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Tech firms unite to advance diversity and inclusion in the sector

The plan will focus on areas such as leadership representation and inclusive product development

A group of technology companies has announced a coalition and an index aimed at addressing the shortcomings around diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the sector.

Formed by Intel, Dell, Nasdaq, NTT DATA and Snap Inc, the Alliance for Global Inclusion was launched on 29 April, and involves a public pledge to advance D&I in the workplace as well as sharing metrics on initiatives geared at tackling gender and race disparities.

It is expected the group will make progress towards four key areas: in terms of leadership representation, the focus is around guidance for board and senior executive roles reflective of customers and communities served. Another key area is inclusive language, with awareness, dialogue and industry-wide change for inclusive language in products and documentation, amplified through partnerships with standards bodies and academic institutions.

Moreover, the Alliance will seek to make progress around inclusive product development, with a commitment to using existing intervention points in artificial intelligence (AI) product development to mitigate bias and embed D&I considerations into the AI product lifecycle. The group will also seek to drive readiness around science, technology, engineering and mathematics areas in underserved communities.

The goals will be informed by an inclusion index launched alongside the initiative, which enables organisations to identify root causes and actions needed to drive diversity and inclusion, and serves as a a benchmark for companies to track improvements, current best practices and opportunities to improve outcomes.

The index was informed by a survey of 13 global companies from the technology, energy and industrial sectors. Findings illustrate the current lack of diversity of the organisations: their workforces are 72% male and 28% female. At executive level, 81% are men and 19% women. When it comes to technology teams, 84% are men and 16% are women. When it comes to race, 51% of employees are white, with 36 % Asian, 7% Hispanic/Latino, 4 % Black or African American, and 2% two or more races.

The Alliance also cited data from an Intel study published in 2020, that women currently hold 11% of senior leadership roles and black female professionals make up 4% of the computing workforce. The problem is attributed in part to the absence of a global framework to benchmark and measure hiring practices, leading to a situation where each company has been defining their own definitions and standards of D&I.

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Additionally, the survey informing the index has identified the most frequently delivered D&I practices, such as training on bias mitigation for managers, public reporting of gender pay equity metrics and contributions to inclusion councils and other employee advocacy organisations during performance evaluations and promotion decisions.

Successful practices listed in the index include formal mechanisms to track inclusion sentiment across different functional workforces, as well as formal initiatives to reach out to foster technology access to benefit diverse student populations.

Regarding product development, only one company of the 13 participants has a formal process to ensure product design is inclusive of differing cultural backgrounds and abilities, and considers it to be successful.

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