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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

The CIO’s greatest recruitment challenge: Diversity in tech

Diverse talent in the tech space will move the industry forward.

The CIO’s greatest recruitment challenge: Diversity in tech
[Image Source: FS-Stock/Adobe Stock]

During the pandemic, many employees—and their bosses—realized that remote work is a viable option. Now it’s even easier for employees to change jobs without leaving their home offices.

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On the downside, your company could quickly lose skilled talent to competitors. On the upside, your company’s location is no longer a potential detriment to recruiting.

That level-ish playing field means companies must rely more heavily on their differentiators, like technology and work culture, to attract and retain talent. This is especially true in the tech space, where an emphasis on a company’s equity and inclusion practices might be the key to attracting diverse talent.

GENDER DIVERSITY IS AN INDUSTRY PROBLEM

According to a 2018 report, 57% of the U.S. workforce is made up of women, but only 26% of technology-related positions are held by women. The situation is even worse for women of color.

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STRATEGIES TO INCREASE DIVERSITY IN TECH

With intense competition for talent from a too-small pool of qualified employees, we’ve adopted several strategies to increase diversity in tech:

1. Focus on culture. We consciously and purposefully build diverse teams so we’re more innovative, and we invite and encourage different perspectives so we make better decisions. The foundation of this work is a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Make your company a place where people can and want to do their best work.

2. Offer the best tech space. Aim to create a tech space without boundaries that combines human imagination with the potential of technology to help people work smarter and the world work better. Your tech talent is more likely to stay if they can grow their careers and work for a bleeding-edge tech company.

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3. Educate. Every child can be a future creator, inventor, or innovator. To inspire students to pursue a career in STEM, focus on a strong, early educational foundation, especially for young women and underrepresented groups, to increase the number of diverse students graduating with tech degrees.

4. Develop diverse talent to create a pipeline for hard-to-fill positions. We do this through EDGE Student and Early Career Programs, which helps interns and associates transition from backpack to briefcase and develop soft skills like finding and working with a mentor, networking, and building relationships. If you have employee resources groups (ERGs), make sure you focus on the needs of women and people of color, and that ERGs influence positive change for employees, the company, and the community.

5. Go where the people are. Partnerships with organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers, Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM) allow you to share your story and your culture through employees who can speak authentically about your culture.

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6. Bring the people to you. Create events to get people familiar with your company. For example, we regularly host hackathons that reward people for their ingenuity.

DIVERSITY IS THE FOUNDATION OF INNOVATION

Getting diverse opinions and hearing different viewpoints leads to better solutions. We’ve seen it at hackathons—people with no coding experience often generate the most out-of-box thinking because they have no guardrails. That ultimately helps their team win the competition.

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That’s the kind of thinking we need because there is so much untapped potential in the industrial sector. Think about this: Companies are generating terabytes of data every day, and using only about 2% of that data. Imagine what we could do with more.

And speaking of thinking: Make sure your approach is agile and future-ready. The jobs we’ll recruit for in five years haven’t even been created yet. Create a continuous learning mindset so you’re nimble and ready to pivot with new innovations.

Diverse talent in the tech space will move the industry forward. And with so much opportunity, companies will have to take a hard look at what they offer their talent in terms of culture and career, because technology alone will not attract or retrain the employees.

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Chris Nardecchia is Senior Vice President, Chief Information & Digital Officer, Rockwell Automation.

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