Just a few days into SXSW, one topic in particular has been discussed at length and continuously echoed through this year’s festival: the #TimesUp campaign. "When leadership includes a truly diverse representation of all groups, including women and people of color, then you will have a workplace that is safe and equitable," said Tina Tchen, of law firm Buckley Sandler, who fronted the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund.
What started as a movement in the entertainment industry has rapidly expanded into other fields, particularly male-dominated workforces that are diversity deficient. The tech industry is one such field that has experienced a lack of inclusion and diversity, and several SXSW panels examined this challenge and how to resolve it. Melinda Gates addressed the matter in her interactive keynote. Leaders in tech contributed to HBCU@SXSW’s Solutions for Hiring Top Minority Talent.
Diversity and inclusion have been an important topic for many years but are something that many businesses have only recently started to take seriously. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average just 20 percent of professional workers are considered part of a minority group.
While major tech giants, like Apple and Google, have recently made bold attempts to boost their diversity—with Google promising to spend $150 million on these initiatives—every firm, large and small, needs to make more of an effort to be devoted to diversity. So, what can businesses do to enhance their inclusion endeavors?
Form strategic partnerships
There are organizations that are specifically formed to encourage innovative thought and diversity. By forming an alliance with these groups and their leaders, a business can demonstrate their desire to work on their diversity policies and prove that they hold these ideas as a priority. For example, Opportunity Hub is an innovation, entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem building platform that is partnering during SXSW to find ways that undergraduate minority students would be interested in leveraging career opportunities in the tech field.
Make your stance known
If diversity programs are of importance to a business, that organization must find ways to get the word out. If it is known that hiring talent from every background is encouraged, then minority applicants will seek out that company. One such way to do this is by releasing articles, getting involved with organizations, and speaking at forums.
It is one thing to say you want to do something about diversity, but it is another to initiate it. Proceeding with these plans include finding qualified talent and offering tech intern opportunities to minority students, fostering beneficial connections with established minority groups, working with entry-level career headhunters and attending various job fairs.
We know that we need to increase the number of visible minorities in the workplace. We’re taking a proactive role in help to make that change for the positive. For example, we’re involved with Tech Talent Charter for TechUK. The aim is to deliver greater diversity in the tech workforce of the UK—one that better reflects the makeup of the population. Signatories of the charter make pledges in relation to their approach to recruitment and retention. Firms can also implement change by starting formal mentoring programs and educating the workforce on the benefits of having a more inclusive team.
While large scale, global change is needed, companies can act now to enhance diversity in their workplaces. What is your company’s commitment to diversity?
Cindy Jordan-Ford is Vice President and General Manager for US & LATAM, Cogeco Peer 1.