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How 4 companies created successful workforce diversity programs

Damien Ross | Nov. 15, 2016
The stereotypical technology worker was an introverted 30 to 50 year old male, usually Caucasian, occasionally Indian.

When I first began recruiting technology staff I was placing large teams of contractors into businesses who were busily preparing for Y2K and then GST.

The stereotypical technology worker was an introverted 30 to 50 year old male, usually Caucasian, occasionally Indian. The representation of any other minority groups was just about non-existent.

And to my recollection, women represented less than 5 per cent of this army of programmers and engineers trying to save us from a pending apocalypse.

Changes in female participation has been slow and steady until recent years, and has not been a deliberate agenda item for governments, industry, organisations or education providers. This has changed.

If I had to list the consistent issues that technology leaders regularly raise with me in our discussions, ‘diversity’ is right up there with ‘people performance’, ‘project delivery’ and ‘digital transformation’ as agenda items.

Diversity is not just an issue for technology executives; it’s a societal issue. Only now are we developing enough data to fully understand the economic benefits that a deliberate and well executed diversity program can offer.

The 2016 Davidson Technology DiversIT report indicated only 31 per cent of technology (IT and digital) workers are female, and only 14 per cent are technology executives. This report offers organisations hard data that they can now develop strategies and targets against.

Today’s technology industry has a number shining examples, these organisations are more than talking about diversity as a marketing slogan.

There are some organisations in the technology industry who are putting the ‘rubber on the road’ with programs that address the issues of diversity and inclusions across the full spectrum, whether that be gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.

Four technology organisations leading the way in this area include MYOB, REA Group, Envato and Atlassian. I spoke with each of these organisations to find out what they are doing about diversity.

James Law, HR director at Envato recommends that the first step in the process of creating a working diversity program is to acknowledge there is a problem.

“Once we publically acknowledged the problem with our people, and talked about the diversity challenge, they started to come forward with suggestions,” he said.

Nick Di’Lodovico, senior manager, talent development and diversity at REA Group, said his main recommendation is to take a holistic, long term approach.

Be clear about why you are doing it and what value it brings,” he said.

Atlassian’s global head of diversity and inclusion, Aubrey Blanche suggests that organisations should get started and collect data on the benefits of diversity and make their programs locally relevant.

Meanwhile, John Sullivan, head of delivery at MYOB recommended that a company’s diversity program needs to connect with the ‘why.’


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