How Can CIOs Make Their Talent Pipeline More Diverse?

In order to create a diverse workforce, CIOs need to have a diverse pipeline
In order to create a diverse workforce, CIOs need to have a diverse pipeline
Image Credit: Frerieke

Every person with the CIO job wants to have an IT department that is quick and nimble. We want our staff to be able to anticipate what is coming and make sure that the company is ready when it arrives. CIOs also realize that in order to be able to do this, they need to make sure that their IT department is diverse. However, even though much has been said about the importance of having a diverse and inclusive IT workforce, when it comes to promoting ethnically and racially diverse people to senior leadership positions, CIOs continue to struggle.

Why Creating A Diverse IT Department Is So Difficult To Do Correctly

Let’s face it, even though we know that creating a diverse IT department a good thing, it turns out that it is quite difficult to do. Why is this? People who study this issue cite a lot of challenges. Educational disparities leave CIOs fighting over a small pool of qualified candidates. The person in the CIO position can’t fix the problem without measuring the extent of it first—something many CIOs don’t do. Perhaps the problem is more basic than that: the issue is that many CIOs simply don’t like to talk about race and institutional bias and that makes it harder for minorities to advance through the ranks.

Over time CIOs have erased race from the conversations about diversity and inclusion. It makes us uncomfortable, but we are all losing out in creating a more sustainable world if we continue to overlook some of the racial dynamics. In recent years, CIOs have put an emphasis on adding women to their departments, and they have achieved some progress. That said, the research also suggests there is still a lot of room for improvement. Some say disparities in higher education could be partly to blame for the lack of progress.

Though the number of black and Hispanic students earning college degrees is growing, white students earned 67.5% of bachelor’s degrees, 68.2% of master’s degrees and 70.1% of doctorates in the 2015-16 academic year. If there is not a pipeline of diverse applicants getting their professional degrees, there are simply fewer diverse people to choose from. To address that issue, companies need to actively seek out underrepresented voices instead of waiting for the talent to come to them.

How To Create A More Diverse IT Department

The existence of biases around gender and race, which can influence decisions and result in discrimination when recruiting and promoting staff, is another issue CIOs continue to grapple with. More than one million cases of alleged violations of federal workplace antidiscrimination laws have been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These ranged from racial and sexual discrimination to retaliation, age discrimination, and discrimination related to a medical condition or disability.

Because of long-term institutional bias, many women and ethnic minorities haven’t had the opportunity to get the type of experience that many CIOs require. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the skills and insight to do the job well. Some say one of the biggest barriers to improving diversity in IT leadership is that many CIOs don’t accurately measure the extent of the problem. Experts say many groups, including people with disabilities and nonbinary people, are barely acknowledged because the diversity and inclusion data that is collected isn’t nuanced enough.

Without precise data, CIOs may struggle to put the right D&I initiatives into place. Regarding ethnicity and age, good data is even harder to come by. When companies report their racial and ethnic makeup, there is no reliable way of knowing how a company’s reporting methods compare with those of its peers. Until CIOs start reporting much more deeply and thoughtfully about employee makeup in general, any assessments of diversity will have to be conditional.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs want to build the best IT department possible because we understand the importance of information technology. However, they struggle to do so. One of their greatest challenges is trying to create a diverse IT department. They know what they want to do, they just don’t know how to go about doing it. If their pipeline into the department is not diverse, then they’ll never be able to create the diverse department that they want.

There are a lot of challenges that are making it difficult for CIOs to create diverse IT departments. Educational disparities, measurement of the problem, and CIOs who don’t want to talk about race are all parts of the problem. If CIOs don’t talk about race, then they can’t solve the problem. However, they are doing a good job of getting women to join the IT department. There are not enough diverse people getting degrees. Companies need to do a better job of seeking out diverse talent. Gender and race bias may hinder efforts to create a diverse IT department. One of the big problems with diversity is that CIOs don’t do a good job of measuring it. If CIOs don’t have good data, then they won’t be able to solve this issue.

The good news is that most CIOs understand that if they can create a diverse IT department, then they can create a better IT department. However, it’s not easy creating a diverse IT department because the right candidate are not just going to fall into your lap. Instead, CIOs need to learn new skills on how to go out and find the diverse candidate that they need for their IT department. If we can learn how to go about doing this, then we can build the diversity that our department really needs.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What do you think would be the best way to measure the diversity of a department?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a CIO I suspect that you are well aware that there are a number of different ways that your IT teams can go about developing software (and doing a lot of other things). There is the classic method that has been used for over 40 years called “waterfall”. Then there’s the new upstart in town that everyone seems to be flocking to called “agile”. All of these options can place a CIO in a difficult place. Which way is the best way for our teams to create products?