What Tech Companies Are Doing to Be More Inclusive

By BrainStation March 5, 2020

There’s no question boosting diversity is welcomed by workers in the tech industry and beyond — and experts say it’s even good for business, helping support innovation, productivity, and engagement.

More and more tech companies are striving to become inclusive in a variety of ways, including some that are thinking well outside the box.

Companies Big, Small Striving for Inclusivity

American tech hardware company Cisco, for instance, is known for backing full-spectrum diversity. 

It’s an approach that encourages diversity at all levels of the company — inclusive of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or pretty much anything else — and the company says it uses its own technology to ensure all employees can “participate in the business.”

That company-wide push has helped Cisco become the most diverse its ever been since they first started tracking diversity back in 1998, and helped the multinational jump from 7th to 2nd place on Fortune’s ranking of best workplaces for diversity in 2019.

Tech giant Microsoft also says it has made major strides in the last two decades through deep, widespread diversity initiatives, ranging from efforts to increase broader representation in its overall employee base to offering equal pay for similar work.

By mid-2019, the company says it has seen gains in the diversity of employees, including those in tech and leadership roles. Women, in particular, are being hired more often, bucking a decades-long tech industry trend, with female employees now representing 37 percent of the company’s executives responsible for leading geographic markets.

And on a smaller scale, California-based cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks is boosting diversity through strategic partnerships and educational programs, which helps to ensure that jobs at the company are more accessible.

Yearly pay equity analyses through a third-party firm also help ensure there aren’t any unexplained pay differences between employees, the company says.

More Still Needed to Boost Diversity, Experts Say

All these types of initiatives are good news, experts say, though some warn much more needs to be done.

Imogen Coe, a Professor in the faculty of science at Ryerson University in Toronto — who’s known for her 2016 TEDx talk “Change the Numbers: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity in STEM” — says there still needs to be more intentional efforts from leadership in the tech sphere.

“It’s one thing to be supportive, and that’s great, and we’re seeing more allyship, but that allyship has to be actionable,” she stresses.

What’s important to remember is that diversity touches the whole organization and every employee, which means advancing it requires continuous effort and resources, according to Katja Toropainen, the Founder of Inklusiiv, a Finland nonprofit with a mission to advance diversity and inclusion in working life. 

“There are a lot of different [diversity and inclusion] best practices that can be implemented — be that in leadership, work culture, product development, recruiting or marketing comms,” she says.

Hosting unconscious bias training for employees, paying attention to inclusive language, branding, and marketing, and decreasing biases in recruitment processes are all useful strategies, Toropainen adds. 

And why not strive for it? Coe says there’s no downside, and plenty to gain, from a corporate perspective.

‘It’s About Human Talent’

“Ultimately, it’s about human talent, it’s about intellectual capacity and brainpower… if you’re missing out on rich diversity, you’re missing out on brainpower, ideas, solutions,” Coe notes.

Toropainen agrees boosting diversity can be good for recruitment — and she says it’s just the right thing to do, given tech’s long history as an industry with “structural barriers, strong stereotypes and biases that make it more difficult for women and other marginalized groups to enter the industry or pave their way there.”

It’s also crucial given how fast-growing and powerful the industry could be in the years ahead, too. 

“Tech solutions affect our everyday life from communications to mobility to food to health and whatnot,” says Toropainen.

“That’s why it’s increasingly important that these technologies are inclusive, designed for the needs of diverse people.”