Jes Chandi, Learning & Development - Senior Consulant, Computacenter
"Where?" is my usual reply;
Where is it we want to be? and how will we know that we are breaking the barriers so that people, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, experience and ability feel they are treated fairly and can make it in the IT industry?
The Enabling Ethnic Diversity event ‘Breaking Barriers in Tech' hosted by Computacenter in partnership with CRN really helped frame my thinking around this and on how much progress we had made. But also, how much more we still have to do. There were so many things we heard and discussed; let me share the ones that really resonated with me:
Use your metrics to tell a story of where you've come from, where you are and where you want to go….
We always start with metrics to show the diverse characteristics that make up our organisation but how much do these metrics really reflect the progress we are making? Meera Raikundalia, co-founder at BYP Network, spoke about using metrics to measure or review our progress once we have implemented something, but then to think about what is the story we want to tell; and how we set the context so people can understand what we're doing, why we're doing it and the journey we need to go on.
Keynote speaker and ex professional footballer, Garth Crooks, shared how the football industry was in a state of paralysis when it came to addressing racism, it taking significant events for the premier league to decide how they were going to progress to make any change. Both Meera and Garth were making the point that we have to start somewhere. And it shouldn't take something like what happened to George Floyd to make a change - even if it's a small change let's do something.
Now, while we're talking about metrics, the one that struck me was how applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds have to send 80% more applications to get a positive response than a white person of British origin. EIGHTY percent. I knew there was some disparity but wouldn't have guessed just how big it was.
We all have a part to play…
We have to invest in the change we want to see, and we all have a part to play - whether you're a leader or an individual contributor. The discussion touched on the popular concept of Psychological Safety, and how it's important to have psychological safety in our teams and workplace so people can voice their opinions without the fear of any fallout; so that they feel included - not just because they fit in but because they truly are valued.
Marcia Buxton from LHH shared so much on this topic. How we can create psychological safety by reflecting on the way we behave and talk, being mindful of any microaggressions we may be using. She rightly said that sometimes we don't even know we're saying something that can be a microaggression but saying or doing it often enough, over time, can become ‘death by 1000 cuts.'
We spoke about allyship and how we should really think about what we stand for and how we can be a voice for someone who either hasn't found theirs yet or needs someone louder. Our call to action was, if we can see an imbalance in opportunities or representation then address it. It's not enough to simply not be racist, we need to be anti-racist.
Equity over equality
"There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people."
This quote from Aristotle got everyone thinking. It doesn't mean that we should treat people unequally but rather, knowing that two people cannot possibly be equal in all things, we should provide equal opportunity, by giving each the assistance and treatment that they require.
We spoke about how people should be treated equitably and ethically, given their individual needs and circumstances, and the differences between people should be recognised and valued, not diminished. To support that, we heard some great examples of how Computacenter have created Employee Impact Groups to work alongside their employees to better understand how we can create equitable platforms for those who may need it in the form of Speak Freely events, Ethnic Diversity Development Programmes and Reverse Mentoring.
Investing in diversity is the right thing to do and makes business sense
This was summed up nicely by Meera when she said "it's not charitable to invest in or hire diverse talent" and it's not about doing someone a favour - it's a necessity for businesses who want to succeed - how wonderfully said!
Computacenter's CPO, Sarah Long, also articulated it well when she said it's not as simple as just saying the right thing or updating your logo on social media, we all need to look inwards (both as organisations and individuals) and take proactive action to make lasting and sustainable change.
We need to stop thinking about diversity and, more specifically, about diversity initiatives as that ‘side project' or passion project we work on - if we want to be successful, if we want to grow, if we want the best talent to work for us, to be an employer and supplier of choice, diversity and inclusion has to exist in every thread of our organisation's DNA; and more importantly we all have a responsibility to contribute to a culture where people feel safe to be who they are and are accepted for that, because while our business is about technology, first of all, it's about people.