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The Beginning of Our Tech Inclusion Journey

It’s not always easy or comfortable, but we’re excited to become a more diverse, inclusive and equitable company with some help from NCWIT.

We reflected on the legacy of women in tech during this past Women’s History Month here at Culture Foundry. We’re proud to have brilliant women on our staff and to support women leaders through our work, but we recognize that we must also consciously build our company culture as we grow.

Culture Foundry recently joined the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), an organization that strives to increase the meaningful participation of women in the field of computing. NCWIT’s approach is research-based and rooted in an intersectional framework that also considers the impact of race, ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation and disability status on women’s experiences in the workplace.

As part of our membership, we participated in a company-wide Tech Inclusion Journey workshop to learn different strategies for becoming a more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization. The training focused primarily on women in tech, but the principles are also relevant to supporting other underrepresented groups in the workplace. Here are just a few takeaways from our discussion:

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Benefit Everyone

It’s first important to understand the difference between the terms diversity, equity and inclusion. Diversity is more than reaching a quota of women on staff – it’s about improving hiring processes and work environments so that, as a result, more women become change leaders and key decision makers. Inclusion considers whether women are valued and welcomed once they are in the workplace, while equity addresses systemic power imbalances in a company or organization to ensure that all employees have equal access to the opportunities and resources they need to succeed.

A work culture that centers around these three principles is not only good for your employees, it’s also a smart business investment. Policy changes can benefit employees of all identities when approaching workplace diversity initiatives with an intersectional framework. Examples include improving the hiring process, which can reduce both gender and racial bias, and paid parental leave, which benefits new parents regardless of gender. Diverse work teams bring together different skill sets and life experiences to deliver better products and services. Here at Culture Foundry, that translates into building inclusive websites that anticipate the experiences and needs of all kinds of people.

Get into a Growth Mindset

Establishing a more diverse workplace compels us to examine personal biases and dynamics that can feel challenging to discuss. Just like mastering any other skill, your employees will need to learn new concepts, practice, make mistakes, and move forward together as part of your tech inclusion journey.

As part of our NCWIT training, we completed an evaluation of Culture Foundry’s current diversity and inclusivity efforts. The resulting scores surprised us – while we are all overwhelmingly supportive of diversity, we discovered that our official workplace policies and procedures could be formalized to better serve our values. While this disconnect between intent and reality was uncomfortable to confront, it also presented opportunities for improvement that we are excited to pursue.

Here at Culture Foundry, we find that embracing a growth mindset helps us navigate times of change or uncertainty, identify and learn from mistakes, and encourage the individual growth potential in each employee.

We All Play a Part

Company-wide support is crucial so that employees from underrepresented backgrounds, who already face additional challenges in the workplace, aren’t burdened with handling all diversity initiative tasks and conversations. Senior leadership and technical staff should always take an active role to reinforce that diversity is truly valued by the company. Male allies and advocates in the workplace model positive behavior for other employees and emphasize that diversity is more than a women’s issue – it’s a company health and growth issue.

Each and every employee directly shapes the work culture at small tech companies and startups – which often lack a human resources department. Get everyone on board to make sure that your diversity and inclusion strategies are collaborative and inviting to all employees, especially during dynamic periods of growth and transition.

Strategy

It’s clear that making your company more diverse is a positive step, but getting started can feel like a daunting task. Terms and concepts can seem abstract and unquantifiable, and employees who are less knowledgeable about workplace diversity might be skeptical about its relevance to your company’s bottom line. The key is to treat your diversity strategy like any other business project that requires planning and deliverables (and you know that we’re all about delivery).

The Strategy stage is an opportunity for your company or organization to reflect on its core values, areas of improvement and long-term goals. Focus primarily on gradually strengthening policies and systems rather than relying on individuals to change their actions, with frequent opportunities for evaluation throughout the process.

You don’t have to go it alone; draft your tech inclusion strategy with NCWIT’s Strategic Planning Workbook and Data Collection and Strategic Planning Guidelines. If you want a little more help from the professionals, NCWIT’s Workforce Alliance has some great benefits for its members.

Invest in Your Toolkit

Once your company has outlined a strategy and goals, you will need to identify the logistics and resources needed to implement new policies and processes. Being a digital agency, we like to think of this stage as wireframing: you have to create prototypes that are unique to your organization and then test out those policies before implementing them in the field.

Your employees’ professional development is integral to the success of your company’s diversity efforts. Sponsoring employees from underrepresented backgrounds provides crucial career support, and employees need training to understand how to intervene in situations when appropriate, such as addressing micro-inequities and unconscious bias in the workplace.

We treat websites like living things that require regular maintenance, and the same logic applies to sustaining workplace diversity initiatives. Much like quality assurance testing, your company will need to invest in regular audits and ongoing training for all employees to ensure that policies are understood and properly implemented. NCWIT provides an abundance of evaluation tools to help you measure the impact of your diversity efforts.

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