Diversifying Your IT Department: A How-To Guide
I am in the very fortunate position of working for an organization that embraces diversity with the same passion and zest I do. For years, Harvey Nash has helped its clients create diverse workplaces and has supported women in advancing their careers, be it taking board positions or attracting, retaining or advancing them in IT. Australia is making great strides toward a more diverse IT workforce, and the potential for our numbers to establish Australia among the world's most diverse IT leaders is immense.
This past March, I had the pleasure of being the moderator and MC for International Women's Day (IWD) lunches in Sydney and Melbourne as part of my role of strategy networking lead for FITT (Females in IT and Telecommunications).
At the FITT event, there was much talk around the perception of an IT career for graduates. I think that the future of our industry means that we should each take an active role of promoting the benefits of this career choice. IT offers dynamic and exciting careers, particularly with the evolution of many traditional tech roles due to emerging digital elements. Many of us who enjoy a career in this field get to travel around the world, meet interesting and diverse people, receive healthy salaries and get the opportunity to work with some of the latest and coolest digital technology and devices on the market. What is not to like?
Taking steps toward a more diverse IT workforce
Through my involvement with FITT, as well as in my role here at Harvey Nash, I see firsthand the interest and commitment of organisations toward creating a more diverse workforce. But, I also notice that many organisations are unsure of the best way to nurture a diverse workforce. Here are suggestions I share with organisations looking to go beyond the typical and traditional diversity programs:
- Consider increasing your search time. To create a diverse workforce, you have to employ diverse people. Finding a diverse set of candidates for open IT positions can sometimes take slightly longer, so I generally recommend that organisations aiming for more diverse IT representation open up their search time by several weeks. I recommend avoiding shortcuts and overly condensed search timeframes when recruiting top talent. It is critical that you give yourself enough time in the hiring process if you genuinely wish to see a diverse candidate pool and make an informed decision on the talent you wish to hire.
- Involve men and women in your diversity initiatives. In my work with FITT, I've found that many male IT professionals are incredibly passionate about a more diverse workforce. Working with great IT talent means better results for every IT department and every business, so it just makes sense that men want to be surrounded by other great talent - male or female. Research suggests organisations that respect and value the diversity brought by both women and men are better able to attract and retain high performers and improve operational performance. Access to an exceptional talent pool is a benefit to any organisation, so creating an environment that is attractive to both women and men can place your organisation at a considerable competitive advantage.
- Encourage mentoring programs. Provide opportunities to nurture IT careers at every stage to help retain top talent and support continued learning and professional development. A mentoring program within your organisation can inspire your team on its path toward their career goals. In fact, according to Forbes, employees participating in a study who received mentoring were promoted FIVE times more often than people who didn't have mentors. FITT has been actively involved in the IT and telecom communities in Australia for 25 years, and its mentoring program has helped develop an incredible number of successful IT careers. The inspiration and direction that can be attained through these relationships is outstanding.
- Support participating in panels and conferences among your female IT leaders. I always encourage women to carve time and get out in the community to actively participate in associations and organisations where they can make their voices heard. Professionals should not miss out on coveted opportunities to be a role model for their colleagues and other IT professionals. There are plenty of obstacles for women in technology at all levels, and the opportunity to see successful female IT leaders speak offers inspiration for tackling those obstacles. Some companies may question the time required away from the office for such events, but it is important to remember that this public demonstration of a commitment to diversity can be an incredible boost to your employer brand. Ultimately, it can help you attract a greater volume of exceptional IT talent to your organisation. Encourage members of your team (men and women) to attend the events as well - full participation can build camaraderie and make an even greater positive impact on your employer brand.
- Offer more workplace flexibility wherever possible. Today's workforce - male and female - is looking for more flexibility. Flexible hours, workspace or telecommuting options are becoming a staple within many organisations, and top IT talent is starting to both expect and command it. Today's female IT professionals are juggling personal demands while excelling in their careers. Simultaneously, male IT professionals are helping women achieve that balance, necessitating flexibility for all. A dedication to flexibility demonstrates your commitment to a successful, diverse workforce, and it also provides yet another boost to your employer brand.
Diversity in today's IT workforce is not a trend or a fad, it's driving productivity, growth and innovation in organisations across Australia and the globe. Your commitment to encouraging diversity will not only help your organisation achieve more, but it can make a big impact on your talent strategy.