The tech industry as a whole does a great deal to promote diversity and inclusion. However, it’s no secret that the sector is challenged when it comes to successfully executing initiatives aimed at diversifying its workforce. April is Celebrate Diversity Month, and while many organizations are seemingly putting forth their best effort to respond to the changing demographics of America, these efforts yield little change.
Absent real change, the cry to advance diversity and embrace true equality in the workplace gets louder and more widespread. One must ask why despite all the effort and millions of dollars invested in diversity action plans there is so little change. Could it be that the true challenge lies in changing perceptions?
Most everyone is familiar with the phrase perception is reality. According to a recent CompTIA report on Diversity in the High-Tech Industry, individual perceptions among tech workers not only vary but are contradictory when polled to consider the state of diversity in the industry. Long story short, feelings about diversity don’t necessarily line up with the facts. According to the study, perceptions are more aspirational – employees like to think that they work in diverse and inclusive cultures whether they do or not. Perhaps the perception lies in the numbers. People see the organizational count increasing and think that’s enough. Further, people mistake diversity and inclusion to be one in the same. They are not. I once heard it put this way – diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance.
The good news is that workers want to see tech reach its full potential. While diversity policies, statements and initiatives have been effective in raising awareness of the issues, I believe the real change comes with a deepened understanding, willingness and commitment from tech workers, starting with the C-suite, to take individual and collective action for change. Most everyone I speak to is well-intentioned and motivated. The real work comes from figuring out how to make the feeling and desire a true reality. Perceptions and reality will align when we each examine our own behaviors and learn to cross dividing lines and connect with one another on a more meaningful level.