Championing Workplace Diversity in STEM

DiversityandInclusion 5 min read

Diversity and inclusion has been rising as a priority for workplaces. Did you ever wonder exactly why it’s been gaining importance in recent times, and why companies who invest on it seem to be thriving so well? Gone are the days where women and minorities are stereotyped into the service or creative industry. This yields no exception to the STEM industry, which is compelled to nurture truly inclusive environments now more than ever.

The positive impact diversity brings STEM is no longer a myth. There is now access to studies on its competitive benefits and real-life accounts of how they deliver results. Diversity adds dimensions to the dynamics of collaboration and decision-making. A company that has access to various backgrounds and ideas in the workplace is one that is capable of addressing complex concerns and more closely patterning that to everyone’s buying decisions.

Keeping this edge intact in a white male-dominated industry can be a challenge. When c-suite executives are held accountable for diversity it ensures efforts are certain and far-reaching. This, together with grassroots training and engagement programs for employees comprise of the general strategies for workplace diversity. Let’s take a look at how top companies make it happen.

Ball: Managing Diversity at the Executive Level

Integrating diversity awareness to the day to day executive functions and making it a norm would further solidify its place as a top priority in the company. Diversity is no longer some auxiliary perk that one may find in a workplace, but an integral part of a company’s functions and success. Among the top 15 companies in the 2018 Top Companies for Women Technologists, 40% of them even revisit company diversity statistics at an executive level once every month. Keeping watch of diversity this closely can also be an organic and context-based approach in developing policies that eliminate gender and ethnic bias.

Ball Corporation was listed by Forbes as the top company for Diversity and Inclusion, and the formula to their success starts from the executive level. While many other companies already have a VP for Diversity and Inclusion, Ball has decided to level-up the role to maximize its impact. In what was lauded as a “genius move”, the company created an entire function for diversity that directly reports to the CEO. This sent a message to the whole company about diversity’s importance, and has effectively put this matter on equal footing with the rest of the company’s essentials. This change was credited as the catalyst of the success they’re currently enjoying in diversity.

SAP: Setting Targets on Diversifying Leadership

One of the strongest support systems would come from a leader that you can relate with more. Having women of color in decision-making roles would make it easier to catalyze efforts in encouraging diverse thought and initiating engagements that would bring diversity to the forefront. Indirectly, seeing these diverse decision-makers would make minorities feel empowered in where they are, and would more likely have a sense of belonging and security.

Upon being hired by SAP as a chief diversity and inclusion officer, Anka Wittenberg developed a 3-5 year strategy for the company that focused on four areas: gender intelligence, generational intelligence, cultures and identity, and differently abled or disabled people. To help address these key areas of concern, SAP committed to increasing women in leadership roles from 19.8% in 2013, to 25% by mid-2017. Concurrently, the perception on the access to opportunities shifted as well. In 2011, 29% of their employees saw opportunities more limited for women than men. By 2016, this figure has dropped to 16%. This is an example of how tech companies prevent falling short of their efforts to establish diversity through leadership.

Texas Instruments: Hands-on approach to promoting diversity awareness

Diversity’s importance to the workforce can be made more evident when specific matters are attentively tackled. To avoid risk of trivializing efforts towards diversity, paying attention to employee’s experiences might provide better insights on how any real-life occurrences of discrimination affect the workplace dynamic. Being hands-on to such concerns also opens up a safe space for one’s need for acceptance and understanding.

Receiving awards such as the “Top Companies for Executive Women” by the National Association for Female Executives, and “Top 50 Employers” by Minority Engineer, shows how serious Texas Instruments is in building an ethical, diverse, and inclusive workplace. The company’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) director takes on a personal approach in making an impact on her work environment. She has taken the role of having actual conversations with people, and getting their concerns heard by everyone through internal blogs that take on issues related to diversity and inclusion.

Cisco: Senior Advocates for Diverse Talent

Getting ordinary employees to spearhead the company’s efforts can prove to be rewarding. The sense of ownership can promote deeper bonds with the advocacy. By providing resources to the people, giving them more liberty to take responsibility of initiatives would facilitate learning at a level that’s beyond mere participation or one-sided information relay. Involving the whole company so deeply in the discussion is an empowering way to involve and educate employees.

As one of the top tech companies for women, Thoughtworks focused on a grassroots approach in getting the whole company in the diversity conversation. Rather than relying on the leadership, or on a single department to deliver the message, the contribution of each employee’s input in the agenda has been rewarded by a more comprehensive appreciation and understanding of workplace diversity. With learning by teaching and doing, the company was able to drive real change in the form of employees who are not shy to embrace diversity in this culture that they have fostered.

What’s The Best Way To Retain Diversity?

Each strategy can prove to be critical in making work integrate better to the lives of women of color. Having identified the sense of belonging as a key factor in retaining diverse talent, the best strategy would only depend on the amount of diversity and level of awareness that is currently prevalent in the company.

In companies with low overall diversity, retention efforts can start at the executive level, where it can impact the big decisions and changes. You can also start strategically building on diversity by making the decision-makers themselves more diverse, so that you get to retain more diverse talent as you grow them in numbers. Another way to motivate diverse talent is to nurture their careers by providing them guidance through advocates and connections from more senior positions. Engaged employees may help lead to a more diverse workplace and inclusive company culture.

What problems do you see in your company’s diversity retention, and what strategies are you pondering to use? Let us know in the comments below, or give us a call!

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