Global Head of HR at Vizrt Group
It’s undeniable that the demographic of people in the tech industry is not reflective of the diverse world we live in. According to a 2022 report by Tech Nation, 23% of tech director roles are fulfilled by women, which is lower than the already low 29% in the wider economy. Looking at the overall tech workforce, the numbers become even more depressing. Women make up only 19% of the workforce.
Reading these numbers, it’s evident that we have a long way to go, and one can’t help but ask oneself why we haven’t come further. Diversity should be a top priority for business leaders and investors, as a diverse workforce has proven to be good for business. In fact, Tech Nation found that internationally diverse boards, on average, raise 453% more investment than non-internationally diverse boards.
What criteria are investors looking at when determining what companies to invest in? I think it is fair to say that they look at the innovations created by the company. But what does that have to do with diversity? Everything.
Innovation is tied heavily to diversity, meaning the more diverse, the better technologies and solutions created. The question becomes then, why is an industry that heavily relies on innovation so behind on diversity?
So much potential is being lost. Any company that is conforming to the norm and employing mostly homogeneous employees is suffering from diminished creativity and innovation. Many factors have impeded different people from being in the room, having their ideas shared and voices heard. This has been a problem for decades. Therefore, the true cost of where we could be in our industry, and society, is near impossible to quantify.
In the tech world, yes, much has changed in the past several years to diversify the industry. But there is so much further to go and a powerful place to start is in the office. There are many ways in which companies can focus on amplifying a multitude of voices and diversifying teams.
Internal changes can make a difference
In The Wall Street Journal’s first corporate ranking, diversity and inclusion in S&P 500 companies were evaluated, and it found that companies with a higher number of diverse employees performed better. The research concluded that culturally diverse offices are more productive and inventive than culturally similar ones.
Cultivating an appreciation for ideas allows the best solutions to arrive, because every approach brings something different to the table. Our President and General Manager of NewTek, Barbara Spicek, said it best: “The more variety, the better off you are, and the more powerful your solutions will be.”
Unsure how to start driving diversity? Try starting with the recruitment process. At Vizrt Group, we changed the way we work with recruiters and showcase our job descriptions as studies have shown that women are more inclined to apply to a different wording than men.
We’ve also added in a diversity statement in job ads encouraging everyone to apply regardless of background or location. Furthermore, we encourage recruiters to present a 50/50 gender split in the shortlisted candidates presented to us. This is not to ‘tick a box’ but to encourage diverse experiences and perspectives throughout the recruitment process.
Fostering a positive work environment where diversity can thrive
72% of women in tech agreed they have experienced an ambivalent and obnoxious “bro culture” behavior, and 78% feel they must work harder to prove their value in the workplace.
The work environment affects the work experience directly, and knowing how much disempowering office cultures make women feel discouraged and overlooked, investing in maintaining a positive work environment is crucial to encourage and maintain a diverse space.
This year, we have launched a few initiatives at Vizrt Group that have been successful in fostering a positive work environment. In January we adopted a global recognition and appreciation platform for peers and co-workers that collaborate across our regions. We implemented this program to celebrate the big and the small stuff, the successful projects, and the people that live our values of Collaboration, Balance, and Respect every day. Our program had a user rate of over 88% globally.
We also believe that development is key to us at Vizrt Group, so we recently gave all our employees access to LinkedIn Learning which has thousands and thousands of opportunities for certification, to grow new skills and to hone in on existing ones. Since it launched, over 85% of staff have utilized it. On top of LinkedIn Learning, all employees have access to Vizrt Group University to learn about our industry and products, where we host regular courses to sharpen skills for success ranging from cybersecurity hygiene to Microsoft Office skills and more.
Skill development is crucial to career development, and that is important to ensure employees – especially those typically less represented in senior roles – see that their potential won’t be ignored. We don’t want that to be the case with any of our 630 employees from 63 nationalities despite their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, which is why we provide them the same opportunities for development and success.
To move the needle, we all need to commit to change
Enacting real change in shifting to a more diverse industry starts with dialogue, but changes with action. 83% of corporate directors believe more should be done so company numbers show greater ethnic and gender diversity, and for that to happen, uplifting and encouraging diverse candidates and voices needs to become a practice for all of us.
Organizations like Rise, a champion in global advocacy of gender diversity across the media technology sector, are doing crucial work to draw attention and inspire change. Part of our effort in committing to progress is in our work with them; we have paired up to discuss how to move forward, with plans to develop long-term projects that shift the narrative we see about women in tech today.
Being aware of implicit bias at the beginning stages of hiring practices is integral for diversity, but it is also crucial to create a welcoming atmosphere to retain the diverse talent an organization brings in. We must champion all employees’ strengths and create a space that allows people to feel encouraged to speak up, always.
Building cultural diversity, continuing positive work environments, and supporting initiatives and organizations that are doing incredible work to help bridge the gap in tech, are proven to be good for innovation and good for business, but it also makes us better people. More welcoming, inclusive, open people change society and promise a brighter future. Are you going to wait for others to make a difference? Or take action to change the world yourself?