Diversity building blocks: Reaching the tipping point for change

opportunity, diversity

Article provided by Monique Ellis, COO at Massive

It’s no secret that, when it comes to diversity, the technology industry is only starting to reach a ‘tipping point’ for diversity and inclusion.

Although women in tech are no longer the unicorns we used to be, the stats show that only 17 per cent of IT specialists are female. There’s still a long way to go, not only to encourage more women into engineering, commercial, and business focused roles within tech companies, but also to create an environment that lets them thrive and succeed.

A shift like this won’t happen overnight. Nor will it be without support from those who have already risen to the top. That said, the reality is inclusion rarely happens by osmosis – it requires conscious decision making at all levels. This means it’s not just a case of successful women leading by example. Instead, those in power and roles of influence need to be encouraged to adopt active measures for inclusion.

Fortunately, this is a change we can all help to support. And if you’re looking to drive this in your own organisation, a good place to start is with the three key building blocks for diversity:

Building block #1: Education, education, education

The argument here isn’t that the concept of diversity is woefully misunderstood. Instead, the aim is to put these principles front of mind and inform the decisions of those who are in a position to truly enact change. Typically, this means introducing education from the c-suite down.

At Massive, one way we’ve inspired this change is to introduce an eight-module education series on everything from emotional intelligence to coaching on unconscious bias. The aim is to tackle the often-unintended barriers to diversity that can arise from our backgrounds, experiences, and upbringings and ensure we have different minds around the table to push boundaries and deliver growth.

It’s an approach that gears up senior decision makers to push diversity from within. After all, it’s much easier to allow this mentality to trickle down from within an organisation than to push the change upwards. The c-suite sets the vision for any company and, by educating this level first, it’s far easier to ensure diversity and its many benefits are front and centre of that vision.

Building block #2: Empowering change with HR

Once you have buy-in from the senior team and a future vision, the next stage is to empower those that make the day-to-day decisions affecting diversity and active inclusion on a practical level – the HR department.

One of the biggest changes that needs to happen in this area is the mindset of hiring for talent rather than purely filling vacancies. Much in the same way that real diversity will not be achieved by filling quotas or ticking boxes, HR should be empowered to look at a candidate’s potential to see what they could bring to the company rather than whether or not they are the perfect fit at that specific point in time. This goes far beyond the binary gender divide and is a powerful tool when looking to create a culture that supports diversity across the board.

Often, HR departments are hamstrung by the fact that underrepresented or minority groups are not afforded the same opportunities of those from privileged positions. However, a talent-first policy based on hiring ‘the best candidate for the role’ brings a two-fold benefit of opportunity for the individual and being able to take advantage of untapped potential for the organisation. The rule of hiring at 70% ideal fit is one way this can be adopted as it creates a high potential talent pool at all levels.

Building block #3: Thinking long term

One of the biggest barriers that women, in particular, face in a professional environment is prejudice against their commitments outside of work. The big lesson businesses need to learn here is that short-termism isn’t an option. You need to accommodate the needs of all of your employees around the world if you truly value your employee community.

A good example of this in practice is that we recently promoted one of our employees four days before she started maternity leave. Why? Because she was the right fit for the role, regardless of any other factors. The result is a highly engaged employee that feels valued by the company and continues to deliver results.

It is a shift in mindset that is only possible with the first two building blocks in place, but one that proves to be extremely worthwhile.

Removing the ‘women in’ moniker from tech

The truth is that diversity in business can only work if it’s pervasive, transparent and managed with conscious decision making. I’ve gone into more detail on each of these areas in Massive’s diversity whitepaper. It needs to be present and practised at all levels and in all aspects, and as we all know this takes time and commitment.

For those looking to drive change in their own organisations, there is no quick fix or band-aid solutions. There’s a long road ahead and it will become easier to navigate as you go. Values need to be at the core of your operation – your values are your framework to guide behaviour and decision making.

Monique-Ellis_COO_Massive

With the right leadership, encouragement and coaching, supported by those at the top, we can all instigate real change, and if we all focus on getting the foundation right, and removing the binary view, we should soon start to see ‘women in tech’ events disappear. Not for lack of recognition, but because women in technology will become the norm it deserves to be.

About the author

Monique Ellis is COO at London-based tech company, Massive.

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