“Be very open-minded and be ready to accept change”. How are technology leaders increasing diversity in the workforce?
Technology leaders today are navigating the evolution of the workplace and finding new ways to encourage more diversity within their teams. With the focus now shifting towards the younger generations of the workforce and different sections of diversity, the future of work is uncertain for some. These technology leaders discuss their tactics to further increase diversity within the workplace and share their advice with the rest of the panellists.
With Miya Knights moderating, the speakers of this roundtable debate include:
- Dr. Frances Undelikwo, Divisional Head, IT & Operational Risk, Fidelity Bank PLC
- Louise de Beer, Director of Software Engineering, JVR Solutions
- Tendayi Chirokote, CIO, Nyaradzo
Workplace diversity tactics
Kicking off the debate, moderator Miya Knights asked the speakers what tactics technology leaders are employing to increase workplace diversity.
Divisional Head of IT & Operational Risk at Fidelity Bank, Dr. Frances Undelikwo, spoke of the evolution of the workplace and dealing with the younger generational workforce. Dr. Undelikwo highlighted the change from managing teams in brick and mortar offices to smaller widespread teams around the globe. With these geographically spread teams, she argued that this caused a change in workforce environment and boundaries within organisations.
Concentrating on the generational perspective, Dr. Undelikwo talked about the importance of focusing on younger employees in the organisation. “Because they are on the move it is very important… you look at their wants not their needs”, she said. Honing in on the “wants”, she argued that the younger generations want more flexibility within their roles. This means being able to work from anywhere at any time from any device according to Dr. Undelikwo. Organisations and employers need to adapt to these changes and this new way of working in her view. Agility, innovation and flexibility within the technology function can help pave the way to increased diversity in the workforce.
Branching into a viewpoint similar to Dr. Undelikwo’s, CIO of Nyaradzo, Tendayi Chirokote, discussed diversity in age.
Tendayi believes these are interesting times from a technology leader’s perspective. “We’ve had to split the way we look at the landscape”, he said. Dividing this landscape in two, he talked about the external focus on customers and the internal focus on employees. Today’s customer demographic ranges between 25 to 40 years of age.
On the other hand, when considering the future of the business, Tendayi argued that the “next customer” will not have used traditional channels of communication. This set of customers, in Tendayi’s view, spend most of their time on their phone using applications such as Instagram, YouTube or Netflix. He believes that businesses should be asking themselves: “How do I prepare the business to communicate with this new customer?”. His solution involves balancing today’s customer who expects a letter and tomorrow’s customer who expects a facebook post.
Shifting the focus onto employees, Tendayi argued that they are also realising that the business needs to change. In order to keep up, he said that organisations have to continuously be looking at their policies. In an example, he stated that one of the tactics Nyaradzo uses to increase diversity in the workforce is open feedback. As a result, employees from younger generations asked why they were wearing suits to work. This helped senior management learn that they should be valuing output, allowing employees to wear what they deem comfortable as long as they complete their tasks.
Tendayi advised the speakers to “be very open-minded and be ready to accept change”.
Different sections of diversity
Miya asked the speakers how they as technology leaders keep that balance between the diversity groups.
Director of Software Engineering at JVR Solutions, Louise de Beer, said that one of the “gifts” of the pandemic was that it made creating diverse teams a lot easier. Thinking about women and mothers specifically, she highlighted that remote working has afforded them the flexibility they need to carry out childcare while being productive and working from home. “Things like that are making it easier for certain demographics to come back to the workplace and to be productive”, she said. In addition to this, Louise noted that those with physical disabilities would find it much easier working from the comfort of their own home rather than the office.
Focusing on the South African landscape, Louise added that she believes working remotely has impacted the digital literacy gap between different diversity sections. “Disadvantaged kids come out of university with a Bachelor’s of Science degree without ever having been in front of a computer”, she said. Louise argued that technology leaders need to be asking themselves how to bridge that gap and bring them into the workplace. Not making the creation of a diverse team a priority, in her view, means that things are not going to change. “If you don’t actively put in energy… it’s not just going to change organically”.
This roundtable was recorded at The Studio.
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