The changing faces of IT

IT is a white-collar field. However, thanks to a changing societal climate and programs promoting diversity, the people wearing those white collars are increasingly from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, religions, ethnicities, physical abilities and sexual orientations.

Ellen Passmore, Toronto’s manager for the Government of Ontario’s equal opportunity and disability partnership unit within the Ministry of Citizenship, said removing barriers to minorities within a company makes good business sense.

“In order to have the best workforce, you’ve got to have a diverse workforce,” Passmore said, pointing out that the working population is ageing. “There needs to be a labour force that replaces them. IT tends to be a younger field and it basically attracts people from all different types of backgrounds because it’s a very high-opportunity area and is relatively well paying. In order to get the best employee you’ve got to use the widest net.”

This is a theory subscribed to by Margaret Clark, the Mississauga, Ont.-based senior director of human resources for Oracle Corporation Canada Inc. “Valuing diversity is simply good business,” Clark said.

Susan Turner, IBM Canada Ltd.’s director of diversity and workplace programs in Toronto, said making an effort to accommodate and foster all employees means everyone within the company’s culture wins.

One group that has benefited from IBM’s diversity initiatives is the company’s community of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) employees, who have started a group devoted to providing support for its members both inside and outside of the workplace. IBM policies are developed under consultation from members of the gay and lesbian community.

Roger Hohenstein, Hewlett-Packard Canada’s diversity manager in Richmond, B.C., discussed similar programs within his organization, and commented on HP’s efforts to extend their diversity programs to the community.

“The Canadian president of HP is on the board of the national Aboriginal achievement foundation. We try to stay in touch with what’s going on in the Aboriginal community,” Hohenstein said.