Slowly but surely the benefits of diversity in a team are becoming accepted rather than challenged. When I talk to software teams, there is a growing understanding that if you have a homogenous group of people building applications, they probably won’t be designed to the needs of the population at large.
This wasn’t a problem in the early days of software engineering, when techies were writing tools for techies, but nowadays everyone uses software. There is an appreciation that a team that has diversity in areas such as gender, background and age will instinctively produce software that is acceptable to a wider audience. This is not just a coding issue. Where IT teams are providing systems and services to an organisation, they also have the real danger of building processes that match their own expectations and working patterns.
While the benefits of diversity are landing in many teams, there is often a mismatch in the perception of success of making it happen. Recent IDC research showed that where women rated the gender diversity in their organisation at 28% acceptable, men rated it at 45% acceptable. When people were asked to agree with the statement “Women are underrepresented in STEM fields at my organisation”, 56% of women agreed. Only 26% of men had the same experience. So, it seems that it’s one thing to agree that diversity is required, but quite another to be alive to the reality of the situation in your own team.
To truly tackle this in organisations, transparency is a key tool. Once you’ve decided that diversity is important to you, why not publish your diversity data internally on a regular basis? Show people in your teams that you understand where you are and that you’re not blind to this issue. Sometimes we have to become uncomfortable before we move.
Chris Weston is a principal in IDC’s European client advisory practice. He was a leading CIO/CTO for over 10 years and has worked in companies ranging from innovative start-ups to multinational FTSE 250 organisations. He has been recognised as one of the UK’s top IT leaders and has advised boards and CIOs on technology selection, IT team structure and organisation, digital strategy and business growth.
Chris is focused on strategic alignment of business and technology objectives, ensuring that investments in IT can be traced to specific outcomes required by the organisation and its leadership. He works with CIOs and their teams to identify practical and deliverable innovation and emerging technology that can be delivered in realistic timescales. Having personal and practical experience of managing IT in large organisations, he can help to navigate the conflicting priorities and fast-changing environments in today’s businesses. As well as working at this strategic level, he also has recent hands-on experience working with teams in IoT, AI and blockchain projects.