How to gut check your DEI strategy and establish accountability in your programs.
Feb. 27, 2023 | By John Lullen, Manager, Marketplace Diversity Solutions
Franklin Reed, TEKsystems’ executive director of global inclusion, diversity and equity, and Lauren Kolodrubetz, executive director of marketplace diversity solutions for TEKsystems, have provided guidance about equitable recruiting and retention practices as a part of organizational diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies. In this article, I’d like to shine a light on the lack of Black and Hispanic representation in IT. In my roles as manager of marketplace diversity solutions and executive board member for the New York City chapter of Blacks in Technology, I am passionate about creating accessible pathways in IT for underrepresented communities in an effort to help achieve equity in the IT industry.
DEI: Education and Workforce Gaps
As of 2022, demographics in IT show that individuals who identify as Black or Hispanic make up just 16% of the IT workforce. This is happening largely because of a lack of access to college education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were over 97,000 computer science degrees awarded in 2020. Of these recipients, only 8% were Black and 11% Hispanic.
Accessibility Strategy for Inclusion in IT
The technology industry has lacked diversity for many years due to systemic barriers. Traditional hiring models have historically focused on education rather than skills and capabilities. If we’re going to move the needle, companies need to pivot from that model.
For example, I often see customers trying to recruit tech talent from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This is a great start but tends to be the main focus of many employers of tech talent. If only 8% of computer science degrees are going to Black students, the likelihood that those students are also attending HBCUs is high. Therefore, companies shouldn’t be placing all their recruiting efforts there as it is extremely competitive.
Embed DEI Practices Throughout Your Organization
Let’s not sugarcoat it, attracting and retaining a diverse workforce is challenging. But it may not be as difficult as you think. As Damien Howard, chief enterprise solutions officer at Per Scholas, mentions in his recent LinkedIn article, “Tackling systematic change in the IT industry involves purposeful, innovative approaches powered by partnerships across enterprises.”
Establish an internal inclusion board or an external partnership that can provide diversity learning consultants to conduct an audit on your current DEI practices.
Give equal focus to these areas:
- Inclusive hiring. Vet external partners to ensure they have intentional diversity sourcing strategies. Ask for case studies to ensure their claims are proven.
- Address biases. Do your job descriptions contain inclusive language? Are you looking for aptitude and capabilities more so than years of experience? For example, if you are looking for early talent at the associate level, the job description should not require skills that someone at that level might not have obtained yet.
Partnerships vs. Philanthropy
- Build partnerships with diverse IT organizations and nonprofits that focus on providing candidates upskilling opportunities that focus on technical skills, soft skills and business skills.
- Be careful not to be performative. Tech companies often provide generous donations to diverse IT organizations, which are needed, but there should also be a plan in place to help candidates from nontraditional backgrounds break into tech. For example, at TEKsystems, we build talent solutions that give candidates the skills they need to thrive in a corporate setting, and we immediately help them with job placement.
Ensure Representation: From the Interview Panel to an Inclusive Culture
- Like attracts like. If the interviewee doesn’t see anyone who looks like them throughout the interview process, they are less likely to accept the job.
- The TEKsystems DEI Report clearly outlines the lack of belonging that underrepresented groups feel in the workplace compared to majority-represented groups. Refrain from using “culture fit” when discussing potential candidates and shift your focus to a “culture-add” mentality. Candidates shouldn’t have to assimilate to the current work culture. They should feel comfortable showing up to work as themselves.
Protect DEI Efforts During a Reduction in Force (RIF)
- IT and HR decisionmakers spend, on average, one-third of their work week on DEI efforts. And yet, during a RIF, women and minorities are negatively impacted the most.
- If your DEI efforts are embedded in your culture, DEI roles should not be the first positions cut. In addition, take all possible steps to avoid discrimination during this time.
If we’re going to create accessible pathways in IT for historically marginalized populations, we need to be intentional about embedding DEI practices throughout entire organizations. It’s not enough to exclusively address one area; recruiting, partnership, inclusion and retention programs all need to be equally as strong.