Defining and Creating an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Program

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Take 3: Transforming the Digital Workplace

Committed diversity work reaps many benefits, beyond the richness of a diverse workplace: then company's knowledge base is expanded, its reputation as a multicultural workplace grows, its public outreach is enriched, and its business horizons–particularly those involving new markets, marginalized users, and innovative subcultures–take root.

To unravel cultures of exclusivity in the workplace and in the field as a whole, CultureEncode approaches the three aspects of any ED&I program as a cycle: 

Inclusion: mindful and targeted hiring, professional development, and communication

Diversity: recognizing, valuing and nurturing “difference” beyond statistics and optics, and 

Equity: distributing resources (pay, professional development, participation, empowerment, etc.) equally, in the workplace and field as a whole, by acknowledging, understanding, and maintaining the diversity conversation, problem-solving, and innovation 

By committing to a holistic approach that nurtures all three of these aspects in tandem, we transform the culture of the workplace.

Initiating a Program of Inclusion

Inclusive hiring and professional development practices are one of the most actionable ways to change the face of the tech community; this phase of the project uncovers unconscious bias ands offers nuts-and-bolts steps to recruiting and retaining diverse employees. This includes a careful read of job ads, a review of hiring procedures, an assessment of company demographics, and a series of conversations around business objectives–and especially, for tech–innovation horizons. Many ED&I initiatives plateau at this stage, which is ultimately problematic: rather than fulfilling quotas, ED&I must also allow diversity to flourish and transform the work environment. This won't happen naturally; it involves a series of conversations and commitments that show the quality of a workplace's diversity values and commitments. 

Understanding the Role of Diversity

How do we avoid turning to the idea of “culture fit” in hiring, which favors those who “seem like” conventional tech employees?

In order to avoid the "culture fit" straightjacket that so often leads to hiring teams choosing co-workers whose experience, values, and backgrounds are most like their own (and excluding others), we survey current practices and values, and recommend actionable transformations.

We ask: what is the culture of the company as it stands, and how can it go beyond hiring practices to nurture—and benefit from—diverse ideas, approaches and backgrounds? To better understand this, we recommend an ethnography (cultural study) of the workplace through surveys, interviews, and participant observation to find opportunities to value and foster diversity. It is especially helpful to have an outside consultant during this discovery phase so that employees can trust that their interview and demographic information is protected. 

In tech, we visit the question of what it means to be a programmer/executive/team leader with the goal of diversifying not only the demographics of the workplace, but also its ability to anticipate and answer customer/user/market needs. We recognize that, by expanding the ways we think about engineering, design, and user experience, we improve our potential for innovation and outreach. We also locate modes of cultural knowledge (for instance, differences in the way clients use mobile technologies in the inner city) and experience that are as or more valuable than conventional tech experience. 

Equity Requires Raising Awareness

In order to mantain growth, diverse recruitment and retention, and ongoing employee satisfaction, we demonstrate how employees can "walk the walk" when it comes to acknowledging, understanding, and nurturing diversity. We are not born knowing how to speak to these thorny issues, but we know that if we avoid them, serious issues can arise.

In this phase, we conduct our specialized Workshop on Diversity, which is fine-tuned to help leadership and employees understand how, beyond identity (a series of boxes that we can check one our census forms), differences in socioeconomic background, citizenship status, dis/ability, sexuality, neurodiversity, religious difference, and more, can empower or disempower different community members. We also identify patterns in which certain community members, regardless of their diverse experiences, are likely to experience privilege or discrimination. The object is to set the stage for positive workplace discourses on these issues that take away the anxieties around acknowledging difference and building community.

In the process of workshopping, self-assessment, and workplace discourse, we take stock of the company’s and the field’s resources, from attention and assessment, to mentorship, to warm relationships with peers and leadership, to workload relief, to the ability to experiment and/or take productivity breaks for thinking or rest, and discovering the (often hidden) ways in which they can become distributed unequally.

Creating a Sustainable and Measurable Plan for Retention and Ongoing Conversation/Feedback

We work with clients to develop a long-range plan for maintaining and attuning diverse workplace futures. Committed diversity work reaps many benefits, beyond the richness of a diverse workplace: the company's knowledge base is expanded, its reputation as a multicultural workplace grows, its public outreach is enriched, and its business horizons–particularly those involving new markets, marginalized users, and innovative subcultures–take root.

AliColleen Neff