How to effectively incorporate diversity & inclusion in IT

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Joanne Yip|August 8, 2022
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This article is part of our IT Admin Mythbusters campaign. Discover the truth behind other common industry misconceptions in our roundup article 5 common IT myths & essential tips for IT pros.

Someone recently posted on LinkedIn that she was looking for work and, more specifically, for potential opportunities in tech. Besides a brief account of her most relevant skills and experiences, she also shared what she was looking for in a prospective employer. The first thing on her list? Workplace diversity.

In an industry that has traditionally felt more like a boys’ club, tech companies have begun to reexamine their diversity and inclusion policies (or the lack thereof) — especially because more and more job seekers want a diverse workplace. Yet despite spending billions on training, the tech industry is far from diverse. In the U.S., for example, only 17.3% of sysadmins are women and only 10.5% are Black or African American.

It’s clear that just because companies are doing something about the diversity gap doesn’t always mean that they’re doing the right thing. We’ll lay out some common mistakes that organizations make and how they can realize their diversity goals in a more inclusive and meaningful way.

What is diversity and inclusion (D&I)?

Diversity simply means difference or variety, based on the unique traits or characteristics that differentiate one person from another. In general, there are four main types of diversity:

  • Internal diversity stems from what a person is born with, like sex, race, gender, sexual orientation, and physical abilities or disabilities.

  • External diversity relates mostly to environmental factors that define a person’s identity. For instance, education, wealth, marital status, veteran status, or religion.

  • Organizational diversity refers to work-related differences like professional background, work experiences, job function, and seniority levels.

  • Worldview diversity is linked to our perceptions and views of the world. The differences in our values, political and religious beliefs, and culture all fall under this category.

In the workplace, diversity goes hand in hand with inclusion, which refers to the intentional effort to create policies and practices that celebrate and empower people of diverse backgrounds. A diverse and inclusive workplace creates an environment where all employees feel like they belong, are treated with respect, and have unrestricted access to the resources they need to thrive.   

Why is workplace diversity and inclusion important?

There are several reasons why organizations should take diversity and inclusion seriously. Besides the argument that it’s simply the right thing to do, research continues to suggest that there’s a strong correlation between the degree of representation and an organization’s performance in a few core areas.

Business impact

According to a McKinsey study on the business impact of diversity and inclusion, organizations with greater gender, ethnic, and cultural representation on executive teams are more likely to outperform those with less. The business case for diversity is not new, often pointing out that diverse teams are less prone to groupthink, make better decisions, and demonstrate higher levels of creativity and innovation.

Talent acquisition

In their search for employment, younger generations are looking for companies that are aligned with their own values and lifestyles. A Glassdoor survey of more than 2,000 jobseekers found that three in four respondents view a diverse workforce as an important factor when assessing potential employers. Companies that embrace and prioritize diversity and inclusion are more likely to win them over.

Employee engagement

When employees are valued, respected, and treated fairly, they are much more likely to develop a sense of belonging at work. Studies have shown that this has a positive impact on employee engagement levels and performance and contributes to lower absenteeism and turnover.

IT diversity and inclusion by the numbers

Tech companies are facing growing pressure to become more diverse and inclusive — but just how far have they come? Let’s look at the numbers related to IT professionals in the U.S.

  • Number of IT pros currently employed in the U.S.: 279,076

  • Percentage of men: 77.3%

  • Percentage of women: 22.7%

  • Wage difference: Women earn $0.95 for $1 earned by men (95% of the average salary for men)

  • Percentage of Black and African American IT pros: 10.1%

  • Percentage of Hispanic and Latinx IT pros: 15.2%

  • Percentage of Asian IT pros: 12.3%

  • Percentage of LGBT IT pros: 10%

A quick glance shows that the tech industry has a long way to go before it achieves greater parity and equity in areas that matter.

