IT Workers Support DEI Programs, Despite Broader Backlash

The IT sector sees resilient growth in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, a new DEI in IT report finds.

Nathan Eddy

March 1, 2024

4 Min Read
diverse hands clasped together

Despite some dissenting voices among legislators and business figures, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives remain robust, particularly within the IT sector, where they are widely regarded as a smart investment for the year 2024.

According to a TEKsystems survey of 820 IT and HR professionals, 80% of respondents affirmed the critical importance of diversity programs for fostering an inclusive environment within IT workplaces.

The findings of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in IT report also revealed a significant surge in decision-makers characterizing their DEI policies as "advanced or mature," marking a 46% increase from the previous year, with 57% now holding this view.

The report underscores widespread agreement among respondents regarding the positive impact of DEI initiatives on workplace culture, recruitment, and talent retention.

Most respondents expressed satisfaction with the strides made, with more than two-thirds (68%) signaling their intent to bolster DEI spending and recruitment efforts in the upcoming year.

However, notable disparities emerge between the perceptions of IT leaders, HR leaders, and IT employees regarding the priorities of DEI policies.

Key differences include the finding that nearly half of organizations have C-level or executive-level management serving as senior-most DEI leaders, while one in four IT employees lacks clarity on this aspect.

Related:2024 Might Be Do or Die for Corporate Diversity Efforts. Here's Why.

Furthermore, while IT decision-makers overwhelmingly emphasize the critical role of DEI in fostering an inclusive IT workplace (89%), only 61% of employees share this sentiment.

The report also sheds light on varying priorities among stakeholders regarding specific DEI policies.

While a quarter of employees identify parental leave as the second most valued DEI policy, only 14% of decision-makers regard it as highly effective.

Moreover, while HR leaders prioritize recruiting and retention, IT leaders and employees lean toward emphasizing training and development initiatives.

TEKsystems' executive director of global inclusion, diversity, and equity, Franklin Reed, says the technology industry has so many facets that it's hard to encapsulate the importance of DEI in a single experience.

"Diversity initiatives are crucial for an inclusive IT workplace because diversity brings in new perspectives and helps scale business," he said.

They can also help employees of varying backgrounds feel less siloed, as well as give employees what they need to be successful and grow — in their careers and their lives.

Related:Cybersecurity Skills Shortage: How a Focus on DEI Can Help

"However, businesses still have a lot of work cut out for them," Reed said. "It's evident that while many see the value and importance of diversity and inclusion initiatives, implementing them in a way that feels inclusive and effective for everyone, and clearly communicating those benefits to employees, can remain a challenge for many organizations."

Tuning Out the Anti-DEI Noise

The anti-DEI backlash is having a mixed reception in the IT world, with some organizations remaining steadfast although they are auditing their programs, language, and goals, according to Reed.

"While there are companies who are reducing their DEI staff, spend, and focus because they've either been in the direct line of fire or fear that they will be, there are just as many organizations who have reinstated their commitment," he said.

Reed pulled quote

Reed noted that the current anti-DEI movement that's happening in the world is creating a lot of noise, but it's noise that should be tuned out — especially as the data shows that this is nothing more than soundbites and a short-sighted approach to employee initiatives holistically.

"The most surprising finding for me was that despite what's going on in the news cycle with anti-DEI movements, 68% of enterprise decision-makers expect to increase their DEI spending and DEI hiring in 2024," he said. "This is so encouraging to see, but it also means there's still work to be done."

Building an Effective DEI Tech Program

One key strategy for an effective DEI tech program, according to Reed, is establishing partnerships with outside organizations that can help attract, train, and retain diverse talent.

"There are so many tech roles that aren't solely tech-focused — they're tech-adjacent, from sales engineers to business analysts, and often these roles are overlooked or forgotten about," he said. "Partnerships with organizations that help bring awareness to these roles and help candidates prepare for them are crucial for any DEI strategy because of this."

Another important strategy is to ensure that the business continues to make resources available that help grow and uplevel employees and future employees, certifications, or language model trainings, for example.

"At the end of the day, every business will have a different culture, or flavor palate if you will, but the mission remains the same in terms of strategies: Increase opportunities and uplift folks and communities who may not have the opportunity elsewhere," Reed said.

About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITProToday and covers various IT trends and topics across wide variety of industries. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, he is also a documentary filmmaker specializing in architecture and urban planning. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

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