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Diversity and inclusion make IT stronger

Throughout most of Hans Keller’s professional life, he was taught not to talk politics or engage in provocative topics at work. Yet in the midst of a global pandemic, when George Floyd’s brutal death opened a fresh wound for Americans regarding racial inequality and social justice, Keller, now CIO at Erickson Living, was among the many employees seeking solace in the company’s community space dedicated to tackling tough issues.

Erickson Living, like so many organizations across the country, spent a good part of this year developing ways to make remote work efficient. Yet the company, which owns and operates retirement communities, also labored to maintain its corporate culture and sense of community as many employees made the shift to working from home. With diversity and inclusion core to its corporate values, it was only natural for the company to create an online forum where employees could have an open dialog about racial issues without judgment and fear of repercussions.

“We created a space where people could be open and share and have difficult conversations,” explains Keller. “Rather than run from these hard conversations, we actually embraced them… and it increased our sense of belonging and inclusion.”

In the wake of this year’s events, many companies have turned up the volume on diversity and inclusion issues, and employees are taking note. According to a 2014 Glassdoor survey, 67% of job seekers called out a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating potential employers and job offers, with percentages higher among women (72%) and minority groups (70% to 89%). In addition, more than half (57%) believe their company should be doing more to increase diversity among its workforce.

Making a serious commitment to diversity and inclusion (often abbreviated as D&I) goes a long way toward keeping employees happy and engaged, but it is also an important exercise for IT practitioners to promote diversity of thought, according to IT leaders at companies named to the 2020 Best Places to Work in IT list from Computerworld and Insider Pro.

“Diversity at its core takes advantage of people’s unique backgrounds and skill sets and makes for richer content and discovery of what we do,” says Darren Dworkin, senior vice president and CIO at Cedars-Sinai; the healthcare organization was ranked No. 3 for D&I on the 2020 Best Places to Work in IT list. “The IT group spends a lot of time working closely with all sorts of departments and stakeholders … and having folks with different backgrounds and skills reflects that and helps us relate and translate so we can be a department that contributes to the mission of the organization.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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