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D&I in Enterprise IT: Putting in the Hard Work
Continuing its commitment to having meaningful conversations on diversity and inclusion (D&I), Enterprise Connect last week hosted a panel discussion with consultants and strategists who specialize in developing organizational strategies and training around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). During the discussion, the three panelists shared their perspectives from having worked with companies to develop diverse teams and what they learned along the way.
Our panelists unanimously agreed if you want to create a more diverse workplace, then you need to put in the work, even outside the workplace. "The personal impacts the professional ... [and] you've got to do that work outside of work hours," Alexandria White, director of diversity at professional diversity training and coaching company ReBoot Accel, said. Not only is D&I work required both inside and outside enterprise, but it requires everyone to be a part of the solution, Diane Flynn, cofounder and CEO of ReBoot Accel, noted. “It's not just women's work; it's just not people of colors work, it's not LGBTQ work — it is everyone's work,” Flynn said.
As leaders and employees set out to do this D&I work, it’s not uncommon to make mistakes — and that’s OK — Johanna Lyman, principal consultant, practice leader for culture and inclusion at management consulting firm Kadabra, noted. "You're going to be making mistakes, and 99.99% of the time those mistakes are not going to kill you. They are going to make you better," she said.
When it comes to creating a more diverse workforce, “companies have to intertwine DEI into their DNA, which means it has got to become a part of their culture from their hiring practices to their retention practices to how they overall treat their employees,” White said. Though everyone has a part to play, leadership plays a crucial role, Flynn added. When “the leader doesn't buy-in, there's just … a lot of talk and no action,” she said.
One way leaders can turn talk into action is by fostering mentorship throughout the organization. As an example, Flynn shared the story of one black woman who rose to leadership ranks at a John Deere plant in part because of the guidance received by a white male mentor. While the panelists didn’t provide enterprise IT as an example, mentorship seems to be one direct way our readers in leadership positions can develop and retain diverse talent for the future.
Addressing D&I in the enterprise isn't just the right thing to do; it's good business, panelists noted. “In a non-diverse room, you can move really quickly and make decisions fast. … Some of the best leaders I've seen actually say, ‘You know we got to pause; we're too much aligned,’” Flynn said. With more diverse voices, companies can innovate better and address problems easier, she explained.
As workforces get younger and increasingly nonwhite, enterprises will need to address D&I more meaningfully. “Right now, about 50% of our workforce is Millennials, [and] by 2025, it's going to be 75%,” and Millennials bring with them a different attitude toward D&I, often looking for companies to work for with a sense of ethics that match their own, Flynn said. Picking up on that thread, Lyman commented that by 2050, the U.S. will be a non-majority white county, and that “leaders can't afford to not get on this bandwagon,” as they will be missing on the best talent.
Toward that end, enterprise IT leaders need to be humble, vulnerable, and committed to learning to bring about effective change, the panelists agreed. Most importantly, it doesn’t matter how many resources are at your disposal; you need to be proactive, and, as White said, “you've got to do the personal work.”