While interviewing candidates for our first group of industry champions, diversity and inclusion was a common theme.  As a result, I anticipated it would be among the first initiatives launched by the group.  Yet, during the process of identifying regional challenges and needs, workplace diversity did not emerge as a consensus initiative.  In March this year, as the co-chairs and I were planning the agenda for the April meeting, they brought up the topic of workplace diversity.  They wondered if we somehow overlooked this important industry need.  Ultimately, they recommended we include time on the agenda to ask the question directly and facilitate an employer conversation on the topic.

At the April 11th meeting, we began the dialog with a simple question:  How many of your companies have an explicit or implicit workplace diversity and inclusion mandate?  100% of the employers in the room raised their hands!  When asked why this was important to them, there was a diversity of responses, but it came down to the belief that by employing a more diverse talent pool, they would benefit in a myriad of ways that would make their businesses stronger --  Increased creativity; new ideas; diverse perspectives; more alignment with the community and more.

With strong alignment, the only question remaining was, what can this group do that will help your business with its diversity and inclusion goals and strategies?  A number of ideas were pitched.  One employer champion recommended we launch a D&I interest group to collect best practices to be shared.  Another suggested we launch a committee to identify collective strategies others could implement to improve D&I.  Then, the employer champion from Pandora suggested an idea that gained unanimous agreement.  She suggested that instead of launching a separate initiative, we should apply a diversity and inclusion lens to everything we do.  The group has already established action groups to work on public awareness and the creation of a workplace experience program.  They agreed that we should ask those action teams to include diversity as a lens through which to develop these programs.  Brilliant!

Now we are clear that for the East Bay ICT employers, diversity and inclusion is a lens to be applied to everything we do together.  It should be included in every strategy, and everything we do should advance this important issue that effects not only employers but the region as a whole.

Personally, I am encouraged by this conversation and especially by the group’s conclusion.  I believe it strongly reflects what we hear from the region in general, which strengthens my belief in the value of sector partnerships and deepens my commitment to help this group achieve its goals.  

If this resonates with you, you can join us.  Contact Barrie Hathaway at barrie@stridecenter to learn more about our work and add your voice and energy to benefit the region.