Silicon Valley has served as a beacon of technological innovation for decades. In the area of diversity, however, they have historically struggled. Making an effort to include individuals with disabilities at all levels of a company has the potential to drive business strategy further into the future, and create a society that is more cognizant and appreciative of one another’s differences.
This post underlines a few key ways inclusivity enhances corporate strategy, specifically in the technology sector.
Hiring with a focus on inclusion promotes diversity in both opinions and expertise. Think about it: when a hiring manager removes unconscious hiring bias, placing emphasis only on the strength of an employee’s real-world or educational expertise, they’re ensuring their company can choose from a richer talent pool. Hiring managers can improve the inclusivity of their process by creating “blind audition” environments. Try viewing resumes without names attached, leveraging pre-employment tests that focus on role-specific skills and traits, or attending hiring events outside of your network, as well as sharing job listings more widely to encourage a variety of applicants.
Although inclusive hiring begins with the hiring process itself, a more intensive test occurs within the workplace. Are companies making an effort to commit to diversity through workplace policies? Increased employee engagement, and ultimately retention, happens through the fostering of a positive, inclusive workplace culture.
AT&T is one notable example. The telecommunications giant signed a 2017 diversity and inclusion pledge alongside the CEOs of 150 other global corporations, marking the largest official business commitment of that kind to date. Tim Ryan, the committee’s chairperson, stated “CEOs across the country understand this isn’t a competitive issue, but a societal issue, and together we can raise the bar for the entire business community. By sharing best-known actions and programs, we are helping to create a more inclusive environment that will encourage all of us to bring our greatest talents, perspectives, and experiences to the workplace.”
In the years since, AT&T has placed inclusivity front and center in their hiring strategy. They offer a variety of employee resource groups, accessible office space and equipment, and a commitment to career training and development for all employees.
Diversity in product development means creating and innovating products that have a broader application across a wider spectrum of people. This equates to a more precise understanding of user experience as it relates to all people, which ultimately leads to better products hitting the market.
Designers tend to create products based on their own ability level. This unconscious process leads to exclusion by development and design. In 2001, the World Health Organization described a need to translate the social concept of disability to human-to-tech interactions. They stated, “Disability is not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. Overcoming the difficulties faced by people with disabilities requires interventions to remove environmental and social barriers.”
Accessibility modeling in the technology sector has become increasingly more important in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). These changes can be reflected in the most minute of ways. For example, when YouTube unveiled their iOS video uploading app in 2013, their right-handed developer team didn’t account for the needs of left-handed users, resulting in a large number of their videos being uploaded upside-down. Products that consider the needs of their customers as a whole benefit society at large.
Sometimes, all it takes is for one company to make a commitment for others to follow suit. Eventually, inclusive business processes should become standard practice. Companies like AT&T and others that pledge to involve differently abled persons at all levels of their organization help to set the tone for the rest of the industry.
Legacy companies in Silicon Valley are coming to grips with the fact that diversity has become an Achilles heel in the fast-paced technology sector and the highly changeable world of consumer perception.. In order to remain competitive in the modern market, companies like Amazon, IBM, Facebook, and others must remain committed to hiring inclusively, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or disabled statuses.
I am a co-founder of Enlightened Digital, a lifelong Bostonian and an entrepreneur. My husband and I both work as consultants. I am also a freelance programmer, because I’m one of those crazy people who thinks coding is a blast.
I fell in love with technology because of the power it has to connect people all over the world, and I believe it is a tool that can help us create a better future. That’s why it fascinates me, and that’s why I’m writing about it here.
Email me at [email protected]