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When you want to look at diversity within the information technology industry, how do you begin? We decided to start from the top and get a bird’s eye view of diversity’s presence in the modern IT workplace. After identifying the organizations with diversity programs in place, we wanted to understand how diversity initiatives impact IT functions and the ever-evolving needs of their organizations.

Who in IT is diverse?
TEKsystems surveyed 250 IT leaders and 500 IT professionals to explore diversity in IT and found that less than half of the companies surveyed actually have formal diversity policies in place. Now, it’s most likely not the responsibility of the IT leaders in an organization to implement its diversity programs, but rather to comply and enforce whatever initiatives are in place. But of the organizations that have these programs, 75 percent are companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more; this suggests that there is a correlation between a company’s financial performance and their likelihood to implement diversity initiatives.

What is IT doing about diversity?

For a diversity program to flourish, organizations must have a top-down push to ensure that the company culture fully adopts all aspects of the initiative, from recruiting through retention. Any initiative, if not prioritized by leadership, won’t become part of the organization’s DNA and could falter if there is a perception that diversity takes a back seat to other line of business priorities. In our survey, 70 percent of IT leaders said they aren’t worried about their diversity initiatives being audited, suggesting a lack of emphasis on prioritizing this area. Our own research, however, indicates that keeping up with organizational demands recently became the top stressor for IT leaders. So with a lack of guidance on diversity and an increased demand from other areas of business bearing down on IT, it stands to reason that developing a diversity program could be pushed aside for more immediate demands.

Use diversity to meet those demands!
Seventy percent of IT leaders say that it is difficult to find quality candidates for open positions, and when they do, only 17 percent are very satisfied with the person they choose to fill that position. Despite this gap in the ability to find satisfactory candidates, less than 20 percent of IT leaders say they look at reaching out to a more diverse pool of candidates as a possible solution to this problem. With most positions taking on average 50 days or longer to fill, it’s surprising they aren’t using every tool at their disposal to get the best talent to the right position.

The road ahead
As a company with over three decades of insight into the market for IT talent, we’ve seen a sharp increase not only in the demand for diverse talent from many of our clients, but also for advice on how to build effective diversity initiatives. This tells us that businesses believe that to continue to be successful they must adapt and improve in all areas where diversity is concerned, or risk not being able to attract the quality IT talent they require for increasingly demanding projects. Although the IT sector isn’t as far along in terms of leveraging diversity compared to other facets of business, it has become more transparent about its diversity picture. And that is affecting positive change throughout the industry—a trend I believe will continue into the foreseeable future.

By Michelle Webb

Michelle Webb is currently the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at TEKsystems. In this role, she is responsible for the overall diversity strategy for TEKsystems, including impact on marketplace, work place and workforce. She oversees strategic initiatives for hiring, developing and retaining diverse individuals to help TEKsystems grow in thought leadership and financial success.

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