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Careers in Tech 2020

Three tips to creating a successful diversity, equity and inclusion strategy

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Sheree Atcheson

Global Ambassador, Women Who Code and Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director, Peakon

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are topics on everyone’s tongue at the moment. This is a strategic role that’s not simple or easy as it involves breaking down our ways of thinking and working and rebuilding them with equity in mind.

1. Listen to your people

What are you trying to achieve and for who? You will not have all the answers and it is important to embed a culture of listening. You should spend time facilitating conversations with communities you are seeking to serve by hosting one to one conversations; conversations with community groups; and gather anonymous feedback to enable honesty and transparency. After completing initial listening sessions, make it clear that these are not one-off, and they will happen regularly (ideally every quarter or six months). Invest in an employee experience platform which allows you to have regular conversations and temperature checks easily.

As leaders and people in the industry, it is our responsibility to leave it better than we received it.

2. Provide concise action

There is no use listening if you do not take action. Otherwise, people go through emotional exhaustion of sharing (potentially painful issues) and being let down with no meaningful change. After you have completed the initial listening sessions, sit back and assess the common themes and issues you are hearing. Is it bias, microaggressions, lack of growth opportunities for underrepresented people, leadership disengagement in DEI, no accountability for when DEI is sidelined, or lack of awareness of DEI from an intersectional viewpoint? Be realistic about timelines; you will not be able to fix everything overnight – nor will throwing money at the problem fix this. You must have a budget for partnerships, investing in training and providing money to employee resource groups. However, it takes more than money to change organisational culture and leadership behaviours. It takes time, education and accountability.

Once you have determined what is possible within six months, one year and so on, report on this transparently. Share updates on progress and blockers quarterly (at a minimum) to keep leaders accountable and enable employees to be part of the journey.

3. Embed accountability across the organisation

DEI success is not the responsibility of DEI-person only. Everyone must spend time understanding how DEI relates to their role and what they can do consistently to create a more inclusive environment. Create a DEI Handbook with helpful resources for referencing; and spend time providing education for engineers, product designers, marketers etc. to bring them on a growth journey of allyship. The open communication you have instilled at the beginning is key as it allows people to continually feed in and be involved.

DEI is crucial to any business working to succeed in today’s market – especially given how COVID-19 has highlighted the lack of support for our most vulnerable. We must be proactive and provide clear action in our organisations to change an industry that so greatly benefits some whilst disadvantaging others. As leaders and people in the industry, it is our responsibility to leave it better than we received it. This is a marathon, but it is one we must start now, not later.

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