Pandora’s Box is open. What now?

As an educator, consultant and advocate for Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace, with an emphasis on tech, I cannot stress enough the importance of data and transparency.

We all know diversity is an issue in tech. That’s old news. What is not old news are the factual numbers: 26% women, 4% Latinos, 2% Black. When I go out to companies and do a “State of the Industry” talk, the audiences are always sobered by the numbers.

“We knew it was bad. We didn’t know it was shameful.”

Real, determined, serious work will need to be done to move the needle on these numbers. It will no longer be enough to hire one or two code students and call it a day. It will no longer be enough to have a booth at Grace Hopper. It will no longer be enough to sponsor 1 Hour of Code.

So what does real, determined, serious work look like?

  • Hear from your employees through <div>ersity.  Create your company profile on <div>ersity later this year, and publish your diversity numbers (or lack thereof) and talk about your desire to hire for a more inclusive environment. And list out all the steps you are taking on your website. Minority candidates appreciate the candor and that this is an important topic to your organization and that it will not be up to them to fix it if they join your organization.
  • Hear from your employees through an anonymous survey. When employees feel empowered, there can be shocking revelations. As an example, I had a client whose anonymous survey uncovered sexual harassment at the HR level. No one felt comfortable coming forward since HR was the problem. It took a random, “How are we doing” survey to uncover serious misconduct.
  • Create a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) task force, or better yet, hire a Diversity and Inclusion Director and have them report directly to senior leadership. D&I is not a function of HR. HR is one department that will benefit from D&I, such as with hiring practices. But to truly affect change, the D&I director needs to be empowered to educate and impact all departments, with leaderships approval and ear. It is a huge mistake to make diversity an HR function — it’s a leadership function.
  • Training programs. Start recruiting at code schools, community colleges, state schools — places where middle class, working class and children born into poverty go to school. And then TRAIN THEM. Hungry, smart, diligent students will be loyal, sharp and provide perspective and insight that are currently just not possible in the current culture and climate of tech.
  • Create a code of conduct. Set the tone. And punish anyone that does not follow it. If you keep talent on staff because they are improving your bottom line, but are toxic to your culture, well, see Uber.
  • Train your staff on sexual harassment– bring in an expert. Update your sexual harassment policy to cover social media, slack, and any other offline tools.
  • Provide excellent healthcare, paid maternity leave, paid paternity leave, work from home policies, onsite childcare — things that matter to women, so that they will want to work at your companies. I get asked all the time, “How do we attract senior female talent.” Two words: onsite childcare. More specifically, be a company that values what women value.

Much of what I am suggesting is very scary for companies. Especially if they feel it opens up Pandora’s box. The truth is, Pandora’s box is open, and you can either have a proactive approach to fixing your diversity and inclusion problem and making all your employees and the future diverse employees you wish to have, feel welcome. Or you can wait until you have a problem you have to react to, and hope that it doesn’t take down leadership and the company.

And if you do nothing else, embrace transparency and the data. The first step is admitting we have a problem. And that’s why <div>ersity is the perfect tool — it lets us all see, hear and know how we can do better. And…

“When we know better, we do better.” – Maya Angelou


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