Canadian employers are doubling down on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Research from The Harris Poll found that while only 40% of Canadian businesses have a DEI policy in place, 46% say they have plans to implement one this year.
Businesses that are committed to diversity are seeing tremendous returns. McKinsey & Company research makes the case for both gender and ethnic diversity. Their data shows that the most gender-diverse companies outperform their least gender-diverse peers by 48%. Similarly, ethnically diverse companies are 36% more profitable than those that are not.
What does a greater focus on DEI mean for IT leaders? Their two biggest talent challenges are a severe talent shortage and a widening skills gap. More equitable recruiting and hiring practices can help IT teams not only contribute meaningfully to their company’s DEI goals, but also increase their candidate pools overall.
DEI’s Impact on Hiring
Who’s winning the war for talent? Businesses that prioritize diversity hiring best practices, and here’s why. A company’s DEI commitment and progress has a direct correlation to its ability to attract talent.
These Glassdoor statistics on job seekers and employees further puts this into perspective:
- 76% say a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating job offers.
- 32% would not apply to a job if the employer’s workforce lacks diversity.
- Nearly 37% would not apply to a job if there are disparities in employee satisfaction ratings among different ethnic/racial groups.
The State of Diversity in Canada’s IT Workforce
Overall, Indigenous populations, women, visible minorities, and people with disabilities experience disproportionate discrimination in being hired and promoted by Canadian businesses. This is true within the tech industry as well.
For example, according to ICTC, the share of women in tech has remained less than 30% for the last 10 years, even though they account for 47% of Canada’s workforce. And, while Indigenous people make up 5% of the total population, they are only 2.2% of the Canadian tech workforce, according to a Brookfield Institute report.
Diversity Hiring Best Practices
How can tech leaders hire a more diverse workforce? Here are four ways to increase diversity in hiring.
1. Walk the walk when it comes to DEI.
Job seekers can see right through companies who boast about their DEI commitment publicly yet haven’t woven diversity and inclusion into the fabric of their culture. Far more important than a gratuitous, public financial contribution to a cause is to spread awareness and support inside your own company. This allows employees and candidates to see your DEI efforts in action.
At S.i. Systems, we have a documented DEI policy as well as an Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation policy. Our entire team has completed mandatory unconscious bias and antiracism training, something that has become increasingly important to the businesses we work with. We have also identified advocates throughout our organization to lead the execution of initiatives that support diversity and inclusion, such as National Coming Out Day.
2. Source with intention.
To hire a diverse workforce, you have to start from the ground up: employers need to intentionally widen their talent pools before they can be sure of diverse shortlists. This takes moving beyond typical job boards and actively seeking out new sources of talent.
Consider the ways in which you want to broaden your pool. To increase diversity at the entry level, recruit talent out of diversity-rich colleges and universities. Many schools also have organizations specific to a particular group, such as women in technology. Speaking to these groups about your company, offering internships, and allowing them to job shadow before graduation could set you up as a potential employer down the road.
To find and recruit mid-level IT talent, re-think your position on remote vs. in-office requirements. Employers can reach many more candidates by untethering positions from a particular geography or market.
3. Use diverse interview teams.
Diversity and inclusion do not exist in silos. To attract diverse talent, employers need to demonstrate their inclusive culture throughout the recruiting process.
There are a few things that companies are doing right. Corporate websites are an early stop on a candidate’s journey. There, one can typically find an employer’s DEI policy, evidence of employee diversity on the careers or about pages, and sometimes even information on specific DEI progress.
Most commonly, the interview process is where employers are falling short, making one simple mistake: they fail to assemble the right interview team. To increase diverse candidate selection, employers should rethink who exactly is conducting interviews.
Rarely do employers conduct panel interviews where they can tap into a diversity of perspectives, or intentionally involve diverse employees in the interview process. Doing so would go a long way toward allowing diverse candidates to see themselves being successful at a particular organization.
4. Eliminate bias in job postings.
Many job postings are unconsciously biased, even from well-intentioned employers. Not only can this prevent diverse candidates from applying to roles, but it also leaves them with the impression that a company isn’t inclusive and negatively impacts the employer brand.
Today there are many technologies that scan job descriptions and make recommendations to reduce bias, but you don’t need AI to make a meaningful change in this area. Using gender-neutral words like “chairperson,” instead of “chairman,” replacing “he or she” with “he, she, or they,” and eliminating words that are offensive to certain groups of people can go a long way.
For example, an "unspoken truth" in IT hiring is that when hiring managers ask that candidates "must have good communication skills," they are often looking for a native English speaker. Employers who want to be conscious can opt for something like: "The person in this position frequently communicates with users and internal clients about their software requirements. Must be able to exchange accurate information in these situations." MIT's ADA-compliant job description language guide is a good resource for additional examples.
Bonus tip: Extend your DEI focus to your contract IT workforce.
Often, diversity is only considered important when related to employees. Why? Many companies only track and report diversity on their full-time workforce. What they fail to recognize is that all types of workers impact a company’s DEI progress.
Companies should seek out ways to increase diversity within their contingent workforce as well. Supplier diversity is a great start, and what’s equally important is a firm’s bench of talent and their own DEI initiatives. Inquire about each staffing firm’s diverse candidate pool, and ask them to share their own diverse hiring goals.
Businesses that increase workforce diversity across all types of talent will demonstrate their commitment to DEI in practice, not just prove progress on paper.
It’s important to remember that even small changes in your hiring process can add up over time. Not everything on this list needs to be tackled at once. DEI is a continuous work in progress as companies grow and evolve, and the priorities of your employees may change over time. A company’s practices will, too.