Promoting Diversity in Tech: Why Local Collaborations Matter to DEI

by AEG on January 16, 2024 in DE&I

Fostering diversity and inclusion is crucial for driving innovation in tech. Studies have long shown that diverse teams perform better and have higher levels of employee satisfaction, lowering hiring and turnover costs while improving productivity. As a result, companies report improved customer satisfaction, increased product innovation, and better business performance overall.


Still, while the business case for DEI is clear, diversity can’t be an ad hoc part of your business strategy. Building a truly diverse workplace is about more than just hiring. Increasingly, top tech talent care about company culture and how DEI efforts and programs are valued and prioritized throughout the year.


One of the best ways to demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion is through collaborations with local organizations and communities. These partnerships can help challenge unconscious bias, encourage allyship, and offer professional development opportunities that benefit both your business and the community.


Let’s consider three ways your team can go beyond diversity in hiring to build an inclusive tech culture that prioritizes belonging and DEI efforts all year round.


Overcome Unconscious Bias

Unconscious or implicit bias is the tendency to make judgments based on social stereotypes about others, often without even realizing it. In fact, everyone holds some unconscious beliefs. These are a natural human reaction to categorize or organize our understandings of other people. The problem is that unconscious biases can influence our decisions at work in ways that negatively affect others. For example, unconscious biases around characteristics like race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or level of education might cause a hiring manager to prefer a candidate who shares similar qualities or attributes to themselves. Unconscious biases can also result in microaggressions or subtle actions that are insensitive and harmful to individual well-being and belonging in the workplace.


Overcoming unconscious bias begins with awareness and understanding. Some organizations opt for unconscious bias training to help employees identify and understand their own biases so they can recognize how their own ideas might impact their work. Other companies go even further, examining how biases might affect their hiring decisions, promotions and raises, and even who gets what kinds of work. Understanding the impact on biases on these types of decisions allows a company to take steps that account for the biases and adjust for their impact to ensure equity across the organization.


Another great way to raise awareness around bias in the workplace is to support outreach initiatives and volunteering within the local community. Volunteering offers employees an opportunity to meet people different from themselves and interact with groups they might not otherwise encounter, broadening their perspective in the process. At AEG, for example, we believe in outreach beyond the boardroom, and we encourage our team to get involved with our local partner organizations to support those in need across St. Louis and around the world. In 2023, our team dedicated countless hours to volunteering with groups like St. Louis Arc, which champions the rights of people with intellectual and development disabilities in St. Louis. We also worked with the St. Louis Area Foodbank to combat food insecurity and increase access to nutritious food, gaining a deeper appreciation for those living without access to healthy food in the process.


While collaborating with local groups alone won’t solve issues of unconscious bias, the more teams experience and understand bias in the world the better positioned they’ll be to recognize and respond to bias in the workplace.


Encourage Allyship

Under-represented groups often deal with subtle prejudices and obstacles in the workplace, such as unconscious biases and microaggressions. Allies can help address these issues by looking out for barriers blocking the progress of others at work and intervening in positive ways. By supporting and advocating for communities of which they are not a part, allies use their own power and privilege to uplift others.


In the workplace, allyship can take several forms. Allies might advocate for increased inclusion of certain groups in work projects, or they might help mentor and support younger colleagues, breaking down subtle barriers that hold certain groups back. Small actions like using inclusive language and calling out harmful behaviors such as microaggressions can also demonstrate public allyship and help set an example for others in the organization to follow.


Education is also a critical part of becoming a better ally. Marginalized groups who are already struggling with structural biases are not responsible for educating their colleagues on the challenges they face. Instead, everyone needs to take steps to become better informed and one great way to do this is through collaborations with local organizations. For example, last year AEG attended a coffee talk with Women Who Code, a networking event connecting female coders. The conversation discussed the challenges women coders face and allowed a space for sharing solutions and building community. We also held a Pride Month lunch and learn to raise awareness around LGBTQ+ issues and promote diversity and inclusion within our own workplace.


Support Professional Development

Hiring a diverse team is an important first step to improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But hiring alone won’t mean much if you can’t retain your employees. That’s why professional development opportunities that empower your employees to grow and develop new skills with your organization are so important. Offering skills development, training, and networking opportunities can boost an employee’s sense of purpose and belonging, contributing to higher retention rates and ultimately better performance for the organization. Effective professional development programs should also take into consideration areas where under-represented employees might face additional challenges or difficulties and address these by providing the tools and assistance they need to succeed.


Collaborating with local organizations is another great way to provide professional and skill development opportunities beyond the workplace. At AEG, we aim to foster a thriving community where technology and talent intersect, and we regularly contribute to organizations in our community that share our mission. One of these organizations is Brace for IMPACT 46 which empowers children and families in North St. Louis and Haiti by providing educational opportunities, healthcare access, and community development initiatives. We also support the International Mentoring Program, which connects international women with women in the St. Louis area to help welcome and integrate them into the community.


The Future of DEI in Tech

Diversity and inclusion will continue to be crucial in driving innovation and ensuring equitable opportunities for all in the tech industry. As we’ve seen time and again, DEI matters to employees. When DEI initiatives are valued and prioritized, they can have an important impact on a company’s overall success. AEG has experienced this firsthand; we’re proud of the work we do every year to support local organizations and make a positive difference in the lives of talented individuals.


Learn more about our community service partnerships and discover how we’re creating a more welcoming world of work for all.