A cultural change in the tech industry remains indispensable
In this article, Lucy Nemes, Data Strategist at Publicis Sapient, describes why a cultural change in the IT world is urgently needed and what the first steps towards diversity can look like. Diversity and an inclusive environment are needed on all levels in order to create a more balanced, stronger industry.
I work as a data strategist in the IT environment, which makes me one of the select few. When I look around in (virtual) business meetings, I’m usually outnumbered as a woman. Even today, women are rare in the tech world, especially in leadership positions. While the campaigns of the past few years have made a positive difference in terms of recruiting, retention and advancement of women, tech companies are still in danger of treading water when it comes to diversity if they don’t transform their work culture.
The pandemic has increased the pressure. By blurring the lines between work and personal life, it has changed the way we work and taken its toll on everyone. However, studies show that women are more affected than men. Balancing your job and family has become the maximum challenge for many women.
More diversity at all levels
The digital industry thrives on customer-centric experiences. These require diverse thinking and different perspectives. Only diverse teams have the broad and authentic perspective to make the digital world a diverse world as well. And by that, I don’t just mean gender diversity, but also diversity in terms of culture, experience, race, religion and other social factors. Equally important is diversity within the data, which is essential for developing customer-centric products and services. After all, only when data represents all people does it contribute to better outcomes and create equal opportunity.
It’s no surprise that the most successful companies push diversity in every way. They manage to incorporate broad and holistic as well as individual and diverse perspectives into their processes, products and decision-making structures. This approach is a core element for sustainable competitive advantage. So if diversity is the key to success, I wonder why many companies are not doing more to promote diversity and create opportunities for all. Especially now, when the demand for technological skills is massively increasing, is the time to act to make the IT sector more attractive for women.
International Women’s Day as an opportunity for discourse
International Women’s Day is a great opportunity for companies to create an inclusive environment to openly discuss the current state of equal opportunities and industry challenges, share experiences, listen and learn. It is time for organizations to finally get clear on what is required for their sustainable success. Diversity must be at the top of the agenda and cultural change must become a top priority. Neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl put it succinctly: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Executives in duty
The most important transformation must take place at the leadership level. Good leadership is much more than exuding strength and making confident decisions. Today’s leaders must be empathetic, caring and patient, regardless of gender. They must create a work environment where not only are diverse perspectives represented, but they are heard and included for the benefit of all. Engagement, accountability and transparency are imperative and should be accompanied by relevant metrics that enable reporting and progress tracking. Only in this way can we create a thriving work culture that provides equal opportunity and has everyone’s best interests at heart.
The establishment of a feedback culture
Although the most immediate effective change must come from leadership, all employees can contribute to a collaborative work environment that promotes diversity. This starts with an open feedback culture. Whenever we find ourselves in a situation where we feel uncomfortable, we need to be able to provide feedback. We need to challenge stereotypes and biased perceptions as they arise. This requires persistent effort, but it is an extremely effective way to initiate change. Tackling unconscious bias should be the responsibility of everyone in an organization – regardless of position or standing. We need to regularly question whether we are biased, whether our judgment is truly fair, whether we are allowing “silent” people to have their say, whether we are listening to colleagues, incorporating their perspectives and opinions, giving them the opportunity to grow, and supporting them along the way. In this way, we can create an inclusive work environment and an open culture in which everyone can develop.
Divers into the future
The tech industry undoubtedly offers great opportunities for individual growth and self-fulfillment. I have been a part of this community since I left university. I’ve had some great mentors, supervisors, and colleagues who have helped me grow along my career path. Even though the majority of them were male and white, they created an environment where I always felt heard and could share my perspective. With their support and guidance, I was able to grow in my role.
However, there will be a long way to go before I am no longer outnumbered as a woman in our industry. International Women’s Day highlights the need for change. Tech companies need to make the cultural transformation now and diversify their talent pools to remain sustainably successful.