It’s no secret that the tech industry has a complicated relationship with diversity. It’s a buzzword that companies love to throw around in their outward messaging, because if they can portray themselves as a diverse entity, it makes them look better in the public eye, and therefore more profitable. The trouble is that while many organizations claim to have diverse teams and workspaces, few of them actually walk the walk, so to speak.
Ask anyone in the tech industry who is part of a marginalized community, and they’ll tell you that when they’re brought into these companies with the promise of diversity and inclusion, they go in with eyes wide and hopes up. However, it doesn’t take very long for them to quickly become jaded with such organizations, as they find that these places aren’t able to support a diverse workforce. The policies and procedures that are 100% necessary for such workers to thrive simply aren’t there. They haven’t even been conceived of, and if they have, they haven’t been implemented in such a way that actually provides the support these workers need.
For a lot of these companies diversity is a matter of checking a box, but there’s much more to it than that if you want to acquire and retain diverse talent. If you can tap into this talent pool and keep them around, it can strengthen your organization more than you know. Let’s look at some of the ways this can be achieved in a way that isn’t shallow or performative.
Equality Vs Equity
Having a diverse workplace is more than just hiring people to fill a role; it’s hiring people and then doing whatever you can to make sure that they get the support that they need to thrive. Equality means that everyone has access to the same resources, and on paper, that seems like the way to go, right? Well, it’s a step in the right direction, but not ideal.
Equity is what you’re really looking for, and that means recognizing that your workers have needs that are specific to them, and giving them the resources they need to succeed in the same way as their peers. The systems currently in place often favor certain types of people above others. It’s not enough to say, “we all have access to the same flight of stairs” when there are people with mobility issues. Building wheelchair ramps is equity. Equity is something that everyone at every level of an organization should be aware of, and work towards. Put work into researching DEI (diverse, equitable, and inclusive) initiatives for your workplace, and your employees are going to feel more empowered, and more welcome.
“The Perfect Candidate”
Too often, when hiring managers are looking for ‘the best person for the job,’ they’re looking for that person using an increasingly antiquated set of criteria. People scan resumes for relevant degrees and work experience, when many people (especially people from marginalized communities) don’t have access to things like a college education due to systemic roadblocks.
Of course you’d want your people to be as educated as possible for the role, but other considerations need to be made. For example, there are people that have been able to give themselves an amazing education using resources outside of college courses. There are many online learning centers where for a fraction of the price (or for nothing at all), people can learn everything they need to do the job correctly. Don’t discount these people! The landscape of education is changing drastically as all the knowledge someone needs to be successful becomes more universally accessible. You can learn all kinds of coding from YouTube alone! The same goes for those individuals that haven’t spent years in relevant roles. There are people that spend years in those roles and have no idea what they’re doing---just ask anyone who has worked on a team in any tech setting! Meanwhile, there are people that have done all the learning, and are chomping at the bit to show you what they can do. Give them a shot! You have no idea what kind of passion and new ideas they can bring to your organization.
The Price is Right
This point is pretty simple: Pay people the same amount for doing the same jobs. At least, it should be simple, but not only is there a gender pay gap, but a racial one as well. A survey conducted by PayScale in 2019 showed that Black men earned 87 cents for every dollar that a white man made, and Latino men earned 91 cents.
The gender pay gap is much more documented, with women earning around 84 cents for every dollar a man does. So what do you do? You conduct a pay analysis, which is something many companies didn’t even consider until very recently, and be transparent about your findings. This is going to be a fundamental building block on your DEI journey, and it will also draw talent to your organization when they see you’re putting in the work to treat your people fairly.
A Place To Call Their Own
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are an excellent way to make your team members feel welcome, and heard, and give them a sense of community. When you have internal groups for women, Black people, Latinx people, etc. you’re opening the doorway to conversation about employee needs, and showing that you are willing to listen to other viewpoints that you may have not considered otherwise.
ERGs are shown to increase employee retention, and if the organization is able to act on the initiatives that might stem from conversations with such groups, it’s going to lead to increased morale, and can even result in increased productivity!
Now remember, this is only a starting point. In order to truly understand what it means to be a diverse workplace that attracts diverse talent, it’s going to take a lot more than a simple list with a few bullet points. It takes commitment, research, and confronting what may end up being uncomfortable truths about your current policies and procedures. These systemic issues are hard to repeal. If they weren’t, they’d have been replaced a long time ago. But we can assure you, that if you put in the work, the powerful talent pool will come to you, and with it’s new ideas, innovative points of view, and strong desire to succeed, that talent will be there to stay.
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