Studies have shown diverse teams are more creative, more productive, and better able to solve complex problems than homogeneous teams. At our recent Digital Innovation summit Elaine Montilla, CTO at Pearson shared key learnings from her journey.
- Companies with a diverse workforce perform 35% better than those without
- Resumes with a white-sounding name have a callback rate of 9.65%, while those with Black-sounding names have a callback rate of 6.45%.
- 90% of US companies use some form of diversity training to combat hiring bias.
Looking at these ZIPPIA numbers, it’s clear that DE&I is still very significant in business today. According to research, diverse teams are more creative, productive, and capable of solving complex challenges than homogeneous ones. Even in 2023, women hold only 26.7% of the tech workforce. Notably, when compared to entry-level roles, higher-level roles (such as CTOs or heads of engineering) have significantly lower female involvement, and the proportion of women in tech-related positions has declined by 2.1% in recent years.
Just 26.7% of women hold positions in tech.
At our recent Digital Innovation summit Elaine Montilla, CTO at Pearson shared key learnings from her journey. While not a member of the DE&I team, she is passionate about DE&I at the company that produces educational materials and learning tools. At the summit, Montilla shared her belief that all levels of management should be involved in creating a work environment that is diverse and inclusive.
Shaping the future
Technology leaders are at the forefront of innovation and progress. Their work impacts millions of people around the world and has the power to shape the future in profound ways. But with that power comes responsibility, and one of the most important responsibilities is to ensure technology is inclusive and accessible to everyone. It’s also critical to hire diverse teams. Montilla recalled what it was like entering the tech industry as Latina. “When I started in the workplace especially in tech people didn’t look like me, they didn’t sound like me, did not think like me and I saw that as a disadvantage to the company actually, and that’s when I decided I could do more, I could use my voice and as I became a CIO and later a CTO I thought why not share that with others to show them what’s possible to them.”
Diversity, and its impact on technology
Diversity in tech is all about bringing more perspectives to a traditionally homogenous and often non-inclusive industry. For Montilla, it means better serving customers.
“If you have a product and you have customers you want to make sure that the people behind the scenes represent the customers that you are serving.”
Elaine Montilla, CTO at Pearson
“One of the examples I really love relates to voice recognition technology which today has significantly improved due to the inclusion of diverse accents and with ChatGPT we need to make sure we have fewer bias algorithms and to have and input from diverse teams, you need diverse people adding to the knowledge of this and we have a lot of work to do there.”
Tech to reduce bias in hiring
AI technology is now being used to analyze massive amounts of data and is using algorithms and machine learning to determine the best and most qualified candidates based on the available data. Montilla noted, “I’ve seen a lot of companies that are using AI to scan job descriptions to make sure certain terms are removed from the job description, terms that were slanted toward hiring more men than woman, I see a lot of technology being used checking for backgrounds and at the skills. I think humans are imperfect, I know I am imperfect, so the recruiting process for many is a huge problem. We need to make sure the humans involved in recruitment and the hiring process can put their bias aside as much as they can and if not then we need to make processes they can follow so we do not rely on that alone.”
A space where people can be themselves
Montilla spoke of her personal journey and why it’s so important to provide a workplace environment that works for everyone. “For years I had 2 versions of myself, before I came out as a member of the LGBTQ community, I remember days where I would walk into the workplace, I had a different version of Elaine going into work, and I was a different when I came out of work and it was exhausting so imagine how that effects innovation, imagine how that effects or collaboration, me trying to come up with ideas when I’m not allowed to be myself.” She now advises managers to listen to be cognizant of their employees’ individual needs.
We’ve all heard of the ‘exit interview’ but Montilla started something called the ‘stay interview.’ It helps the CTO identify internal candidates that can bring diverse thinking and approaches to senior leadership teams. “A stay interview is where you find out why are you still here? What are we doing that makes you want to stay, what are you interested in and what are your goals for the future, and I really get a lot out of those interviews. It takes time and you really need to listen and be in the moment and follow up.”
Don’t wait for tech
Montilla advised the group not to wait for tech solutions to solve current challenges within the DE&I space;
“Technology is great, but it can only take us so far, we are dealing with imperfect human beings.”
Elaine Montilla, CTO at Pearson
“I would caution you not to wait for technology to find a solution for all of our problems, because its human to human and I am worried that we are missing some of that.”
Montilla encourages the group to educate themselves, learn about different cultures and share that knowledge with senior leaders, so they can create measurable goals, “We have to empower our managers and supervisors to do the work because something that I noticed recently is companies will hire a DE&I officer and we believe that this one person is going to fix all of our issues, that is impossible, first you need buy-in all the way from the top and then we need to empower at every level to have training but we need to all have a part in it and once you make it to the top you need to turn around and help the next person coming behind you so let’s make sure we create spaces where people feel comfortable being themselves and mentor the next generation.”
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