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CONVERTING AND ADVANCING TALENT — Keep A Positive Frame On Equity Work To Sustain And Scale…

Equity and inclusion work in tech workplace culture can be challenging and slow to advance. Particularly in the context of tech’s current market downturn, rising fear of hiring freezes and economic distress, there’s a risk that if equity and inclusion work is not central to business goals, that they will be cut, downsized, or restructured towards different objectives than your mission. Here are some practices to avoid burnout and sustain long-term progress around framing and advancing equity and apprenticeship work!

  • Don’t frame equitable practices as “extra work.” Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) work often doesn’t get counted, especially when it’s not a core part of a company’s business model that creates business value. Some employees and managers view it as “extra work,” and fault or penalize employees who pursue such endeavors outside of their core role. However, non-inclusive workplace culture is bad for business; driving turnover, significantly affecting the retention of underrepresented groups, and costing the industry more than $16 billion each year.

For this reason, make sure up-front that your manager sees how this work is critical to the company and your own development. Plan for this self-advocacy to take energy and time. You may feel you are doing double the work getting a program off the ground as a volunteer, but logging these efforts and achievements will help you, your team, and volunteers have something to point to when it comes to performance reviews in addition to core role accomplishments that add value.

  • Frame equity as a good business practice. Try framing equity volunteer work in a “good for business” way that can’t be argued with. For example: “inequitable approaches, such as X, have created major business failures, such as Y.” Have conversations with leadership on investing in equity and apprenticeship. Know the language of your audience and learn how to put equity language into typical business language, for example, around risk reduction: “The longer that we don’t hire from underserved communities, we risk missed opportunities to design more inclusive products.” Point to company objectives and commitments and hold leadership accountable.
  • Spin pushback into positive outcomes. You will still receive pushback, or even buy-in followed by limbo. Stay positive, highlight the benefits you believe in, collect data, test different approaches and iterate. Set boundaries for any critical feedback you might receive, ask the person to deliver their input in a constructive and solution-oriented manner.
  • Celebrate small and large wins along the way with your supporters. Even if you feel the big picture isn’t moving around equity or apprenticeship, make time to celebrate. Host a mini working group dinner or retreat and recognize supporters and volunteers for their early contributions. Socialize announcements about progress and achievements along the way to gain visibility for the program and volunteers. Elevate volunteer achievements to their managers.
  • Lean on your working group members and supporters through challenges. Do this particularly during challenging news cycles and headlines, economically uncertain times or moments when your company is facing culture decline. Take breaks. Vent and commiserate. Refocus on documenting small pieces of progress.
  • Remember yourself, your north star, and community. At the end of the day, this work is about people. You matter, your volunteers matter, and your collective wellbeing is critical to the success of the program. People working together in community can create impact and boost equity and inclusion for others. Communicate and connect on a personal level to ensure your working group has a rapport and bond beyond the task list. Prioritize activities (or breaks from activities) toward self-preservation and protecting the team of volunteers and work group members.

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Tool and best practices co-designed with champions in tech Rahul Choudhury, Meana Kasi, and Angela Pablo.

Have questions or comments about the Equitable Tech Apprenticeship Equity Toolkit? Send us a note.