Growing evidence connects diverse leadership and workforces with positive business performance. From a management perspective, a BCG report noted that earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margins for more diverse organisations were 9 percentage points higher than those of companies with below-average diversity on their management teams.
Likewise, a McKinsey & Company report found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. Therefore, environmental, social and governance (ESG)-focused investment firms as well as large institutional investors are making clear their expectations for board and leadership diversity.
Consequently, there has been an awakening of sorts in the technology industry in understanding the impact of inclusive teams and management on not only corporate success but also broad community prosperity. As a result, inclusion and diversity (I&D) programmes within technology companies are being deployed across corporate engagement strategies, where supporting skills development throughout the career lifecycle and tracking progress with related goals and targets are critical to long-term business resilience.
Making the case for diversity in support of technology innovation
Diversity in a business HR context means the inclusion of individuals with varied backgrounds, cultures and experiences working together toward a common goal. These elements when manifested in a team environment lead to breakthroughs in speed to market, better recognition of functional improvement opportunities, and strong team problem solving. The potential risk, of course, is the opposing aspects of these elements, whereby non-diverse or non-inclusive teams could possibly stagnate or limit their visibility to new opportunities, and thus miss some signals and fall behind the competition.
Technology can help us address the myriad societal challenges we face today. Whether it is the e-mobility ecosystem to combat climate change, medical devices to support health and human wellness in the face of the pandemic, or secure communications to ensure the expediency of first responders, purposeful technologies are key to global prosperity. Ensuring next-generation purposeful technologies rise to the occasion requires engineering and technical teams that are as diverse as the global community is.
However, the technology industry is traditionally less diverse than some industries. As a result, there is work to do in driving toward a more equitable workforce and leadership organisational structure.
Building diverse technology teams
Building a more diverse workforce structure requires strategic planning across the career lifecycle to enable the required skill sets, then develop individuals to thrive and transition into leadership roles.
- Early education: Building interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) starts at a young age. This makes equity in access to STEM education across ethnic, gender and socio-economic boundaries of paramount concern for companies to ensure a future diverse skilled workforce is available.
- University engagement: Once students have selected a technical path, it is important to engage them throughout their university years. Key to corporate engagement at this stage is a focus on technical learning, research partnerships, tools access, and internships that transition to full-time positions.
- Assembling diverse and inclusive teams: This is where recruiting is key. Technology teams looking to create a workplace that reflects the diversity of the world we live in need to actively seek diverse applicants to expand workforce representation.
- Creating a thriving, diverse workforce and leadership: Broad offerings of employee networks groups as well as training and mentoring programmes help ensure the transition of diverse individuals into leadership positions while supporting careers at the individual level.
Tracking progress and making an impact
While building diverse technology teams across the career journey will help move the needle in workforce and leadership diversity, it is imperative to track progress along the way.
Generally, setting up progress tracking starts with what is material, or significant, to the company as it relates to diversity. By engaging key stakeholders, such as investors, customers, employees and the supply chain, companies can identify where diversity opportunities and risks lie within the organisation.
From there, companies need to understand the current metric and standings of each diversity element. Looking at current metrics helps identify if results are on par within the industry and where opportunities exist for improvements. That leads to targeted metrics that can represent forward progress, which in turn lead to development of goal statements that validate what progress and success look like.
Driving toward the future
I&D efforts play a significant role in the future of the technology industry, and the prosperity of the global community. However, the technology industry’s journey in inclusion and diversity will not be a short-term initiative. Today’s diversity goals will shift as progress is made and requires a continuous improvement management approach. The good news is that continuous improvement is something inherent in the technology industry and one that we must all embrace.
Ingrid Estrada is chief administrative officer at Keysight Technologies