Is technology a catalyst for opening up more opportunities for women and minorities to advance in management? Perhaps to some degree, but business leaders need to step up to make such progress — and technology is but a tool for accomplishing such progress.
In recent articles, I have discussed the roles technology is playing in helping to advance greater diversity in management ranks — through analytics that tracks and affirms diversity in hiring and promotions, training, as well as more flexible work opportunities. However, technology alone won’t open opportunities to wider groups of people. James White, former CEO of Jamba Juice and author of Anti-Racist Leadership: How to Transform Corporate Culture in a Race-Conscious World, weighs in on the challenge, pointing out that you can put in all the systems you want, but it takes engaged people — especially those at the top — to recognize the advantages of increased management diversity.
“Overall, I think results in technology have been mixed,” White says. “There are no game-changing technologies that drive greater diversity and inclusion — only committed leadership from the board and CEO, who are resolved to put in place systems and processes that can be strengthened and enhanced by technology.”
While inclusion and diversity “has become a boardroom priority over the last few years we are far from the ideal equitable state,” agrees Pari Natarajan, CEO of Zinnov. “Though the development has been progressive, it has been frustratingly slow.”
Progress is made, White says, “when the board and CEO are serious about diversity, equity and inclusion driving better performance. A few examples of tech companies that have made progress include Logitech, Medallia — where I was previously a board member; Honest Co., where I am currently board chair; and Affirm, where I am lead independent director. They all have diverse boards and CEOs that actively support process and systems changes that lead to greater change.”
Companies making progress “address all processes that touch humans — hiring, onboarding, pay, promotions — and strong performance measurements with multi-year strategies,” White adds.
People make the difference, and if there’s one thing technology can do is provide the tools that provide transparency to tamp down racism and sexism. “Only 79 of the Fortune 500 corporations, or around one in six, provide annual DEI reports detailing their advancement,” Natarajan says. “Business leaders can remove bias that impedes hiring and growth of diverse candidates through the use of AI technology. They can use technology platforms to democratize opportunities, offer support, and drive engagement across the employee base. They can enable more visibility through structured mentorship programs using technology.”
Such transparency can go a long way toward raising awareness and instigating positive action to open up management opportunities to a greater extent. Prior to the development of today’s workforce inclusion technology, “organizations were flying blind,” says Seena Mortazavi, CEO of Chronus. “Leaders didn’t know where to focus their efforts to create a more diverse management team, but with new technology comes greater insights to help leaders focus their efforts and make more informed decisions. Once companies can see how many mentoring participants are being matched, or matched across ethnicity, they can understand how to build a plan to increase that number going forward.”
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