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Why the key to smarter innovation is more diversity

A more diverse workforce will produce better solutions in fast-changing markets.
A diverse array of objects hanging from a blue background, fostering innovation.
Adobe Stock / DinaBelenko / Big Think
Key Takeaways
  • According to a 2023 report only 26% of tech professionals are women.
  • It takes many people with a range of skills to meet all potential customers’ needs correctly.
  • Commitment among leaders is essential to foster and attract diverse tech talent.

Tech is a field full of breakthroughs, creativity and research, where innovation solves the world’s most pressing problems. A lot of purposeful work is done throughout the tech sector; therefore it is an ideal industry for those looking to create or be part of such solutions. 

The Women in Tech survey report for 2023 states that only 26% of tech professionals are women. Everyone can benefit from becoming more ‘in the know’ about tech careers and becoming more tech-savvy. As technology is not going away. The Tech Talent Charter – Diversity in Tech report 2023 shares: ‘… gender diversity decreases by 5% for senior tech roles, whilst ethnic diversity decreases by 12%.’ This is not good for the tech industry. Without balanced gender input and diversity in general, we will not see the progress we require. It means that many developments, advancements, and innovations will lack the more inclusive viewpoints that women can put forward.

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It takes many people with a range of skills to develop products to meet all potential customers’ needs correctly. The more diverse the range of people combining their skills and experience, the quicker and better solutions are achieved to meet the fast-changing markets. Increasing the numbers of women in tech and showing our worth will help the industry gain more. One person alone cannot do everything in a complex environment, and the tech sector is starting to understand that diversity aids in achieving better outputs. We can all help make that a lasting change.

Girls must be enticed into tech careers from a young age, even if they don’t enjoy science or technical problem-solving at school. Their experiences may be more commonly associated with areas other than the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, but their skills are still needed in tech. Non-technical opportunities abound within the industry, from marketing to managerial, with opportunities to become a future tech leader.

The tech industry has many opportunities for new people to join, no matter what stage they are at in their lives. The demand for talent in tech and the relatively low percentage of women compared to men indicates that once this is addressed, it will benefit the industry. It will also help create considerably more tech leaders who are representative of the diverse range of people that the industry serves.

Global demand for innovation in tech is growing rapidly with advances in AI, cryptocurrencies, blockchain and the need for sustainability. These all drive the industry to close the gender and diversity gaps in recruitment. Diversity of thought, which is essential in the developmental processes of new technology, is required.

Here are some things that can be done to encourage more diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in tech:

1. Leadership commitment

When leadership values DEI in tech and sets the tone for the whole organization, this helps the culture shift. So, in the day-to-day, staff fully understand what DEI means and act upon the importance of DEI in their everyday actions, no matter their role or position. A commitment to DEI includes implementing initiatives with communication of clear policies and guidelines for how to be inclusive in the workplace, equal opportunity statements, and clarity on what equity means. 

For example, it is essential to have clear anti-discrimination policies, equal opportunity statements, and guidelines for fostering an inclusive workplace. This is then encouraged by all and displayed externally to attract new, diverse talent.

2. Diverse hiring practices

Companies need to implement diverse hiring practices. This is done by actively seeking out candidates from underrepresented groups, using diverse interview panels where hiring managers ensure a mix of interviewers (as women need to see more women like themselves working in tech), and eliminating biased language from job descriptions and user-friendly language to those not actually in tech, which significantly helps attract more women.

This also includes diversity in the selection of suppliers and vendors. Supporting businesses owned by underrepresented groups contributes to a more inclusive tech ecosystem. This particular area has not been researched and looked into enough within corporations. There is work to be done here so companies can look into this and gain more success in their engagements for products and services, which can only be a win-win.

3. Training and education

Providing ongoing DEI training for employees at all levels and creating more awareness about tech roles and how people can potentially change or move internally is important so that they know what skills they can develop and what training is available to them. This can include DEI training on unconscious biases, cultural competence, and promoting inclusive behaviors, which helps all. Additionally, education and awareness about different and exciting tech topics helps to generate more momentum for tackling gender imbalance and increase interest from non-tech individuals.

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Diversity of thought is essential in the developmental processes of new technology and needs women’s voices. Therefore, internal candidates looking for a change need to become more aware of what is on offer in tech roles. There are many different routes women can take to enter into tech, as one size does not fit all, something I talk about in She Chose Tech: How to Inspire and Empower Women in Tech.

4. Inclusive work culture

Foster an inclusive work culture where everyone feels valued and heard. Encourage open communication and actively address any instances of discrimination or bias. Company values should reflect this so that everyone actively displays these behaviors throughout the company, which again attracts external candidates. It is essential for women to be recruited and stay when hired, so retention is clearly key for all companies.

5. Flexible policies

Implement flexible work policies to accommodate diverse needs. This includes options for remote work, flexible hours, and other arrangements supporting work-life balance, which has been very topical since the lockdown and COVID-19 period, and must not be forgotten in the quest to hire new talent.

6. Accessibility

Ensure that products, services, and workplace environments are designed with accessibility in mind, making them inclusive for individuals with disabilities. We know that, after all, some of the best coders are autistic, so accessibility and inclusion are a must for all companies.

7. Regular audits and assessments

Conduct regular audits and assessments of DEI initiatives to track progress and identify areas for improvement. Use feedback mechanisms to gauge employee and hiring satisfaction to identify areas that need attention. This includes regularly reviewing and addressing pay equity concerns. Ensure that there are no gender or ethnicity-based wage gaps within the organization.

By implementing these strategies, we can create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, fostering innovation to attract more diverse talent and improving the overall success of products and organizations.

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