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How to Build a Diverse Workplace

Does having a diverse workplace matter? Absolutely. And employers failing to tap into diversity are not only missing out on critical perspectives, but are also risking the opportunity to grow. Just look to the tech industry for an example of how the absence of diversity-focused practices can directly impact the future of an entire industry.

AdobeStock_176332525At its core, the technology industry is about innovation. While Silicon Valley has been able to thrive without having to focus on building a diverse workforce, change is coming. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 there will be 1.4 million open computer science-related jobs and only 400,000 qualified candidates available to fill those jobs. Why? Supply and demand. Since the beginning, the tech industry has focused on recruiting and employing young, white men. As the demand for technology continued to grow, so did the number tech-related jobs. But not the number of qualified candidates.

Needless to say, diversity can be a game changer to an industry facing a one million unfilled jobs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women outnumber men earning college degrees, so female graduates would seem as an obvious talent pool. But the number of women enrolled in computer science is falling for a number of reasons, such as the lack of access to jobs and a discriminatory pay.

Read More: Benefits of Diversity & Inclusion

According to Women in Computer Science, of the women employed in today's computer programming workforce, approximately 41 percent eventually leave their careers because of the hostile work environment.  A recent Ernst and Young study finds that only 11 percent of female students plan to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers. Partly due to the fact that women in STEM make $16,000 less on average than male counterparts.

Creating an inclusive environment that retains and attracts female talent may be one of the biggest challenges in the tech industry. And at the same time, it also presents the greatest opportunities. The good news is that positive change is currently underway. team of  pharmacist chemist woman group  standing in pharmacy drugstoreFor example, as a way to increase the number of women in technology, nonprofit AnitaB.org, along with companies like Facebook and Microsoft, are working together with universities to modify the language of computer science courses in order to make it less intimidating to female students. And it's working. By simply renaming a course,The Beauty and the Joy of Computing, at UC-Berkeley, the enrollment of women outnumbered men for the first time.

THE BUILDING BLOCKS

What should HR leaders consider when addressing diversity? Here are a few strategies leading companies are using to build a Diversity and Inclusion program.

Define diversity and inclusion.  The first step to a Diversity and Inclusion program is to determine what diversity means in your business. Your program should address areas such as compensation, benefits, safety policies, and guidelines for special needs.

Read More: How to Enhance Cross-Cultural Competency 

Put values in action. Confronting entrenched and outdated systems and breaking down barriers are required to change a mindset. AdobeStock_101877403Different experiences and backgrounds can help employers recruit diverse candidates and help leadership manage teams.

A recent Dice Report study on recruiting in the tech industry found that female job candidates put a higher value on benefits, while male candidates ranked benefits fourth in importance. 

Develop an environment of trust. In order for a diverse workforce to thrive, HR must create a on-going culture of inclusion. Value differences and create an environment where employees are empowered to contribute.

Form a diversity and inclusion team. Designate a diversity officer and form a Diversity and Inclusion team to demonstrate your company’s commitment and to work your plan.

Measure and track success. Evaluate data to track success and repair blind spots as needed. Benchmark key aspects of your organization’s culture, which is particularly important for attracting and recruiting talent and for mentoring and retaining employees. For example, when recruiting, consider that women candidates look to work for companies where women hold leadership roles. 

AdobeStock_166746759Diversity training. Train managers, as well as employees, to show that diversity is a core competency. Integrating diversity training helps employees recognize issues that may affect workplace or business.  For example, an open-ended training exercise asks employees to describe themselves. And another has employees reacting to photographs of potential seatmates on a plane. How we define ourselves and react to others help to recognize and address biases and assumptions that may enter the workplace through interactions with co-workers, clients, customers, vendors, and management.

Building a diversity and inclusion program takes time. But without it, employers are limiting their success when it comes to creating products, developing services or bringing new ideas that have the potential to change the world. 

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