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The steps CIOs should take to advance diversity, equity and inclusion

Fri 9 Jul 2021

Chief information officers should be taking a more active role in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, according to Gartner.

“The disruption from the pandemic and social injustices have raised employee expectations when it comes to DEI,” says Gartner senior research director Rob O’Donohue.

“CIOs have an enormous opportunity to use their position as a digital business leader to support marginalised groups and meet executive commitments with action.”

The data analyst company says that chief information officers should use their considerable influence and technology resources to focus on four key actions to advance DEI in the enterprise and their communities.
 

Challenge existing thinking on DEI programmes

CIOs should take a strategic and self-reflective approach to their involvement in DEI initiatives, identifying a shortlist of DEI priorities that will have a high impact and that IT can directly influence.

They should challenge their IT teams to answer different questions on DEI — for example, “What are the barriers to increasing diversity in the technology profession?” or “Why do women tend to drop out of the technology pipeline as their careers progress?” CIOs should select initiatives to become involved in where there is a collective passion and an aligned sense of purpose.
 

Develop an array of partnerships

CIOs can champion diversity and inclusion by engaging with educational institutes and nonprofits to help pivot or accelerate marginalised groups into a technology career. These partnerships can offer training and access to technology, which supports creating a diverse IT talent pipeline.

They can also develop partnerships with sourcing, procurement and other stakeholders to ensure the diversity of their organisation’s technology suppliers. Gartner defines a diverse supplier as a business that is at least 51% owned and operated by individuals that are part of a traditionally underrepresented group.

“Supplier diversity offers advantages to the organisation such as new approaches to digital transformation, increased innovation and new channels for procuring goods and services,” says O’Donohue.
 

Forge connections to overcome digital inequities in the community

“In many parts of the world, one of the biggest barriers to equity is technology access,” said O’Donohue. “The digital divide has been even more visible since the pandemic hit.”

CIOs should identify technology inequities in the local community or in other regions of the world and leverage partnerships and internal resources to help close the gap, according to Gartner. They should also address inequities by offering access to technology services, applications, or technical expertise. 

They could do this by partnering with a local school in a lower-income neighbourhood to provide laptops and tablets to students or volunteer employees to host an introduction to coding bootcamp.
 

Strengthen IT community inclusion

CIOs and their IT leaders can use their influence to reach out to marginalised groups within their teams to instil a sense of inclusion. For example, supporting employees through coaching initiatives or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), such as a ‘Women in Technology’ community, can help to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace.

“As members of the C-suite, CIOs are uniquely positioned to provide key executive sponsorship and allocate resources for ERGs, mentoring and other inclusivity efforts,” says O’Donohue.

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