This month we attended the Charlottesville Women in Tech Lunch featuring a panel discussion Hiring for Diversity: Beyond Buzzwords - Inclusion Strategies for Everyone. In addition to discussing gender and racial diversity, the panelists addressed neurodivergence, sexual orientation, gender identity, and how to foster a working environment which supports staff with a wide variety of backgrounds.
Like most companies, we strive for diversity in our workplace. And, as Performant is currently in the process of searching for our next staff member, this discussion was especially relevant. We gained valuable information on the importance of not only expanding our search parameters to reach more diverse applicants, but also creating a workspace that is welcoming and comfortable for those who may not be in the center of the dominant culture.
A few of the points made by panelists that resonated with us were:
- Kelli Palmer, Head, Global Diversity & Inclusion and Corporate Citizenship at CFA Institute, and a person of color, pointed out that being a member of a marginalized group in a generally homogenous environment is emotionally taxing. Don’t expect this person to “represent” any specific group for your company.
- Susan Dawson, Chief People Officer at Silverchair, reminded us that recognizing and encouraging neurodiversity within the workplace can be very important in the tech field. Having flexibility in work environments is a great way to ensure that all types of people are able to contribute their gifts to your workplace.
- Lori Jennings, Executive IT Recruiter, emphasized that every employer lists diversity in hiring as a goal, but not every employer takes the time to ensure a truly inclusive work atmosphere. She encouraged prospective employers to look at the office culture and examine it from a variety of lenses to ensure that new hires are recognized and valued from day one.
- Rebecca Leonard, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, McIntire School of Commerce at UVA, brought up the benefit of extending benefits like paternity leave to male members of the team in order to destigmatize maternity leave for women. Creating equity for everyone benefits everyone.
All of the panelists agreed on the benefits of regular implicit bias training, and suggested that people in hiring and supervisory positions take an implicit bias test regularly. The Harvard IAT was one that was recommended.
Currently, Performant Software enjoys diversity within gender, sexual orientation, and neurology. We hope that continuing to learn about ourselves and engaging with experts like the panelists at the CWIT lunch will help us to foster not only diversity, but inclusion and equity as well, in our workplace. We view this as an ongoing journey, and are committed to looking within on a regular basis to ensure we maintain accountability and focus on this important issue.