How Do You Actually Create a Diverse Team in Tech?
It’s easy to say that you value diversity and inclusivity, and that it’s important that people from all walks of life of represented and heard from in your work environment. The perspectives a diverse team can bring to the table, along with the variety of tools and solutions, is appealing, and it feels good to be able to say that you respect and learn from those different ways of seeing the world. But it’s one thing to say it, it’s another thing to mean it, and it’s yet a third thing to actually demonstrate it.
So how do you walk the walk of an inclusive work environment rather than just talking the talk?
It’s not as simple as saying, “We are going to hire a diverse team!” While that sentiment is great, it doesn’t do anything to ensure that you’ll get a group of candidates that are actually from many different walks of life. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to reach diverse recruits in the age of the internet. Most major cities have groups of women, people of color, and other underrepresented communities who run organizations geared toward empowering professionals in their particular fields.
In Portland, for example, we have PDX Women in Tech. Their organization advocates for women to enter careers in the tech field, offers the ability to post jobs through their website, and helps connect women to jobs in a field that is often male-dominated. There are many other resources for getting job postings to diverse candidates, including hiring groups like Hire <Div>ersity, that can work as strategic partnerships to encourage diverse hiring practices.
More than just getting the word out through many channels, it’s important to make sure to discuss things like unconscious bias with your hiring team. Whether we mean to or not, it can be easy to form opinions about a potential recruit in advance based on things like appearance, age, race, gender, and many other factors. The process of judging a candidate can begin with something as simple as seeing their name before you even have a chance to meet with them. Making sure that any team members meeting with a candidate are aware of unconscious bias can help mitigate some of the damage these stereotypes can cause.
Conversations about the importance of diversity, including making sure that the team is aware of unconscious bias, set an important foundation for ensuring that everyone is on the same page about hiring goals. Transparency around diversity goals helps ensure that the existing team understand the importance (and benefits of) having people from a variety of backgrounds and representations join the company. Making inclusivity a regular part of the conversations, and making sure it is something that can be talked about opening, helps promote the idea of within.
Finally, one of the most important things a company can do to make sure that they are walking the walk of inclusivity and diversity is this: make your company a safe place for people from many backgrounds to be valued and to grow.
Improving the Workplace
There are lots of ways to create a safe place for employees. Create clear and open communication channels, and encourage people to use them (because, once again, transparency is important). Managers should work to make sure that employees have a voice in their work and in the decision making around it. Empowered employees feel a sense of ownership in their work and in the company itself. Allow for flexible schedules so that people from many different backgrounds have the freedom arrange their schedules around their beliefs and their needs, whether those are cultural, medical, or otherwise. Give staff time to get to know one another outside of their work, whether that’s team lunches, happy hours, off-site meetings, or team building activities, and be sensitive to whether or not everyone will be able to participate in those activities. Be mindful, patient, and open to conversations around diversity.
Hiring a diverse team isn’t as simple as putting a line in an employee handbook stating that inclusion is a company value. It takes work, and it’s not something that happens overnight. Luckily, it’s work that creates so much value in terms of the ideas that can be brought to the table, the perspectives that might otherwise get missed, and the great pleasure of getting to know people who have lived lives different from your own.