Diversify the Workforce Faster with Urgency and Innovation

By: Jacob Martinez

Uber plans to double the number of Black executives in its ranks by 2025. Microsoft, Mozilla, and SAP have made similar commitments recently. These moves to create diversity inside technology companies are marginal and overdue.

Imagine if technology leaders applied the same urgency, determination and resources they do to develop technology to diversify their workforces? It takes an average of 4-6 months to create an app and yet it’s taking years for them to address diversity (technology companies started publishing diversity reports in 2014).

Data show diversity improves companies — their ability to innovate, to increase employee engagement and boost revenue. It’s also the right thing to do — to give untapped talent the same opportunities as those within the tight-sealed company networks.

What if technology leaders used their innovation practices — solving complex problems, making rapid improvements, testing new ideas and taking risks — to diversify their workforces, from the C-suite to entry-level positions? 

Consider this:

Apply the “Anything Is Possible” Mindset
Successful technology leaders start with an idea. What brings their ideas to life is their ability to imagine and create something that doesn’t exist. Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix, is a prime example. If he hadn’t believed that anything is possible, streaming content might not be so pervasive. Envision a company buzzing with people of varied backgrounds coming up with the next solution for the human condition – that’s the company that will change our lives, just as Netflix did. 

Be Fast and Don’t Settle
Making rapid improvements are central to technology companies’ success — enabling them to create must-have apps and devices at warp speed. It’s how Apple consistently delivers beautifully designed products people don’t know they need. Imagine applying rapid improvements to diversify the workforce. If the current pool of candidates isn’t diverse enough, don’t cease the search. Tap different resources, such as Dev Mission, Year Up and my organization, Digital NEST, to find talent. Don’t stop trying new approaches until the workforce mirrors the cultural and racial palette of our society.

Take Chances
The technology leader’s ethos is to chart new paths with no guaranteed positive outcome. What if the outcome actually is guaranteed? Research shows that diverse workforces are more productive and engaged, and improve complex problem solving. Some of America’s largest companies know this and no longer require a college degree for some jobs – a requirement that has automatically disqualified talented candidates. Take chances on people outside the artificial mold technology companies have created. 

If technology leaders continue to deprioritize diversity, we’ll never realize our greatest potential as humans and as a society. This is a call to technology leaders to apply their skills where it counts: be urgent about diversifying your companies and we’ll all reap the benefits. 

Isn’t that what we all want?
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Jacob Martinez – Founder & Executive Director, Digital NEST

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