5 Ways to Create Lasting Change With Diversity & Inclusion

Have you ever looked around the room and counted the number of people who look like you? If you're not a person of color, this may not have ever crossed your mind...
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Have you ever looked around the room and counted the number of people who look like you? If you’re not a person of color, this may not have ever crossed your mind. For those of us who are, we think a lot about it. We are silently adding up the people of color on every team, in every room, and even the people we pass in the hallway. 

Minorities are underrepresented in the tech world. I’m making it my mission to change that standard. A demographic analysis conducted by Wired, shows that Black, Latine, and Native tech professionals make up less than 5% of the workforce at major tech companies. In the past, even companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook has shown little progress within diversity hiring practices. Diversity is more than ethnicity but also includes gender in this case as well. It leaves little surprise that 83% of leadership roles are dominated by white men, according to Alison DeNisco Rayome of TechRepublic.   

The socio-economic demographics are shifting, leading to an increase in the number of minorities graduating from high schools, colleges, and universities. Without diverse representation, companies run the risk of being dismissed by these minority candidates.

Rather than focusing on diverse stock photos and empty talking points to increase your sense of diversity, the world is asking for real change. We need to build opportunities for portfolios of experience to be developed and discovered. For instance, Google invested $25 million to give more black and Latinx students exposure to computer science and created a one-year residency at Google for juniors at historically black colleges. Facebook, similarly, has invested in training programs, internships, and projects like TechPrep, meant to introduce the tech field to people from nontraditional backgrounds. Apple partners with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Girls Who Code, and educational institutions like community colleges that traditionally serve minority students.

Even without the funds of Google and Facebook, you too can create opportunities to increase diversity within your organization. Here’s how:

  1. Invest in “candidacy seed-development” or building your candidacy pool from the ground up with internships and apprenticeships. Giving students hands on experience or a foot in the door will begin to build their industry vocabulary and implement, in real time, what is being taught in their classrooms. 
  2. Make sure there is work being done for current employees to understand and even uncover unconscious bias. Listening to another person’s perspective can help drive change faster than reading books, blogs, and listening to podcasts.
  3. Provide mentorship opportunities within your company and industry.  Galen Gruman of ComputerWorld reports that 53% of Black, 52% of Indiguous, 45% of Latinx, and 41% of Asians struggle to find mentors that can assist them in reaching their goals and learning how to maneuver within their industry.
  4. Create an active community relations team or task force to cultivate relationships with schools, community centers, and nonprofit organizations in underserved communities. This gives your diversity and inclusion statement some staying power and ensures long term progress.
  5. Lastly, but most importantly, make sure you have buy-in from your leadership team. It shows that these efforts are important not just to the employees but to the decision makers of the company. With 83% of the leadership team shown to be white, it assures the employees that a tangible change is on the horizon. 

While there is a lot of room in business for people who are diverse, diversity is more than just adding seats at the table. Diversity for the sake of diversity misses the objective; the requirement is making sure everyone feels welcomed, heard, and able to contribute. Real diversity is about making sure that there are a variety of cultures, perspectives, and thought processes represented. At Sapper we celebrate diversity and embrace change as two of our core values, welcoming those who come from a variety of life’s experiences and can provide outstanding perspectives.

I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and actively build the next generation. Continue to make room. Continue to grow. Continue to embrace change. Invest in a new way of thinking and more importantly, plant the seeds of change in your organization. Water them and continue to advocate for the change you know is coming that is not so far off. My hope is that future interns or apprentices won’t have to look for a new job, but rather choose which seat they would like at your table. And, in a perfect world, would not look around and be disappointed at the lack of other people that look like us.


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