With day one of the Leadership and Digital Transformation Conference and Awards in full swing, Debra Christmas, senior executive partner at Gartner, shared in a fireside chat the importance of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
Welcomed by chief executive officer (CEO) and chief marketing officer (CMO) of IT World Canada, Fawn Annan, she remarked on the need to discuss the biases “hidden in us,” and the importance of being “much more aware of that as we continue these conversations.”
Christmas opened her talk with some staggering statistics. The tech industry is made up of 76 per cent men, and only 24 per cent women. Of the 24 per cent of women in the tech industry, around 50 per cent of them leave midway through their career.
“We have been capturing these numbers for 30 years, and the STEM numbers have not gone up since we started recording them,” she noted.
Christmas also mentioned the frequency in which internal biases, and the impact of microaggressions against team members, affect the ability to create a welcoming environment for everyone.
“We all have bias. Every single one of us has bias, and we’ve had it from the day we were born,” said Christmas. “So what I want you to think about as leaders, is what are yours?”
She raised the point that diversity extends beyond gender – religion, ethnicity, physical or mental disabilities, sexuality and gender identity all make up the intersections where everyone lives.
“None of us are a single entity,” said Christmas. “I am a female, I am a Black female, I have Indigenous background, so there’s three right there. Most of us have multiple characteristics.”
The importance of diversity and inclusion is crucial for teams to adapt to and understand, but also for the improvement of the technology sector as a whole.
“As a leader, you need to make inclusion a priority, and you need to make it a priority not just because it’s a good thing to do. We are in a talent crisis. We are struggling to bring people to our organizations,” said Christmas. “Part of staffing is ensuring that you’ve got an environment people want to come to.”
In a study conducted by Gartner, research showed 67 per cent of IT organizations have not included specific inclusive leadership competencies as part of their IT competency model. These statistics are evident in a Gartner global labour market survey, where 69 per cent of employees do not believe their organizational leaders promote an inclusive team environment.
With these numbers in mind, Christmas highlighted some solutions-based approaches to creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment.
“We are imperfect human beings. Don’t get defensive. Don’t be dismissive. Ask questions. Apologize. Ask forgiveness. We will get there. We are all evolving,” she said.
Key takeaways from Debra’s presentation include:
- Recognize microaggressions, including unintentional ones.
- Reflect on how you take action to advocate for marginalized groups.
- Open up a dialogue with your colleagues.
- Ask your colleagues or those in your industry/organization what challenges they’ve faced in their career.
- Reflect on your organization – what does it look like?
- Be brave and ask hard questions.