Diversity in the workplace is already a familiar concept to forward-thinking companies. But in recent years, increased awareness around social exclusions people from marginalized backgrounds face, has prompted the term “equity” to be at the forefront of conversations around diversity and inclusion.
As business leaders continue to strategize how to foster a culture of belonging among their employees, it’s important that they add the idea of workplace equity to their leadership toolkit.
White, male employees still dominate the tech workforce; only 25.9 percent of computer support specialists are women and only 27.8 percent are Latinx or Black. This is largely because of hiring teams’ biases—both conscious and subconscious.
Evidence suggests white candidates may receive significantly more callbacks based partly on the signaling provided solely by their name. Young Native American, Latinx, and Black people also face systemic barriers to the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. They obtain fewer STEM degrees than their white counterparts because structural inequalities in wealth, access to affordable financing, and other costs to education are significantly higher for Black students than for white students. With all these obstacles for marginalized people to break barriers in the tech industry, making sure you are providing an equitable environment is essential.
An important step in developing a higher level of equity in your company is to understand the true meaning of equity. One of the most common fallacies is thinking equity and equality are the same thing. Equality gives everyone access to the same opportunities, while equity in the workplace means that there’s proportional representation in those same opportunities. In other words, equity levels the playing field.
Below are some examples of strategies used that can help in leveling the playing field and becoming a more equitable organization.
Explore your data
The first step in promoting equity in the workplace is to understand where you are in terms of metrics. This will require collecting and analyzing your people data to assess the demographics of your organization, including your leadership team. Once you have the data, you can set benchmarks and metrics for the goals you want to achieve.
Establish measurable targets and be accountable
Whether for interviews, attrition rates, or metrics around demographics of who you hire, companies that set measurable targets will be more successful in fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce.
Another way organizations hold themselves accountable to their targets is by tying measurable outcomes to compensation – especially for those in leadership, but also to the overall bonus pool. Microsoft, as an example, has said that bonuses for their entire company will be tied to successfully achieving their diversity metrics.
Dive into your hiring practices
Look at your talent pipeline and the strategies your human resources team uses to attract new employees. Be strategic about where you’re posting open positions. Go beyond the usual networks to tap into diverse talent pipelines you might have previously ignored and/or didn’t realize existed.
For some demographics, you have to be proactive with your search strategies by posting on certain websites, advertising in specific publications, or doing outreach through dedicated organizations.
Once you have done this it is important to follow through by including this in your practices and not resorting to hiring someone simply because they are a “culture fit,” instead think about what contributions the individual can make to your organization. You think differently and ask yourselves: “what does this new hire bring to my team that I don’t already have; what skills, background, and perspectives?”
Create and sustain a winning culture for all
Culture in tech organizations is one of the main reasons many marginalized people leave the engineering and computing professions. This is especially troubling as these professionals have spent years preparing for the workplace and have overcome many barriers and biases in achieving their professional status.
The good news is that the culture of an organization is completely controlled by the leaders and the employees within it. Organizational change can occur with intentional effort and following the tips laid above. Once a company has developed an inclusive culture it is important to keep evolving and adapting to the ever changing equity landscape.
Equity in the tech industry is important for many reasons, but the most obvious one is that it gives a voice to those who have been historically oppressed and silenced. It’s time we create an environment where everyone can be heard and their ideas are given equal consideration.