Despite years-long conversations about diversity and inclusion, the tech sector is still pretty white and male. With that in mind, what does diversity mean for the workplace in 2023, and how can tech employers get diverse workers to stick around after they’re hired?
A trio of tech professionals say that to boost retention, you’ve got to avoid one-size-fits-all solutions.
At Fearless, a Baltimore-based digital services firm, HR Director Tracy Curry said something she keeps in mind is that diversity and inclusion is a comprehensive experience. This means when looking for candidates, the goal shouldn’t be just hitting metrics or filling quotas, but thinking about the positive attributes that those candidates’ life experiences and background could bring to an organization.
“It’s more of thinking about the whole person and how do you bring to bear something, an experience that is … mutually rewarding for both the person in the organization,” she said during a panel discussion at Technical.ly’s Builders Conference, held during Philly Tech Week 2023 presented by Comcast.
Comcast Cyber Security Executive Director Jorge Nieves said he’s found a diverse staff helps the Philadelphia-headquartered telecommunications giant be more in tune with the needs of its customers. An example he gave was building remote controls that are multilingual at the urging of multilingual staff members who frequently suggested features that could make the product more accessible to a wider range of people.
“What I like about our diverse team is that they think about these things regularly,” Nieves said. “Things such as, how do you pronounce your name, or if you have a headset on to tell you the name of someone that is on your screen, things of that nature, we think about every day.”
Although many managers feel that a more diverse staff can improve a workplace, retention can be an issue. In Pittsburgh, for instance, a 2023 report from the RAND Corporation says the city’s inability to retain workers of color in the tech sector threatens the city’s future as a tech hub.
Vanguard Strategic Workplace Planning Program Manager Janine Galen said it’s important to remember that inclusion means considering candidates with disabilities or who’d done military service, as well as considering racial and gender diversity. With regard to retaining talent, when Vanguard’s leadership noticed the Malvern, Pennsylvania-based investment management company had trouble retaining veterans, it helped to make it a point to continue checking in with new hires to see what kind of support they need.
“It’s tricky to figure out what kind of support you can give a contractor, but what we can do is support the hiring manager in how to probe what kinds of questions to ask,” Galen said. “In a perfect world, we’d get everyone mentors, but we’re not going to end up with thousands of mentors with thousands of employees, it’s just highly unlikely, but what can we do to support the manager to say, is say ‘if you bring on diverse people, here’s some of the kinds of things that you might be able to do to help them.’”
Making it a point to regularly check in to see how new hires were progressing and what could be better had yielded positive results, Curry said. Additionally, taking the time to inquire about why a person was considering leaving an organization could go a long way toward convincing them to stay.
“Whatever the scenario is, just talking and asking the right questions is low-hanging fruit,” Curry said.
From Comcast to Fearless, the consensus is that the term diversity could encompass a lot of different people and experiences. Yet hiring diverse candidates should be the beginning and not the end of efforts to create a diverse workplace.
“We’re still working on this and every human being needs some[thing] on different levels,” Galen said.Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
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