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Creating a More Inclusive, Diverse Culture in IT & Beyond


People coming together for diversity
Image: seanlockephotography -
For IT professionals — like everybody else — 2020 has been a trying year for a multitude of reasons. Not only are they grappling with the challenge of supporting work from home (WFH) for the long term, but they’re doing so against the backdrop of larger societal issues. Spurred by the killing of George Floyd, many individuals have begun engaging in social activism or participating in public protests to act politically, and many enterprises are reflecting on their business practices and asking themselves: Are we doing enough to create a diverse and inclusive work environment?
Some enterprise IT leaders might feel lost on how to broach the topic of diversity and inclusivity, but not Kari Mattek, senior director of digital product management for Workplace Portals and Content Services at Northwestern Mutual. Simply listening is a good place to start, as she shared in a recent interview. To kick start its diversity and inclusivity initiative, Northwestern Mutual held open and candid listening sessions that gave employees a safe environment to discuss these issues, Mattek explained. When people are vulnerable and ask their honest questions, then “it opens the door to understanding,” she said.
From these conversations, enterprise leaders can get an idea of how to educate their staff, Mattek went on to say. While each enterprise will have unique challenges, Mattek pointed out several possible educational opportunities to raise awareness. Training employees to identify non-inclusive language that they might be using unknowingly can help address microaggressions, for example. Additionally, discussing the importance and use of preferred pronouns in the workplace provides a way for employees to self-identify their gender and creates a welcoming environment for transgender employees. Not only do these measures help enterprises internally, but they also provide employees with the skills (and language) to talk to clients and partners more effectively, Mattek said.
And for those enterprises looking to hire a more diverse workforce, Mattek proposed several simple things that can be done. In reviewing candidates for a job, for instance, a hiring manager might have the applicant names removed from resumes to ensure there isn’t bias associated with a person’s name. And though COVID-19 has brought with it a fair amount of IT challenges, it has also opened up an opportunity for enterprises to hire outside their geographical region because of remote working, expanding the pool of job candidates and creating more opportunities for applicants of diverse backgrounds, Mattek said. When it comes down to it, “If you want diverse talent, hire diverse people. Period,” said Mattek, quoting LaFawn Davis, VP of diversity and inclusion at Indeed and one of her co-panelists on the diversity and inclusion session we hosted at Enterprise Connect 2019.
For more insight into how to create a more diverse and inclusive work culture, make sure to attend the "Developing a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce for Today & Tomorrow" session taking place on Monday, Aug. 3, from 1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. ET, at Enterprise Connect Digital Conference & Expo. In this open format networking session, Mattek and I will discuss issues related to diversity and will open the floor to discussion. Join in!