The pursuit of greater diversity in technology has been gaining momentum for some time, with many companies realizing that tech Bro’s image and culture are actively working against their short-term business interests and their long-term growth potential.
The problem is that many technology leaders tend to look for shortcuts and detours – a minimally viable product. This approach will not work when building an inclusive workplace.
A diverse workforce does not just happen. Technology companies can make every effort to hire employees of different genders, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds; but if they do not value, support and respect these employees and the contribution they make, they will fail in their goal of building a diverse workplace. This need to ensure that all voices within a group or organization are heard is at the heart of the increasingly practiced and much-discussed model of inclusive leadership.
Gemma Barton, partner in the collaborative consulting company Rise beyondoutlines some of the qualities that inclusive leaders will possess:
“Inclusive leaders are very aware. They have given a lot of thought and a strong understanding of the impact of their decisions. They understand why they have certain biases and how they influence decision-making and accountability. They empower others and encourage cooperation to enable those they lead to contribute their full knowledge and experience. “
Inclusive leadership is a variety of actions and, if practiced properly, should make employees feel heard, trusted and valued. Without it, organizations will struggle to retain employees – different or not.
“This is becoming a real differentiator in organizational success,” says Barton. “Organizations that do not promote inclusion are increasingly seen as having highly toxic crops.”
We know that technology boards are striving for greater diversity and that organizations such as SAP and Microsoft are leaders in areas such as neurodiversity recruitment. However, much of the available data suggests that the transition to a more diverse and inclusive workplace is slower in the technology sector than in many others.
Despite the continuing growth rate of the technology sector, by the end of 2021. women make up only 24% of technical roles in large technology employersand 32% of employees as a whole. This is unfavorable compared to other industries. The share of technical workers from BAME is 15 percent: a slightly higher share than the case in the wider workforce in the United Kingdom.
The pace of progress towards a more diverse technological workforce – especially for women – remains slow. What should worry technology employers even more is that this limited progress may be reversed when newer data is taken into account. Technology employers are suffering more than some other sectors since the Great Resignation. LinkedIn data suggest that the depletion rate averages about 13%, but this figure comes from data before the pandemic. Recent studies show that in certain areas of technology, such as the Internet and enterprise software, this percentage may be higher.
High levels of depletion are highly indicative of cultural problems in organizations, and some technology jobs can be truly toxic.
Even when organizational culture is more positive, a barrier to more inclusive leadership is that those at the top may tend to view the work of unconscious biases as a box, perhaps as an ongoing defense against potential litigation.
A public sector digital product owner shares an anecdote that illustrates how some people and organizations focus on statistics rather than people:
“We had a merger of several sub-organizations, one of which is still very male-dominated. During a meeting, someone said, “Oh, thank God, we were all united because that makes our diversity statistics look much better.”
We cannot become inclusive leaders until we build awareness of our own biases
There is also the problem of continued resistance from people who have prospered within more traditional closed leadership structures. Gemma Barton explains:
“We are all biased. Put a group of leaders in a room and ask them about it and they will become uncomfortable and uncomfortable. But we cannot become inclusive leaders until we build awareness of our own biases. People reject this because it’s really inconvenient. “
The study of the culture must be done carefully. It is essential to ensure that you create safety and space to do this well. In many organizations, expectations of what professional and leadership qualities are are part of the challenge that must be overcome before this type of training can be successful in building a leadership culture. It is important to understand that inclusive leadership has a strong business argument as well as a moral argument.
“The destruction of middle-class white men will take them away from the process,” Barton said. “Inclusive leadership means being able to invite difference and explore it, which means we have to do some work on ourselves. For example, the old perception of what makes a leader successful is their knowledge, their rights, their identity, their skills. But an inclusive leadership culture requires senior leaders to give up some of these things and focus on building relationships, inviting the challenge to gain diversity of perspectives and work better with the complexity they face. That’s a lot for leaders to give up. That is why we look at cooperation, building trust, sharing vulnerability, building a relationship. This happens over time and therefore the sheep immersion approach will not work.
“You can’t expect someone to come in and share different and challenging points of view if they don’t trust you – and you don’t trust people you don’t know. This old idea that you are leaving your personal life at the door is a big barrier for us to have these conversations. Much of the work I do with leaders is almost deprogramming that expectation and being the right and knowledgeable leader in an ivory tower hero to someone I know well enough to explore differences and think of challenges to achieve. stronger results. “
None of this is easy or fast. It can take months or even years for an organization to reach a stage where leaders can invite differences and work more inclusively. As this happens, according to Barton, it creates a rise in organizational culture. The rewards are significant – improved morale and job satisfaction, which ultimately leads to lower employee turnover, access to a larger and more diverse set of talents and the benefits it brings to business results.