Insights on Diversity and Inclusion
22 July, 2021
Sr. Manager, Data Engineering, AI at Unity Technologies
More often than not, diversity and inclusion are treated as a single initiative by HR. While hardly anyone would disagree about it and generally acknowledge that there is a need to improve the diversity at work, there were no practical guidelines or proactive approaches for managers to take actions, and leaders were not enabled with strategies that could really apply.
Diversity could be measured with practical numbers, which could help and guide the company. However, inclusion was not simple or easy to measure.
My goal was to truly embrace diversity and identify strategies and practical plans to improve diversity in the team, and build a deeply rooted culture of inclusion.
Set the goals for diversity
I am a true upholder. In my previous jobs, I had advocated diversity and inclusion in my team. I believed in bringing engineers from underrepresented groups, females from different ethnicities, engineers of different ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions to the domain of Data Engineering. Not only would it have demographic diversity, but it would also pose us with some multicultural diversity that could inspire creativity and innovation. It was my multidisciplinary viewpoint that I had, and I wanted to apply it in all the practical matters for any company that I worked for.
The goal that I set for myself was to look at diversity realistically and where we want to take it. I started working towards those goals, and how I could improve it practically was my target. Some of my goals were:
- To improve diversity and inclusion across the board within the team in a meaningful way.
- To measure the impact.
- To become a reference team for the entire organization.
- To make sure it is aligned with the diversity goals of the company.
Device a practical plan
I did not set lower goals or research-hire goals. I wanted to set up plans which were practical and could be achieved. Therefore, the next realistic aspect was to talk to the recruiters openly about their sources, sourcing the talent, what they were doing, and how they were thinking about diversity. Were they creating any special events for the underrepresented community to make them feel welcomed? Were they selecting candidates and talents from that group to balance? Also, gathering numbers on diversity to truly set the baseline to measure against. One baselines, we set out a practical plan to achieve our goals.
Create opportunities for diversity candidates to shine
First, we balanced our approach in the number of people entering the recruitment funnel, for any given position, I emphasized and encouraged equal participation from both general funnel and underrepresented groups. We had first two weeks of recruitment as priority weeks for diversity candidates before the job opening is available to the general candidate pool.
Second, during the screening and interview process, we created special experiences focusing on the potential and not rigid criterias. As a team, we agreed to look at the diversity candidates with a different lens, creating opportunities for them to shine.
Other than balancing out and creating unique and tailored interviews, one of the things was to index on the current deficit and why the gaps are there in the first place. For example, if the female engineers are not given the opportunity to work in the data engineering field, then they would not be able to meet the criteria and we will not be able to assess their competencies. Someone must take the first step, create an opportunity and mark on potential rather than stick to specific rigid criteria, such as having three to five years of experience. We focused on the potential and not on rigid standards, creating interview experiences and indexing on potential over complex criteria. Our goal is to build a career for diversity candidates who would lead the path and promote diversity when they become future leaders.
Foster a culture of inclusion and respect for all
Inclusion goals were much harder because we had to make sure that every person's voices in our team were being heard. One of the practical things we did was to build a shared vision. Besides, we made sure to pay attention to these underrepresented communities and their participation in the discussions and business outcomes. Fostering a culture of inclusion, equal participation and opportunity, and respect for all was the values we shared.
We made sure all ideas are discussed, made into real projects, and everyone is represented in the shared vision and roadmap presented to the leadership. Although the best ideas win, making sure the underrepresented community has a fair voice is the key to success. Creating practical experiences, building shared visions, having a bottom-up culture, doing 1:1s, and making sure everyone has fair share in team success, and voices have equal weight compared to everybody else in the team was the most important necessity.
Measure the impact
My mindset was if I was not better than the average industry, then I was not making a difference. I was able to hit the minimum bar but wanted to beat the average. Soon after applying all practical strategies and making conscious efforts, we were not only able to achieve higher than average numbers for diversity, our inclusion, the culture, and overall impact to the business was visible, innovation and creativity prospered, deliverable from my diverse team had a measurable business value. Many pragmatic ideas to improve diversity were adopted by other teams as well. Leaders were enabled to strategies to bring diversity and foster inclusion with the company. A real diverse, inclusive, and a very happy team emerged as a reference across the company.
- Achieve and surpass all the goals by openly talking and discussing with other teams, including the recruitment and the HR partners. Discuss it and have specific curated strategies to achieve goals.
- As a manager, one can bring more diversity to the group. That is because they have been through the process and could empathize with it. It needs a little more conscious effort from the leader’s side.
- Be more practical, instead of following the theory that “one size would fit all.” You need to create more opportunities and try for everyone, rather than sticking to one criterion. Undo the deficit by carefully understanding why the deficit is there in the first place.
- Take inclusion as a must success criteria for diversity to be successful, diversity without inclusion is not meaningful.
- Develop a strong vision, discuss shared values, create inclusive roadmaps, and foster a culture of empathy and respect for all.
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