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The DEI disconnect between tech leaders and their teams

C-suite execs think they have a grip on their diversity problem. Female and BIPOC employees overwhelmingly say otherwise, new research finds.

The DEI disconnect between tech leaders and their teams
[Source image: it:wildpixel/iStock]

Over the past three decades, the emergence of Silicon Valley has created a surge of tech employment growth–and that growth continues. In the next 10 years alone, there will be roughly one million new jobs across all STEM fields—with tech occupations leading the pack. Despite this impressive growth, the tech industry, like so many others, has yet to overcome perhaps the greatest societal and professional issue to date—diversity and inclusion barriers.

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New Capgemini research found that 84% of women and ethnic minority members in technology roles across global organizations recognize this industry-wide representation issue. What’s more, the lack of representation is compounded by a vast perception gap between executive leadership and these marginalized tech team members. In fact, Capgemini research found that 75% of executives believe that women and ethnic minorities feel a sense of belonging in their organizations; however, this belief is only shared by 24% of women and ethnic-minority employees in tech functions.

This lack of diversity and inclusion is not just felt within the workforce, but also among diverse consumers—the majority of whom have directly experienced tech-based discrimination, from algorithmic bias on social media platforms to inequity with facial recognition technology. And given that 84% of all tech employees acknowledge that their products are not inclusive, this wide-spread consumer sentiment, while disheartening, is not surprising.

To create inclusive tech teams, products, and services there must be both company-wide and tech-focused movements within organizations. Here are five steps to help organizations move towards greater inclusion in tech: 

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Build tech-leadership accountability and ownership for inclusion and diversity

Before organizations take actionable steps to improve DEI efforts, it’s essential to start the conversation and educate leadership on the inclusive practices, or lack thereof, within their tech teams. Specifically, larger global companies must focus on each diversity segment, noting country-level policies, practices, and representation. With this foundational awareness, enterprises should then begin allocating more responsibility for diversity-related outcomes and benchmarks to tech leaders. 

Develop robust processes, practices, and value systems that enable inclusion

Once leadership is more informed, HR and technology executives alike must share responsibility in developing and driving DE&I expectations, solutions and policies across tech teams. This includes diversity and anti-harassment policies, inclusion mandates, bias-related workshops and discussions, and inclusive language and vocabulary—among other practices.

To enable lasting, widespread inclusion, these leaders must also partner to rethink two HR pillars—hiring practices and career development. By focusing on inclusive language in job postings, assessing referral systems, and adjusting culture-fit criteria for inclusive sourcing and hiring, companies can attract diverse tech talent. And by building transparency and greater equity in career progression and allotment of career opportunities for women and minority ethnic groups, organizations can retain and advance their diverse tech team members. 

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Lay down the technological and data foundations for fostering inclusion

In perhaps an ironic twist, organizations struggling with inclusion in tech teams and product design must turn to technology to meet their DE&I needs. In fact, companies should increasingly utilize emerging tools and technologies to reduce human-led bias while putting in place checks and balances for debiasing HR systems. Additionally, improved data collection and management through surveys, feedback, HR databases, and bias-interrupter and bias-decoder tools are essential in gaining nuanced inclusion insights and thus fostering organization-wide DE&I when insights are fed back into the organization in an actionable way.

Drive fairness in AI systems and reduce algorithmic bias

On the product development side, technology leadership must push their teams to address one of the leading causes of tech-based bias—AI systems. As diverse consumers have felt the impact of such tech-based gender and racial bias, it is essential to solve this issue and retain customer trust and loyalty. Through algorithm and automated decision impact-assessment analyses, dataset screenings, and regular audits of AI systems, tech teams can utilize their functional expertise to help eradicate tech-based bias by making data inputs inclusive and AI decision-making transparent.

Keep diverse users at the heart of designing inclusive tech/digital products and services

Last but certainly not least, tech teams must always consider their diverse base of consumers while researching, designing and developing their products and services, keeping them at the heart of their recommendations. Moreover, tech teams must continuously look for inspiration within, calling on female and ethnic minority team members to play critical roles in the design and development of digital products and services. With this shared internal and external focus and by establishing and utilizing a system of checks and balances, during the research and design phase, organizations can ensure that their tech products and solutions represent everyone.

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By creating and following these inclusive guidelines, organizations can start to shift their business practices and meet this pressing moment—not only on behalf of their female and minority tech workers, but also for the 76% of diverse consumers who expect companies to design with all consumers in mind. Businesses that make this strong commitment will grow their consumer loyalty, increase their employee engagement, and maintain a strong reputation in the market. Without such purposeful inclusion, organizations and tech teams alike will suffer as their more advanced competitors will undoubtedly disrupt their industries with access to the broadest span of tech talent, consumers, and products.


Elizabeth Kiehner is vice president, enterprise transformation for Capgemini Invent. Greg Bentham is vice president for cloud infrastructure services for Capgemini Americas.


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