What can we do to promote diversity in IT?

How could the IT industry that has been so kind to me over my 25-year career be less than welcoming to my female offspring? Yet, apparently, this is so.

As the technologically-employed father of two daughters who will both be embarking on their own careers in the next four to six years, I am keen to promote diversity in the workforce, especially in my own beloved IT.

How could the IT industry that has been so kind to me over my 25-year career be less than welcoming to my female offspring?  Yet, apparently, this is so.

The diversity issue in IT

CA Technologies CEO Mike Gregoire addressed this issue in an interview with Arianna Huffington held at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 18, 2017.  The meeting took place at an event sponsored by CA in conjunction with The Female Quotient, an organization with a mission to advance equality in the workplace.

In the interview, Mike said, “We are as an industry doing a terrible job of getting women into tech.” Yet at the same time, he recognizes the value of diversity: “I need the maximum amount of creativity on our teams and from my experience a diverse team is a more creative team.”

He summed up the problem this way: “I take a look at the population of super bright women and they decide to go into anything but tech.  How am I going to solve the problems of creativity and just pure talent when a good portion of the smart brains in the world don’t want to come into our industry?”

How to hire and retain diverse tech talent

CA is attacking this issue head on by sponsoring events such as the event at Davos, and others including Women in Tech breakfasts at our annual CA World, and sponsoring programs that encourage students to pursue STEM careers.  The business case behind CA’s diversity and inclusion programs is explored in a Highlights blog from Beth Conway, SVP, People. Otto Berkes, CA’s CTO, addressed diversity in his CA World 2017 keynote (diversity discussion starts at 45:45).

The company also runs workshops on unconscious bias. Among other nuggets, the workshops explain that people tend to give opportunities to people like themselves, which may undermine efforts to promote diversity.  The company also recently adopted a policy to not base salaries for new employees on prior salaries in order to avoid perpetuating past salary discrepancies.

CA is far from alone among IT companies in having difficulty addressing the issue of diversity in IT.  According to Forrester’s Brief “Hiring And Retaining Diverse Technical Talent,” by Charlotte Wang and Marc Cecere, April 18, 2016, females represent only 18.2% of tech jobs.  CA’s female employee base is 28%.  The description of the brief reads, “Building a diverse technical team is critical to win, serve and retain a wide range of clients.  But women and minorities are still underrepresented in most technology organizations.”

Reasons given for the disparity include biased job postings including use of male pronouns and long lists of requirements that may keep qualified women from applying, while not having the same effect on equally as qualified men. Other reasons include unconscious bias in the interview process, including lack of diversity among interviewers, females lacking a sense of belonging within technical companies and, perhaps most importantly, the low number of women enrolled in technical education programs.

Promoting diversity

As individuals, what can we do to promote diversity? Remind ourselves of the unintended consequences of unconscious biases and take action to mitigate those biases.  Support proactive efforts to expose diverse audiences to our industry.  Attract those same audiences through hiring processes that level the playing field.  Create a welcoming environment to preserve the diversity achieved to date.

And don’t forget about raising awareness, which I hope I have done with this blog.

@daytonsemerjian


Dayton is general manager Global Customer Success at CA Technologies. His team is dedicated to…

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