of candidates. 

While many companies have made efforts to diversify the entirety of their staff, senior leadership roles, especially those in the C-Suite, are rarely given to minorities. To create a diverse, inclusive, and sustainable workplace, tech companies need to invest time and money in all aspects of the company to make room for a broader and more well-rounded workforce.

Since 2016, Dr. Richard Munassi has been a leader at the Tampa Bay Wave, a non-profit organization that assists entrepreneurs and is dedicated to building, launching, and growing tech businesses. His efforts have largely been focused on creating diverse and inclusive environments within the tech sphere, through programs like Tech Women Rising, and the TechDiversity Accelerator program.

These programs focus on the whole of the company and how diversity and inclusion efforts can be implemented each step of the way. Here are the top ways the tech industry can address diversity and inclusion in companies.

Acknowledge Underrepresentation and Focus Your Support

Statistically, minorities make up less of the population of workers in STEM industries. This lack of representation in industries as a whole means that those minorities who do pursue entrepreneurship in STEM need support and access. Make intentional investments, whether financially or with your time, in supporting companies and initiatives led by minority groups.

When Tampa Bay Wave started, the company’s efforts were focused on more broadly supporting start-up leaders. When they began to recognize the lack of diversity in the tech world, they opted to create a diversity-focused cohort for up-and-coming tech companies.

For Munassi’s group, this means focusing their accelerator program on early-stage startups in tech that are fifty-one percent or more owned and operated by a minority, woman, veteran, disabled person, LGBTQ+ person or persons, or any combination of the aforementioned identities.

Acknowledging underrepresentation is the first step toward growing diversity in the tech sphere because it highlights where companies lack inclusion. 

Understand the Long Game of Diversity and Inclusion

If companies truly and sincerely want to diversify their workforces, they have to be in it for the long run. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution and requires dedication and time. This means that any company strategy, from its inception, should allow for ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts over an extended period and in all capacities of the company. To play the long game, companies need to understand how inclusion can be improved in interviewing, hiring, onboarding, training, and then maintaining the workforce. 

These elements are all-inclusive. Tampa Bay Wave found that, in their cohorts, they needed to support each minority-led company with resources for the beginning, middle, and end of their journeys to entrepreneurship and into tech-world success. 

The companies selected for each cohort work in a non-competitive, collaborative environment and are provided with resources such as one-on-one mentoring, pitch coaching, sales training, curated workshops, networking events, investment readiness workshops, media training, and exposure.

Know That Your Investment Will Yield Results

Like anything, cultivating a healthy, diverse, and inclusive workforce will take time, but efforts toward diversification will yield results. With this in mind, understand that each step of the way is a critical part of the process. Know, also, that tech companies who pursue diversity and inclusion are leading the way in being solutions-driven and making a difference in their industry. 

If your company hasn’t progressed in diversity and inclusion efforts, know that the status of the industry in 2021 won’t leave room for excuses. Diversity should be a focus of every company in the industry, and it’s growing more important each day. This is the time to start, whether you’re a student in the STEM world, a tech entrepreneur, or a long-established company. Focus your efforts on increasing diversity, building an all-encompassing approach that sets more people up for success.

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