The statistics around diversity and inclusion in technology are grim. Wired reported that Apple’s percentage of black technical workers remained at 6% from 2014 to 2019. Other tech giants have added some black and Latinx engineers, but failed to gain one full percentage point over the five-year span. At another tech powerhouse, women compose 23% of the technical workforce, up from 14%, but still a long way from parity.
It’s easy to feel discouraged and hard to know how to progress, making our RampUp 2020 session, “Achieving the Diversity Trifecta,” particularly timely. Speakers shared advice on achieving meaningful change, regardless of where a company is on its journey to a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Start the conversation
Despite the fact that most people agree that a lack of diversity and inclusion is a problem in our industry, it remains a difficult topic to broach. Leaders can be afraid to offend and not know where to start—and that’s okay.
“I have found that in the best-case scenario, leadership is scared, and I empathize with that. People want to be a part of the solution, but we’ve made it such a charged topic that we’ve made it almost impossible for them to do so,” said Belinda Smith, Global Head of Marketing Intelligence, EA.
To neutralize this fear, Chad Hickey, Founder & CEO, Givsly (formerly known as LuckyForks), advises “meeting people where they are and [having] the understanding that you’re not going to change people’s thinking overnight.” Every company has unique challenges in promoting diversity and inclusion. Real change takes time and concerted effort from the top down.
Anneka Gupta, president and head of product and platforms, LiveRamp, added, “If you’re in a leadership position in your organization, go ask questions and start the conversation. Start asking the people you work with, ‘why can’t we bring more diverse leaders into the workplace and even at entry-level roles—what is stopping us?’”
Get aligned internally
All of the panelists agreed that company leaders need to actively promote diversity and inclusion. Whichever metrics a company is striving toward cannot sit squarely with a chief diversity officer or someone else—it’s a team effort that needs one person to drive it.
“You must have one person who is responsible for driving a strategy. That person can’t be a mid-level employee who is passionate and brown. It has to be someone who is developed as a leader and is given the power and support to create major organizational change,” said Aubrey Blanche, Global Head of Equitable Design & Impact, Culture Amp.
Having internal buy-in across leadership can also help raise retention among hires from underrepresented communities. Belinda shared that retention can be a more meaningful metric than recruitment.
“It drives me crazy how much people focus on pipeline—or pretend they’re focusing on it—if we have to hire five black people because three of them are walking out the door after their 30th day. That’s actually where the focus should be,” she said. “One thing that has helped me as a leader is holding other leaders accountable for the development of their people.”