The truth? Diversity as we see it today in the IT industry is two-faced.
More so than ever, we are all reminded of the importance and market power of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It’s in every TA / HR Plan, every company ‘Policy’ and for CircuIT Recruitment, it’s in a significant number of client briefs we receive – a front, and centrepiece that we must meet when tapping into our select pool of candidates. But what started as a market shift towards better inclusion of women, and greater diversity of cultures and backgrounds, now appears to be another box to tick.
 
You see, the other side of diversity – the side that is clouding the authentic efforts for inclusion – is just a quota-factory. And for us, quotas are not the answer to diversity and inclusion. In the first instance, CircuIT believes that it’s a commitment to leveraging diversity to enhance merit, and in the second, focusing on the best fit for a role, regardless of gender, race or background. Among many efforts within our own organisation to promote the importance of diversity, we have also implemented several tangible and measurable activities such as:
  • Interview bias and diversity awareness training for all of our consultants plus regular workshops to upskill on inclusive role writing techniques;
  • Prioritising the Rooney Rule where we focus on expanding the talent pool of minority candidates and merit;
  • Pro-actively advising certain candidate pools our clients are seeking shortlists that reflect their diversity values;
  • Including interview questions that require a response reflective of personal diversity beliefs and values; and
  • Ongoing client education against the notion of 'quick hiring', to avoid easy hires of acquaintances or friends within their same 'thought circles'.
Over the last 5 years, the introduction of quotas was initially met with positive encouragement from all areas of the IT industry. And perhaps this was because it was the first step in the right direction towards addressing the shortage of women, as well as ‘minority groups’, in the industry. That was until the movement towards a state of diversity nirvana seemed to stall. What we had hoped would solve the poor perception of diversity in the IT and Tech industry, hadn’t made the inclusion waves we had expected and for us, it felt like we were back at square one.
 
And I believe there is a perfectly good reason for this. It’s because I feel there is still a high number of those in senior leadership positions in our industry, that truly do not believe in it, or aren’t holding their senior managers / colleagues to account to live said diversity values.
 
ThoughtWorks’ recent article, which generated a significant amount of buzz, “Beyond quotas: behaviour driven diversity at ThoughtWorks”, took a middle-ground stance expressing their support for quotas but choosing to focus on the behaviours that support them, rather than the mechanical notion of filling spots to simply meet a target or number. Our view certainly aligns with TW’s position on leveraging the behaviours rather than the number, however we’re still not convinced quotas in the recruitment space are welcomed … or helpful.
 
When we chase a perception, we’re not focusing on the skills, and served merit of hundreds of candidates. Instead we’re missing out on the true effect of female empowerment in a male-dominated industry; leveraging unique backgrounds of candidates to drive an organisation’s competitive advantage and being the market leader in true people differentiation. The power of using ‘different’ to be better, to be the best. And the current status-quo of focusing our recruitment activities on filling a quota is only further feeding the inauthentic beast that is a diversity and inclusion policy.
 
What do we do when the pool of candidates doesn’t meet the quotas for women or the percentage of unique backgrounds? Dare I insinuate that we place someone who isn’t the best fit, doesn’t have the experience, or do we fill a quota?
 
The answer isn’t simple, and we’re acutely aware of that. Instead I’d like to propose something a little different – perhaps something that is less measurable and overt, yet far more enduring. I’d like to propose the idea of Diversity in Thought’. That is, we build diversity through the mindset and capability of unique thought, rather than the overt perception of diversity which is gender, ethnicity and physical capabilities. What if we built diversity by hiring a team who think differently, and can problem solve in different ways? What if true diversity was in fact much easier than we all realise or choose to accept?
 
Allow me to offer a glimpse of the desired future state, where diversity in thought is already seen in action:
 
The likes of Zendesk (GirlsWhoCode), MYOB (Developher), REA (Women in Tech), CultureAmp (Diversity Inclusion Surveys), Envato (Novitiate Developer Program), Greensync (Female Apprentice Program), NAB (African Australian Inclusion program), Suncorp (Women in IT Xperience Program), Origin (Parental Leave / Flex Programs; WGEA leader), Medibank  (FamilyFlex); amongst other forward-thinking organisations, are wonderful examples of how certain companies in the Melbourne Tech community, are fiercely committed to reinventing the meaning of diversity all whilst championing a continued focus on merit and best fit. They are focused on breaking down the traditional notions of an IT/Tech candidate and collectively embracing diversity from the inside out.
 
This is the answer. Not quotas.
 
Quotas and tick-box exercises are only serving the symptoms, not addressing the problem. They’re contributing to the vacuum between true diversity and where we are today. An organisation who flexes their diversity muscles are those who do it from within and beyond a policy – they believe it, they encourage it and they demand it as a core value of their business. They’re also the ones who will see their profit margins continue to rise year-on-year.
 
As a father of a young daughter and son, I want them, in future, to know they landed their dream roles – because of who they are and what they can offer to the opportunity, not what gender they are or where their heritage is from. I want them to believe in equal opportunity just as much as they believe in digital innovation; I want them to have confidence in the system of behaviours that drives our future recruitment decisions just as much as they have confidence in streaming services!
 
And as a recruitment business, we are constantly in a tug of war with meeting the objectives of certain job briefs and taking a stand on true diversity in our growing industry. Whilst I can’t fix this complex problem in one blog, I do strongly support the incredible initiatives of companies who exist to empower women, disrupt legacy perceptions and change the industry stereotypes for the better.
 
It will take a true leader in the IT recruitment industry (or more specifically, the talent acquisition vertical), to drive this change beyond a quota.  It takes energy, long-term commitment and a fierce determination to change the future of diversity in IT/Tech from within the industry itself.
 
At CircuIT Recruitment, our leadership (myself included) want our consultants to be daring and brave when it comes to ‘Diversity in Thought’; we want them to be contributors, not inhibitors; we want them to be thought leaders, not thought feeders; and here’s how you can too, in three straightforward steps:
 
  1. Set-up a diversity in thinking working group, that is made up of a cross-section of staff from the top to the coal-face. Use this working group to define how you want your business to value and demonstrate true diversity in thought characteristics and activities. This group should then become the model of behaviour for every staff member to exhibit – and with a cross-section of people in the working group, this behaviour should filter through very quickly, and easily.
  2. Set-up business triggers or timepoints where your diversity in thinking working group can monitor and adjust the activities you have implemented. This should then allow you and the whole business to focus on diversity and inclusion as a long-term strategy, not just a short-term passing thought. It will be this approach and assurance system that promotes enduring change.
  3. Set aside time throughout business activities to appreciate why you're seeking greater diversity - is it addressing a business need/gap? How will greater diversity support this? This could be in a regular weekly meeting or on a larger scale at a board meeting, or company strategy day. As they say, practice makes perfect and by practicing diversity in thinking throughout every day activities, your leadership team and wider business team will get there in no time.
 
So, let’s do this together – let’s all commit to changing the course of diversity and inclusion by 1%. If we each contribute a 1% change, the introduction of quotas in recruitment briefs will cease to exist and instead we can focus our placement energy on placing the best fit; the best candidate for the role.
 
 

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