December 24, 2020
Developing better metrics, focusing on talent retention and reframing D&I efforts as economic initiatives are among the steps the tech industry could take to improve itself in the new year, according to members of Protocol's Braintrust.
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Partner at GV
Six years ago in 2014, the tech industry began an industrywide journey to highlight inequities in the representation of women and underrepresented minorities at some of the world's biggest and emerging companies. Within high-growth tech companies and startups, leaders started to take public accountability for the diversity of their workplaces across the industry. This ushered in transparency on workforce diversity data and new executive positions to lead the charge. It has since grown to include reporting on key initiatives, partnerships and broader definitions of inclusion across people, policies and products.
No one could have predicted or prepared for 2020 and the painful changes and lessons it's brought. However, 2020 has also pushed into the spotlight several limits of tech accountability for equity, diversity and inclusion. Employees question if companies are truly listening to the day-to-day experiences of BlPOC employees, citing poor retention and minimal progress on representation in executive roles. Are executives co-developing and enforcing D&I commitments, or is this simply handed over to diversity and HR teams? Are companies realizing the catalytic potential of infusing diversity and inclusion into product development, user experience and supplier contracts? If we are to see progress in 2021 on equity, diversity and inclusion, CEOs and their teams must ask themselves three essential questions:
- Am I listening to my employees about their experiences here?
- Am I setting manager expectations based off of employee feedback and our diversity values?
- Are equity, diversity and inclusion strategy woven into our core 2021 business plans?
Chief Diversity and Development Officer at AT&T
As we head into the new year at AT&T and WarnerMedia, we're structuring our internal actions around our commitment to Listen, Understand and Act because we recognize that these are critical components for successfully driving diversity and inclusion, inside and outside our walls.
This foundation allows us to act and build programming that moves us forward — whether it's doubling down on economic empowerment programs that we know can achieve lasting change, initiating mandatory training on systemic bias, renewing our focus on diverse talent acquisition and retention, or even approaching equity and inclusion in storytelling through WarnerMedia. We're actively working to drive those changes, in collaboration with other organizations.
There's no doubt, we're facing a critical time for our country as it relates to race relations, and I'm hopeful that because of ongoing conversations, the work being done and expectations being put on AT&T and our peers in corporate America, we'll start to see sustainable change.
Companies must identify and prioritize the work, and track and measure progress, so we can be accountable - and transparent about our results. This commitment begins at the very top of the company as the AT&T board of directors recently selected William Kennard, our first Black chairman — to succeed Randall Stephenson.
We have a long way to go, but there is a sense of urgency that is energizing me, and I think if we are consistent and intentional in our actions every day, as individuals and as organizations, we can make a meaningful difference.
Director, Community & Education Initiatives at Microsoft Future of Work Initiative
One meaningful change the tech industry could make to advance D&I efforts in 2021 is to take time to research and understand why the tech industry needs diversity. Many times we see diversity, equity and inclusion through a philanthropic or equality lens, when we should be looking at it as an economic issue.
We need to understand the opportunities we are missing out on and the innovation and problem-solving that could result if we break the paradigm of who is currently working in not just technology, but technology leadership/technology entrepreneurship.
Head of Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Thoughtexchange
In 2020 the global outrage in response to the tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others compelled organizations in every sector to ask "how are WE bringing anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion to life in our organization?"
Many "woke" technology companies took swift action: They made public statements supporting Black Lives Matter. They signed onto Anti-Racism in Tech pacts and pledges. They hired DE&I staff, set up DE&I Councils, recruited diverse Board members, collected DE&I staff data, ran listening tours with staff, updated policies and codes of conduct, diversified advertising, interviewing and hiring practices, set up internship, mentoring, sponsorship programs for BIPOC staff and donated to BIPOC community organizations.
Rather than simply standing in solidarity with a movement, I believe organizations should adopt an anti-racist approach to their DE&I work. An anti-racist approach asks "how are you contributing to change at a systems level (beyond your own organization)?"
At Thoughtexchange we leveraged the power of our crowd conversation technology to help organizations have meaningful conversations at scale on tackling anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion. Almost 250 related Thoughtexchanges were run in organizations during 2020 which generated 39,000 thoughts on how to effectively address anti-racism diversity, equity and inclusion.
For 2021, I'd like to see every technology company adopt an anti-racist approach to their DE&I work and ask "how can we use our technology to support systems level change?"
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.
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