How Leaders in Tech Can Promote Diversity and Inclusion
The tech industry has a problem. They’ve spent billions on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) over the past several years. And yet they have little to show for it.
Why is this?
Jossie Haines, Senior Director of Platform Engineering for Tile, believes companies are too focused on hiring more diverse candidates without considering how to retain them.
Jossie has seen first-hand how women fare in tech — more than half of them give up their careers within 20 years. And that’s not acceptable. So she’s made it her mission to help women succeed, launching successful mentorship programs at Apple and Tile.
At Forward, a virtual learning experience, Jossie took to the virtual stage to share her insights into promoting DE&I on engineering teams. Here are a few highlights.
Catch up on the Forward presentations from Jossie Haines and other leaders in HR and L&D.
The roadmap for DE&I for engineering leadership
DE&I is often considered a topic for HR to address. But it shouldn’t be — and it can’t be if tech leaders want to make a real impact. The thought of leading DE&I efforts may seem daunting, but Jossie offered specific actions that engineering leaders can take to transform their teams.
Remove unconscious bias from hiring
Bias can affect all parts of the hiring process — often without us realizing it. We may unintentionally dismiss candidates because of their gender, their race, or other qualities.
How do we overcome this? Jossie says, “As engineering leaders, we can apply empathy to create more fair and equitable hiring practices.”
Requiring a CS degree for a role can exclude countless qualified candidates. But Jossie doesn’t believe this means you need to lower the bar. It’s about rethinking your evaluation process. “I want to evaluate people for their actual abilities on things they’re going to be doing on a day-to-day basis at their job,” explains Jossie.
When you create a consistent hiring process like the one outlined here, you can limit the effects of bias:
- Ask all candidates the same questions.
- Evaluate them against the same criteria.
- Define what you’re looking for before you start interviewing.
Diversify your candidate sourcing
If you’re always going to the same places to source candidates, you’ll end up with the same types of employees. This is why Jossie emphasizes sourcing candidates from diverse pools.
Connect with organizations where you can find diverse tech talent. Here are a few to check out:
Jossie recommends looking to your local community to see where you might make an impact and create partnerships. Encourage your employees to attend conferences with diverse attendees and look for leads there.
Upgrade your 1:1s
Jossie sees that DE&I isn’t only a hiring issue. Tech leaders need to intentionally create an inclusive culture for their team. “I truly believe that this starts with trust,” says Jossie, “You want to ensure you’re creating a culture of learning, where you focus on how to make things better instead of blaming someone.”
When engineering leaders implement fair management practices, they empower everyone on their team to thrive.
Use your 1:1s to identify the needs of your engineers. Make time for meaningful conversations. Here are a few questions to ask:
- How are things (really) going?
- What can you improve?
- What motivates you?
- What frustrates you?
Jossie reminds us that communication is a two-way street: “You also need to be vulnerable and be willing to admit mistakes if you want to encourage the same in others.”
Implement fair performance evaluations
Feedback is a critical piece of the DE&I puzzle. If your team members don’t feel like they can grow at your company, they’ll find somewhere else where they can.
Jossie has observed how feedback can transform an employee’s experience and future opportunities. She says, “Women get less concrete technical feedback than men. They’re encouraged to go into management roles because of their people skills and not because it’s really what they want to do.”
To overcome this type of bias, Jossie says to ask yourself, “Do you have clear evaluation criteria and career ladders that will enable your engineers to have equity in their evaluations?”
And in the cases where women are up for a promotion, Jossie adds, “Don’t assume women may not want roles that include travel just because they have a family.”
Conduct more mindful code reviews
Code reviews are an integral part of engineers’ everyday work — and a common mechanism for sharing feedback.
This can create trouble, according to Jossie: “Engineers aren’t taught to deliver feedback. And yet it’s something they’re doing every day.”
Make a point of reading through your team’s code reviews. Are the comments coming from a place of curiosity and learning instead of blame?
Teach your team what good, effective feedback looks like. And let them know you expect to see them give it on a regular basis.
When you help your team deliver effective feedback and have difficult conversations in the context of code reviews, they’ll expand that to other aspects of their work as well.
Watch your language
Language matters, especially in tech. But engineers often use legacy terms that refer to their day-to-day without realizing the impact they have on their coworkers.
“Why are we still using terms like ‘master-slave’?” asks Jossie. “Can we shift to primary and secondary?”
Gendered language can be problematic, too. It might seem innocuous to refer to a group of people as “guys,” but this can make many people feel excluded.
Think about how you use language for candidates, too. Can you rewrite job descriptions to make them more inclusive? Small changes can make a big difference.
Keep DE&I top of mind
It’s not easy to build a diverse team where everyone feels like they belong. You need to think about every touchpoint with candidates and employees. And your work is never done since your team and company are always evolving, too.
One way to keep DE&I top of mind is to set aside time to learn more about this topic. When you understand unconscious bias, for example, you can create an action plan for interviews and performance evaluations. When you know how to give effective, equitable feedback, you can help your engineers give it, too. Learning is the first step toward making changes.
With a Udemy for Business subscription, you can keep DE&I top of mind for yourself and your team. Get in touch to learn more.