10 ways to improve diversity and inclusion at a tech company.
Sahar Powell is a Senior Consultant in Executive Search at The Big Search. Sahar is responsible for diversity recruiting in our tech practice. This means that we actively attempt to provide our clients diverse long- and shortlists in terms of gender, age, and nationality.
Tech companies that prioritise diversity and inclusion are proven to be happier, more productive, and more profitable. In this article, we cover what diversity and inclusion are, why they are important, and ten practical tips for building a diverse company.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are increasingly becoming part of tech company´s strategies. Founders want to develop inclusive working environments or be seen as an employer of choice – supporting their team with their diverse needs.
It’s a smart move. In a competitive global economy, workplace diversity is crucial. Companies with high levels of diversity and inclusion are more innovative, have higher revenue, and keep their employees for longer.
They also make better decisions and tend to lead change, rather than simply respond to it. For tech startups and scale-ups this is essential. It will help you pull ahead of the competition in tough markets.
What are diversity and inclusion?
Before we go any further, let’s define exactly what diversity and inclusion mean. Although the two are intertwined, they are distinct concepts.
Diversity incorporates all the traits and characteristics that make a person unique.
For example, this can include race, gender identity, nationality, sexual orientation, career background, and life experience. In a work setting, diversity means that the team is made up of different kinds of people and is reflective of the society it exists in.
Inclusion is about understanding and respect.
An inclusive environment is one where everyone’s perspectives and contributions are valued. It’s about treating all employees fairly and providing equal access to opportunities to do excellent work.
Both aspects of D&I are important.
Diversity without inclusion can lead to a toxic working culture. Inclusion without diversity, meanwhile, can leave you with a stagnant, uninventive organisation.
Why D&I is important?
Earlier this year, we spoke to some early- and growth-stage tech start-ups about diversity. We learned that although everyone tends to agree that D&I is important, in the early phases of building a start-up no-one really has time for it.
We know there are products to build, pitches to make, and rounds to raise. However, if you bake diversity and inclusion into your strategy from the get-go you’ll hire better people, make more money, and come up with better ideas.
It’s not about creating whole new work streams but adjusting existing ones to make your business more effective. By making D&I part of your story, you will build a better company.
Here are the top 5 benefits:
Wider talent pool
Companies with inclusive cultures are far more likely to attract and retain a wider talent pool. Diversifying your search will help in finding the best hire. It’s also an area candidates pay attention to. According to Glassdoor, 67% of workers consider diversity when looking for a new job.
D&I is significantly correlated with productivity. Diverse and inclusive teams are shown to be 35% more productive than their competitors. In addition, Harvard Business Review found that diverse firms are 45% more likely to grow their market share, and 70% more likely to capture new markets.
D&I is also correlated with financial performance. According to a McKinsey report, every 10% increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of senior-exec teams leads to an 0.8% increase in earnings. Harvard Business Review, meanwhile, found that more diverse companies report 19% higher revenue than their competitors.
Diverse teams bring varied knowledge and experience to the table. This opens doors for fresh ideas, improved problem-solving, and collaboration with diverse audiences. One BCG study found that companies with above average levels of diversity reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of low-diversity companies.
People working in inclusive environments tend to have better mental and physical health, and are more willing to go the extra mile for their company. In addition, research on company culture shows that employees who trust their workplace treats people fairly, regardless of age, gender or race are:
- Almost 10 times more likely to look forward to going to work
- Six times more likely to take pride in their work
- Five times more likely to want to stay working at their company
Leading the change
Increasing diversity does not, by itself, increase effectiveness. What matters is how organisations harness diversity and whether they’re willing to adjust their structure.
Despite all the rhetoric about the value of diversity, women and people of colour remain seriously underrepresented in many industries. This is particularly true if you look at most companies’ senior ranks.
According to research from McKinsey, only 22% of C-suites in the software tech industry are women. Meanwhile, only 5% of C-suite leaders are women of colour. As of 2022, 8% of Fortune 500 CEOs were women and six Fortune 500 companies had a CEO who is black.
This lack of progress suggests top executives don’t always find the business case compelling. If you’re going to start conversations about D&I, you might experience push-back to start with. Don’t let it put you off.
10 tips for becoming a more diverse tech company
Use a structured interview process
Ask all your candidates the same questions and use a standardised system to rate their answers. This creates the same interview conditions for all candidates and helps to stop bias sneaking in. This method is reportedly twice as effective as a conventional interview.
Use social media
Use the content on your platforms to highlight D&I at your organisation. An inclusive social media presence humanises your brand and helps different audiences to connect with you.
Don’t wait for diversity to come to you. If this is a priority, be proactive about it. Talent acquisition specialists (like us!) can help you with this. We can connect you with diverse, high-quality candidate pools for any role you are looking to fill.
Get involved with minority groups
Connecting with minority institutions, groups, and initiatives will help you to meet more people from underrepresented groups.
Diversify your recruitment platforms
Don’t fish consistently from one pond. Use a mixture of platforms to reach a more diverse range of people.
Referrals can be a fantastic way to connect with diverse new hires. When asking for referrals, be clear about the importance of diversity and culture to your company. Also, be sure to ask a diverse range of people for referrals in the first place, to help net you diverse leads.
Write inclusive job descriptions
Pay attention to the content of your job descriptions and how they are written. Job ads that fail to be inclusive could inadvertently turn away qualified candidates from underrepresented groups. Use gender-neutral language and be clear about the skills and experiences that are must-haves compared with nice-to-haves.
Get internal feedback
The people you work with have a valuable role to play in building a diverse and inclusive workforce. Ask for their input and feedback to improve your diversity initiatives.
Organise unconscious bias training
This is an important part of building a good company culture. We all have unconscious biases. It’s part of being human. But we can recognize and overcome them with good training.
Bring diversity to interview panels
Diverse hiring panels are best placed to assess candidates more thoroughly, and they help to avoid shared biases. Candidates will get a more well-rounded view of your organisation from a diverse panel, as well.
Diversity and inclusion are about much more than policies and headcounts. Equitable employers can outpace their competitors because they respect and incorporate the unique perspectives and potential of every team member.
Working in this way brings more innovation and productivity to a business, but also unlocks new levels of commitment and trust. Employees feel more connected to the company, want to do better for it, and stay there for longer.
Developing a diverse and inclusive workplace is achievable, but it requires conscious effort.
The ones that are going to do it well and benefit from it, are the ones who make D&I a priority.