A simple Google search for “DEI” yields more than 176 million news articles, supporting the claim that the term diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is being used far and wide. While the popularity of DEI initiatives is soaring across industries, it’s important to understand the concept and intent of DEI as more than a trend or buzzword. A diverse and inclusive technology workplace offers more creativity and innovation and empowers employees with the freedom to bring their best and most authentic selves to the workplace.
California-based IT spend management firm, and CompTIA member, vCom Solutions, can attest to this. The firm first made a commitment to DEI in 2019 when president and CEO Gary Storm set an organizational goal to become a signatory company for CEO Action. CEO Action is a group founded on the shared belief that diversity, equity and inclusion is a societal issue, not a competitive one, and collaboration and bold action from the business community is vital to driving change at scale.
Starting from scratch with DEI initiatives can be overwhelming, but the diversity committee at vCom Solutions says the best piece of advice they can impart to other organizations is to is keep it simple and take it one step at a time.
Getting the Ball Rolling
DEI is not a one size fits all approach, and because of that complexity, organizations can find it difficult to decide where to start. vCom began their journey with the creation of a DEI committee. To get the ball rolling they sent out an email survey asking for employee volunteers. The response was bigger than expected.
Miranda Ruane, account executive at vCom, says they vetted the volunteers to ensure a cross section of differing perspectives, finally selecting nine employees including an executive sponsor and two co-chairs that represent a staff of approximately 140 people. Ruane says once the committee was in place, they took some time to really get to know each other— something she believes was key to their eventual success as a group.
“Bonding as a committee was important because there were tough decisions to be made as we began to dive into our work,” Ruane said. “Taking the time to learn more about each other really opened up the lines of communication.”
Redirecting Assets and Resources
The good news is you don’t have to recreate the wheel. If your organization already has programs in place that could be a good fit for DEI initiatives, explore what can be repurposed.
“Philanthropy has always been a big part of vCom’s mission,” said Cassandra Allen, director of talent management. “This was a chance for us to take some existing efforts and redirect them specifically toward DEI initiatives.”
That realization led to the overarching diversity committee making the decision to create smaller sub-committees with three members and one of the two co-chairs, with some overlap of related initiatives to assist in collaboration. These smaller groups’ purpose was to inform specific actions relating to programs that would give back to the community, support small-to-medium-sized businesses, provide internships and scholarships, and partner with schools and students.
Emphasizing the need to start simple and build off the basics, Ruane says understanding the layers of responsibility is key at this stage. She explains these layers as a ripple. “First you need to look at yourself, then the company and the community it serves. You start with the smallest circle of influence and then build that ripple effect outward,” she said.
Building a Use Case
Just like anything else in business, making a case for DEI is essential. Building a use case is not only helpful to communicate the benefits of your programs and initiatives, but it can also build momentum from the leadership team.
For example, last year Ruane headed a data-gathering initiative. The goal was to confirm the suspicion, based on observation, that there was a need to diversify the firm’s customer base—which could mean more opportunities for business. Quantifying customer demographics created a green light implement changes. Among its first initiatives, vCom’s DEI committee moved to expand an existing discount program by adding a focus on more diverse customers. The company also joined Tech for Black Founders, which aims to remove barriers for Black technologists and entrepreneurs by providing them free services.
“Comparing our specific data with larger data made it clear from every perspective that this is what we needed to do,” Ruane said. Read more about making data-driven DEI decisions at your tech company.
While this use of data analytics led to the realization that diversification among vCom’s customer base was necessary, and specific action steps would need to be taken to remove barriers for their customers, Ruane says you don’t need to run all your metrics right off the bat, instead she encourages organizations to start with something simple.
“We started leveraging data by looking at gender and ethnicity in terms of who we were attracting as job applicants and then who was hired,” Ruane said. “It wasn’t a reason to judge ourselves; it was just collecting the data and starting to make sense of it.”
Keeping It Fresh
Now, vCom is taking stock of its DEI committee and asking if everyone is still engaged, able and willing to give their time. They understand the need to keep collaboration fresh and engaging, and sometimes, ushering in new blood is the way to achieve that.
The firm is also finding new ways to spread the DEI message internally. Allen says they are implementing company-wide training and utilizing other resources and frameworks to offer sessions where groups of employees watch a video and then discuss what they observed in a breakout room. The plan is to expand upon this type of training.
“These efforts take time,” Allen said. “You don’t have to get it done in one day, but we understand the desire to act as quickly as possible. Start by looking at the data you already have and involve your employees. They want to be a part of this. They will be excited to be given that opportunity.”
Join the Conversation!
Check out CompTIA's Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community and engage with your peers and other thought leaders!