6 common diversity and inclusion mistakes that organizations make

Getting diversity and inclusion right is not easy. Even when armed with the best intentions, companies can make mistakes that hinder progress or lead them in the wrong direction. Here’s a list of common missteps to avoid.

1. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, you need a strategic plan that’s tailored to the specific needs and context of your organization. Large companies with a matrix structure and many departments will likely need more extensive planning. Global corporations with overseas offices need to ensure that policies and practices are developed with respect to local cultures and contexts.

2. Focusing only on one demographic

In many cases, diversity and inclusion initiatives tend to focus heavily on programs that target racial and gender diversity. As much as possible, and without diluting existing efforts, organizations should broaden their scope to create a workplace environment that’s inclusive to all. For instance, making childcare leave equally available to all employees, regardless of sex, gender identity, or marital status.

3. Treating all aspects of diversity as one and the same

Another common mistake is lumping all aspects of diversity together haphazardly, reducing it into a one-dimensional problem with a single, collective solution. The reality is much more complex and multifaceted, especially when there is intersectionality involved. For example, an employee can be Black, transgender, and disabled, and have specific concerns that relate to different aspects of their identity. A holistic program would provide the individual with support on all fronts.    

4. Focusing on diversity but not inclusion

It’s not enough to hire different types of people without having policies and practices in place to make sure that they feel welcome and supported in all areas of their life at work. Are there permanent measures to ensure that employees are treated fairly in terms of career progression and access to benefits? As true equal opportunity employers, companies should avoid token gestures and focus on developing an inclusive culture through structures and strategies that last.

5. Not taking a data-driven approach

It’s easy to lose focus when there’s no way of measuring success. Start by identifying a few key goals that you can commit to. These goals would then determine your success metrics. Are you looking to increase workforce diversity at the leadership level or to increase employee satisfaction?  Set quantifiable targets and use tools like surveys and D&I analytics software to track and evaluate your company’s progress.  

6. Making individual employees responsible for organizational change

Don’t make marginalized employees shoulder the burden of advocacy or be responsible for addressing lapses within the organization. For one, it’s not their job. Also, consider what it means to ask someone in a minority position to confront and change the behavior of coworkers in more privileged positions, especially when they work closely together. Instead, companies should proactively invest in training, expertise, and dedicated resources to strengthen inclusivity and lead efforts to drive lasting and meaningful change.

How to strengthen workplace diversity and inclusion?

It’s never too late to start incorporating diversity and inclusion practices in your organization and teams. Even if there are programs in place, it’s still good practice to review them regularly for opportunities to do more and to do better. Below is a list of suggested areas to work on.

  • Cultivate diverse hiring practices

  • Prioritize diversity and inclusion equally

  • Make D&I a standalone function and don’t park it under Human Resources

  • Create inclusive opportunities for teams and individuals to connect

  • Create a safe space to raise concerns and discuss issues like unconscious bias

  • Use inclusive language

  • Invest in regular diversity training

  • Offer fair compensation and opportunities for development and career progression to all employees

  • Offer benefits and workplace flexibility to accommodate different work-life needs and gain access to a wider pool of diverse talent

  • Collect feedback and measure your results on a regular basis

To set employees up for success in their day-to-day work, companies should also invest in tools that help to reduce or eliminate inefficiencies and frustration and allow them to perform their best. For many IT pros, spending long hours managing dozens or hundreds of endpoints daily without proper support or resources can easily lead to burnout.

SmartDeploy is a versatile endpoint management solution that’s designed to help make life easier for IT teams, regardless of their backgrounds, experience, or skill levels. Easy to set up and use, IT admins can quickly and securely deploy Windows OS, drivers, and applications to user devices, no matter where they’re located. Check out our case studies to see how it’s made a real difference for organizations across different industries. Or download a free trial to try it for yourself.

joanne profile
Joanne Yip

Joanne has always loved the impact that words can make. When she isn’t typing away in the world of sysadmin, Joanne loves hiking with her husband and dog, true-crime podcasts, and dreaming of her next scuba diving adventure.

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