by Martha Heller

IT execs join forces, pledging to promote diversity in technology

Mar 31, 20216 mins
CareersDiversity and InclusionIT Leadership

CIOs committed to creating more career opportunities in IT for underrepresented communities are asking 5,000 of their peers to join an organized effort to drive meaningful change.

Earl Newsome, Americas CIO, Linde
Credit: Earl Newsome, Americas CIO, Linde

CIOs in every industry are looking to improve diversity in their IT organizations. As such, many are asking some critical questions: What are the inhibitors to increasing diversity in the technology professional community? Why do people drop out of the technology pipeline as their careers progress?

Last year, Michael Smith, CIO of Estee Lauder, and Earl Newsome, Americas CIO for Linde, founded TechPACT, a consortium of technology leaders, who are working together to answer those questions and provide IT career opportunities to diverse talent pools.

“We have to start with the beginning of the pipeline and address the leaks along the way,” says Newsome. “If we believe that aptitude is evenly distributed among all human beings, then the gap between aptitude and opportunity is your zip code. We can do something about that.”

Newsome talks about “AAK”—awareness, access, and knowledge. Some organizations emphasize awareness, like advertising for jobs in an underserved community. “But that’s just awareness,” he says. “It is not access to those opportunities or the knowledge of how to do those jobs.”

Creating equity in technology career opportunity

TechPACT, which along with Smith and Newsome, includes Ralph Lauren’s Janet Sherlock, Deloitte’s Larry Quinlan, and a number of other CIOs, has an initial goal of attracting 5,000 members by the end of 2021. Members will take the TechPACT pledge to “do all within my power to create a world where anyone with a passion for technology will have the opportunity to succeed. I will hold myself accountable by committing to advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity with my team, my partners, and my community.”

But taking the pledge is only step one. The real work begins in members holding themselves accountable for driving more inclusion, equity and belonging. In addition to sharing the TechPACT pledge with their networks, Newsome encourages members to commit “little acts of inclusion” in their sphere of influence. He points to a “Plus One” strategy, which means adding one person of diversity to the actions you take every day. “Add one underrepresented person to the group you take to lunch, the resumes you review, the vendors you do business with, the authors you read, the music you listen to you,” he says. “A big part of our goal is the network effect. If we can get 5,000 members to just add one, the multiplier effect will be substantial.”

Diversity hiring guidance for corporations

Newsome also suggests exploring non-traditional sources of candidates for your open positions, like Year Up and GOSO (Getting Out and Staying Out), along with looking at a greater range of geographies for your new hires. “With COVID, we’ve proven that our teams can work remotely, so our hiring is no longer limited by location,” says Newsome. “When the globe is your talent pool, you are better able to hire from diverse communities.”

In addition to expanding its membership pool, TechPACT will offer content and programs to promote IT professional diversity. “We will provide resources to help members learn how to hire from non-traditional talent sources and how to provide mentorship to diverse teams,” says Newsome. “If you do not know how to expose your job openings to non-diverse communities, we will have resources to help you with that.”

TechPACT is hosting programs, with guest speakers, to create a connection between their membership and diversity communities. “For our January launch event, we invited organizations that represent Hispanic and African American technologists and to talk about their services,” says Newsome. “And we will be adopting high schools in underserved communities and leveraging our networks to provide them with technology.”

Likewise, TechPACT will help members direct their corporate giving to have the most impact on reducing the gender and race gap in the IT professional community. “Corporate giving programs might commit $50 million to social justice, but where does that money actually go? Is it having maximum impact?” asks Newsome. “TechPact will offer strategies for corporate giving that, especially when multiplied, can really make a difference.”

Coaching for future IT workers

Finally, the consortium will connect mentors to young people interested in a career in technology. “Our goal is not just to help corporations develop diverse talent, it is also to help individuals from underrepresented communities who are looking for coaching,” says Newsome. “We want young people to be members of our technology community.” TechPACT, for example, is pursuing a partnership with CareerSpring, whose mission is to provide employment to first generation college students.

Beyond the sheer goal of social justice, why should corporations increase the diversity of their technology teams? “I call it, the ‘social license to operate,” says Newsome. “If the public owns your stock, and expects you to drive for social justice, your ability to diversify your employee base impacts your brand,” says Newsome.

The second reason to include diverse teams, says Newsome, relates to a company’s total addressable market (TAM), which is the revenue opportunity available to a product or service. “If the people building your products have a diverse set of perspectives, you maximize your TAM,” says Newsome. “Whether you’re in B2C or B2B, you are better off designing your products and services for all people.”

Finally, there is your ability to attract talent. “If the photograph of your board represents a company where a diverse population can have the opportunity to be successful, you will be stronger in attracting young talent,” he says.

For Newsome, and the rest of TechPACT’s founding members, the social consciousness that awoke in the nation after George Floyd was killed means that the time to address the inequity in IT careers is now. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” For the membership of TechPACT, says Newsome, silence is no longer an option.