5 questions the tech industry needs to ask to (re)start innovating DEI
Did you know that the first workplace diversity initiatives were implemented at a technology company?
At the height of the civil rights movement, as America transitioned from a segregated to an integrated society, the nation’s first Employee Minority Resource Group (ERG) was formed in 1965 at Xerox. Spurred by an uprising among black employees demanding equal pay to their white peers, the National Black Employees Caucus (now the National Association of Black Employees) was founded to address issues of discrimination and create an environment of fair business.
In 1975, as more employees began to recognize the intersections of race and gender in the workplace, the Black Women’s Leadership Council (BWLC) was created at Xerox. Similarly, in 1978, HP established the Gay and Lesbian Employee Network (GLEN), the nation’s first resource group for LGBTQ+ employees. AT&T quickly followed suit in the 1980s with LEAGUE, its own ERG for LGBTQ+ workers.
In this way, tech companies have pioneered corporate diversity and inclusion. But too many people still stick to the same playbooks that were written over 50 years ago. As the past two years have taught us, old approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) fall short. They may address the symptom from a racial perspective, but not the underlying cultural issues that are essential to bringing about meaningful change. But before today’s technology companies can lead, they must understand that the cultural shifts required for a new approach are mandatory.
Now is the time for tech companies to innovate again and lead DEIB as they did decades ago. Like Xerox, HP and AT&T, pioneers will have a competitive advantage over those waiting to take action.
The time for change has come
Today, America is going beyond the demand for integrated experiences. Instead, America is asking, if not demanding, structural change. In order to create a sustainably inclusive environment for all employees, companies must first address the underlying cultural foundations and structural changes that are essential to making meaningful and lasting change at work.
The main conclusion of the Industry Total Market Status Report that we’ve written based on 15 months of research and over 300 one-on-one interviews with over 50 brands is this: Corporate America is culturally distant from two generations of the workforce as a whole.
The results of the study show how organizations need to change attitudes and behaviors, moving from a monocultural organization to an intercultural and polycultural organization that reflects modern American society.
How tech companies can innovate once again on DE&I
For the tech industry to once again become a leader in DE&I, it must introduce a change management approach to create a workplace of cultural inclusion with results that are both sustainable and scalable. It starts with assessing your company’s cultural maturity at the intersection of the Five S’s:
Measure the cultural maturity of your company with the 5 S
Is there full buy-in to the value of pursuing cultural inclusion throughout your organization?
Does your company have strategies in place and shared best practices to support an inclusive workplace at all levels of employees?
Have you explored the different demographic segments of your employee base and their intersections (i.e. Latinx + millennials) to ensure they are properly represented at all job levels?
Has your organization adopted change management systems and software to ensure cultural inclusion strategies and best practices are easily implemented enterprise-wide and sustainable?
Has your organization established standards with business partners to place cultural inclusion at the heart of your hiring and retention processes?
The opportunity in the cultural conversation right now is to bridge the gaps between the workplace and the marketplace through a new social contract.
As technology prepares for Web3 and makes the moon a travel destination, there is still work to be done to integrate the workplace and embrace the idea of innovating with a change management approach to solving a problem decades old.