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We all know that team diversity is ethically important, but research suggests that diversity can also impact the bottom line.
In fact, companies with a diverse workforce are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability, according to a 2018 McKinsey report. But how exactly does diversity help engineering and technology teams to improve their performance? And what can we learn from leading companies about furthering diversity in engineering and technology?
“Without diversity,” according to WM. A. Wulf, former president of the National Academy of Engineering, “the life experiences we bring to an engineering problem are limited.”
It certainly isn’t hard to see how a diverse team can succeed by bringing different approaches to problem-solving, innovation, and development of solutions for a diverse world. In fact, Kenneth Gibbs Jr., a program director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, writes in Scientific American, “When we consider scientific research as group problem-solving, instead of the unveiling of individual brilliance, diversity becomes key to excellence.”
But if companies want diverse engineering and technology talent, they need to adapt their approaches in order to attract, foster, and retain diverse candidates.
Here are three ways in which Microsoft, Slack, and Dell Technologies are successfully leading the way when it comes to diversity in engineering and tech:
Microsoft Optimizes its Hiring Process for Autistic Talent
Microsoft’s autism hiring program is a great example. When Microsoft found that its initial phone screenings did not support or enable many autistic candidates, who often excel in STEM, the company realized it was overlooking talent and launched its autism hiring program. The program replaced some of its interview processes with emails, informal chats with managers, hands-on tasks, and coding using the candidate’s own laptop, allowing people on the spectrum to display their strengths and qualifications.
Joey Chemis, a data scientist who was recruited via the Microsoft autism hiring program, makes the case for diversity in companies like Microsoft in this company video. Chemis sees diversity as vital, saying, “You can’t develop a product for one person. You have to develop it for everybody.” If you’re missing diverse team members, Chemis states, your products won’t be inclusive of everyone who needs them.
Slack Works with Textio to Analyze Job Descriptions
To attract diverse candidates, inclusive language is essential. While inviting minority candidates to apply is a start, Slack’s approach is more deeply researched.
Slack is well known for its diversity and inclusion practices and they continue to be committed to recruiting candidates. One of Slack’s initiatives has been the company’s work with Textio. As The Atlantic reports, Slack now uses phrases in its job descriptions that are shown, statistically, to draw greater interest from women—such as “meaningfully” and “lasting relationships” — who are often overlooked when hiring for engineering, technology, and other STEM areas.
This approach certainly seems to be working. According to Slack, in 2019, women constituted 45.8% of Slack’s workforce.
Dell’s Many Advocating Real Change (MARC) Program
To protect the diversity in engineering and technology teams, retaining a diverse workforce and ensuring an individual sense of belonging is vital. Training can help in these areas.
Take, for instance, Dell’s Many Advocating Real Change (MARC) program, which trains its staff and ensures that they stay accountable to diversity and inclusion. Dell’s executives, managers, and employees are taught about intersectionality, microaggressions, and other biases that can unconsciously impact minorities. Dell also distributes feedback surveys to its employees to ensure that these training sessions are effective.
Brian Reaves, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Dell Technologies, who brings his own engineering background to his role, says that it is important to make teams aware of potential biases in their decision making. “We see tremendous opportunity to use technology to eliminate personal bias from how we recruit, to how we hire and promote,” said Reaves. He believes that this ensures the company’s best possible workforce—a big area of focus for Dell as it looks to 2030.
Building Diversity in Engineering
“Inclusivity ends when we are no longer curious to know other people’s stories, viewpoints, and opinions,” says Reaves at Forbes, “and we stop asking questions and start making assumptions.” By engineering inclusive approaches to hiring and retention, you will value, foster, and protect diversity— an important goal for all companies in engineering, tech, and elsewhere.
And now that we know remote work is here to stay, it opens up even more doors to boost diversity hiring. You are now able to hire from a broader pool of technical candidates and assess them without bias driving a completely accurate and fair recruitment process. Building a diverse and gender balanced engineering team creates a more open, dynamic and inclusive culture that positively impacts productivity and business success.