The Diversity Conversation: Matching the Workplace to the Marketplace

To most people, diversity seems like a simple and obvious objective for any organization.  However as I travel and speak with my global colleagues and peers, I continue to hear stories around the challenges to inclusion that our industry faces on a daily basis.

Recently, I was lucky to be a part of a panel debate at the European Diversity Conference in Paris. In our discussion, we came to the conclusion that companies need to be fully representative of their marketplace in order to be successful. How do we make this happen? We need to make diversity and inclusion fundamental to our business strategies and as a result, we will develop the best teams, best organization, best results and best products and services. This goal can only be achieved with an open, honest and respectful dialogue between diverse team members.

The IT industry is overshadowed by the outdated perception that it is run by men glued to their computer screens. Technology is undoubtedly becoming a hot industry to be a part of, but the image of its workforce isn’t changing – and this is an issue replicated across EMEA. I recently attended the Danish ICT Association’s yearly congress, where I had the opportunity to chat with Birgitte Hass, CEO of the Danish IT Industry Association, and Karl-Axel Bauer, associate principal of McKinsey & Company, about how we can close the gender gap. We need to find a way to inspire a more diverse talent base and entice everyone to consider IT as a career. By working internally and externally to attract women and retain female talent, we can see our industry become a key destination for the diverse talent pool we need.

Diversity isn’t just a gender issue.  This point was driven home when I recently judged the Telegraph ‘Out at Work’ awards for the Top 50 LGBT Executives. Along with eight other judges, chaired by Linda Riley, the founder of the European Diversity Awards and Out with the Family, I was pleased to award Antonio Simões, chief executive officer, HSBC UK, with the #1 position on the list. I heard some inspiring stories about the importance of perseverance and courage when facing the challenges that the business world often presents to the LGBT community. We need to stop making assumptions about the LGBT community and work to dispel the inequality that has historically been an issue. We need to get to the point that it’s not about being activists, it’s about simply being honest and being a part of an inclusive environment. We are working towards this goal at Dell, with our Employee Resource Groups and comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy.

It was great to see so many inspiring stories shared about the progression of women in IT around International Women’s Day this month and to see the ‘Out at Work’ awards so well attended but we still have a challenge. We need to dispel the stereotypes that currently exist in our industry. In any economic climate, we need to deliver top business results quickly and we need a diverse workforce to achieve this goal. Turning the IT industry into an inclusive and open environment will make us unstoppable force for the future.

About the Author: Aongus Hegarty