On Thursday 24 May, I attended the Diversity in Tech conference bringing together individuals and organisations from all parts of the tech sector for a day of talks and workshops. With over 500 attendees and 30 speakers from companies including JP Morgan, ASOS, Credit Suisse, Accenture and Uber, there were plenty of takeaways for anyone wanting to make their business not only a better place to work, but also a more successful one.
Here are a few of the themes that emerged throughout the day:
1) Don’t be afraid to have an open conversation
A common thread in many of the talks was the need for an open conversation, as event chair David McQueen said, “when we’re talking about diversity, no one needs to feel guilty.” Rather than shying away from talking about diversity to avoid possible conflict, workplaces should actively engage to develop the tools necessary to work through any possible conflict and allow for an open, frank but always respectful conversation about diversity and how to improve it. Don’t be afraid of being ‘wrong’ – be open to learning more and growing in the future.
2) There are many types of diversity
A refreshing aspect of the conference was the way in which a wide range of diversity was profiled. When we talk about diversity in the tech sector, we often focus on encouraging women in STEM, or on the gender pay gap. While these are obviously issues the tech sector needs to address, there are many types of diversity that businesses should keep in mind. What are you doing to encourage BAME employees? Is your workplace environment inclusive to LGBTQ people? Have you demonstrated that positive mental health is a priority for you? Diversity is about continuously listening to your employees and considering where your business may be failing certain groups.
3) Focus on diversity and inclusion
Diversity policies are nothing without creating a company culture built on inclusion. Companies must create an inclusive environment before ‘ticking the diversity box.’ As Farrah Qureshi from Global Diversity Practice put it, “diversity is about making the numbers count, inclusion is about making everybody count.” Encouraging diversity in your workplace is only the first step. Once the diversity policy is in place, company culture may also need to change. Encourage employees to speak their minds and express their differences in the workplace. Ensure that everyone’s individual talents are acknowledged and maximised, rather than trying to force them into a preconceived notion of how a job should be done.
4) Make sure your policies have substance
It’s important to make sure your business’ diversity measures are not simply paying lip service to the problem. Sure, your workplace might acknowledge International Women’s Day, but is it making concrete, proactive steps to close their gender pay gap or encourage new women hires? Diversity measures are about tackling an issue, not just improving your brand's image.
5) More diverse businesses are more successful ones
Finally, if you’re still looking for an incentive to prioritise diversity, keep in mind that it not only makes moral and ethical sense, but business sense too. Not only will an increasingly diverse workforce who feel accepted in their workplace bring new perspectives and innovative ideas, but boards with higher levels of diversity have been shown to outperform more homogenous ones and companies with higher diversity have been shown to have higher productivity and profitability. In 2018, there really is no excuse for companies to not be prioritising diversity and inclusion – so why not start now?