Despite being so focused on innovation and the future, when it comes to inclusion, the tech sector is seriously lagging.
We’re reminded on a daily basis about the importance of inclusion. Yet, too often, the extent of what companies are doing to support it can be fleeting and lack long-term vocal and practical commitment.
But as we’ll come to explore, the tech sector, in particular, stands to benefit from implementing inclusion initiatives year-round. Not only its primary reason—to be socially responsible—but also to be a source of disruption in a sector in dire need of it.
Let’s go back to 2007 and Fog Creek Software CEO Anil Dash’s famous essay, “The Old Boys Club is for Losers.” In it, Dash wrote that by not seeking out new voices, Big Tech “may succeed in defending the boys-only nature” of its treehouse, but ultimately doom itself to irrelevance.
Dash’s words still ring true today as the “brogrammer” culture in Big Tech is now endemic. Many companies are incumbent in their positions of market dominance, and complacency has meant the sector is failing to innovate and grow outside of itself. This has produced a sector unable to represent the needs and appetites of an incredibly diverse world at a time when, post-pandemic, people are increasingly looking for meaning.
This disjoint is no surprise really, given the sector’s demographic shortcomings. And this is precisely what we must reverse to disrupt the sector with bigger and better ideas; ones that land with people’s lives. For that, we need better ways to drive inclusion.
Here are four simple but impactful methods companies should prioritize to drive inclusion in their business.
1. Rewire how your company thinks
Your company’s commitment to inclusion is something that needs to be reaffirmed daily. Not by having a sign on your reception wall, but by rewiring your company when it comes to your culture, recruitment, and policies.
Too often, companies seek to hire solely based on a “cultural fit.” This is important but not the only aspect to consider, as adhering too closely to it can drive unconscious bias and result in a team more homogenous than before.
To truly turn the dial on inclusivity at your company, you need to think about educating your culture drivers. We created a six-week program to take our executive team and GMs on a journey of exploration when it came to DE&I. This meant education around bias, privilege, systemic inequality, allyship, microaggressions, and more.
Starting this rewiring process from the top down can ensure the rest of your team has the resources and the allies they need to make a change. Too often, companies try to “solve” inclusion during a “lunch and learn.” To make a proper change requires proper investment.
The next step, then, should be bringing this “inclusion lens” into how you recruit, so it becomes an integral part of working at your company from the get-go; not something optional that employees can get to if they have time. Providing for this education up front will serve your inclusion efforts far more effectively than trying to retrain and unpick issues later on.
2. Build an allyship ecosystem
If you’re serious about building an inclusive working culture, then you need to get serious about allyship. That’s because everyone can be an ally, and everyone can need an ally.
To build support systems to nurture talent, you need to ensure you have platforms and resources available to make your employees feel seen and heard. Visibility is invaluable in helping employees feel included and able to express themselves by giving a voice to their opinions and ideas.
Employee resource groups can be the voice of your workforce, encouraging communities but also having a direct link to the business and leadership team. Clubs, events, and activities are equally important in encouraging allyship as they can help educate your workforce and, in some cases, help unpack biases.
An inclusion portal is another valuable way for people to be able to educate themselves. Not everyone will feel comfortable asking questions they might deem awkward in front of a crowded room. Resources like this can give them the privacy, and autonomy, with which to raise their own awareness.
3. Create policy change
Companies must look to their policies if they are to build an inclusive culture. Spain recently became the first country in Europe to grant women time off for severe menstrual pain. In the words of its Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, this step meant Spain is “the first country in Europe that talks about menstrual health as a health standard,” tackling the “stigma, shame, and guilt, as well as the loneliness, that women often have to go through.”
Regardless of countrywide legislature, companies should look at their own culture and take up the mantle when it comes to establishing policies that similarly encourage support and inclusivity for different demographics.
Your senior leadership team should engage with employee resource groups as much as possible to identify and implement policies for everyone, including employees who miscarry, are pregnant, are LGBTQ+, and are neurodiverse. As an example, we formed The Specialized Treatment policy, which offers financial support for a range of treatments not typically covered by public health systems or medical insurance, such as gender-reassignment surgery, abortions, and fertility treatment.
The tech sector prides itself on embodying the innovator mindset. Now, it must apply this to trailblazing policies that promote inclusion and empowerment by taking down stigmas.
4. Hold yourself and your team accountable
Any truly inclusive culture needs full transparency and accountability for the commitments you’re setting out and the change you want to make happen.
We encourage anonymous employee surveys to help keep up the momentum in meeting inclusivity targets and pinpointing improvements—whether related to something we’ve developed a blind spot for, or in listening harder to what employees think could make a difference.
Anonymous employee surveys can also give you an idea of the demographics that make up your company, helping to show what work there is to be done in developing new processes and practices in which every person can feel seen and bring their whole self to work.
Getting real about inclusion is about getting tough. This is why we’ve set ourselves an ambitious three-to-five-year inclusion strategy that includes representation goals. It’s something we remind ourselves of every day and will only ever scale up, not down.
Building an inclusive culture is not something that’ll happen overnight. But by setting out the above steps, you can begin to welcome more voices and ideas into your company—something that your employees, business, and the tech sector will appreciate.
Lotus Smits is head of diversity, inclusion, and culture at Glovo, a multicategory delivery app. She is passionate about creating a healthier, more fair working environment that empowers everyone to fulfill their potential.