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Repairing the pipeline: Perspectives on diversity and inclusion in IT

Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

Gender diversity and inclusion initiatives have taken centerstage in IT organisations. But success in this area isn’t consistent across all companies. What are IT teams doing right and what can others do to ensure progress is being made?


LEADING chief information officers (CIOs) in many industries have made it a priority to increase the diversity of the workforce, fill the leadership pipeline with talented women and members of other underrepresented groups and promote them into executive IT leadership positions. On the other hand, some IT leaders are simply focussed on diverse hiring, but their progress towards closing the gaps on the leadership team has stalled. How are some CIOs and organisations able to succeed in this regard while others falter?

This CIO Insider, the second in Deloitte’s special edition series focussed on executive women in IT, will review the status of diversity and inclusion initiatives (D&I) in IT based on data and insights from Deloitte’s US CIO Programme, share the success stories of CIOs who have broken ground in this area and explore the latest trends including:

  • Goals, metrics and accountability in diversity hiring
  • Inclusive cultures that encourage different ways of thinking and working
  • Career development opportunities
  • How to engage all groups in equality discussions
  • Leading practices from industry leaders

The current state of IT diversity and inclusion initiatives

Even though many technology leaders are taking steps in the right direction, women and other diverse groups continue to be underrepresented in the IT workforce. Deloitte’s US CIO Programme found that many CIOs are trying to create diverse IT teams, but the results are mixed, suggesting that more creative leadership may be needed to make measurable progress on diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Most US CIOs who participated in the 2018 Global CIO Survey say their organisations lack key infrastructure to support diverse employees. Forty-four per cent say they have no specific initiatives in place to recruit, develop, or retain a diverse workforce. And while 36 per cent say their organisations aim to recruit and hire diverse employees, far fewer focus on training and development (22 per cent) or retention (15 per cent) programmes that can help keep talented underrepresented employees on board for the long term (figure 1).

Even on IT teams with workplace D&I programmes, less than a third of their IT staff (32 per cent) are women—only 10 percentage points more than teams that did not provide such programmes (22 per cent). And CIOs who say their IT teams provide D&I programmes have only 6 percentage points more female direct reports (27 per cent) than those whose teams did not provide such programmes (21 per cent), as shown in figure 2.

Although the number of women and minorities enrolled in tech programmes is beginning to increase 1 and many IT organisations have stepped up their diversity recruiting and hiring efforts, there is still much work to be done. Women make up only about 25 per cent of technology workers; even fewer African-American and Hispanic workers hold tech jobs, respectively comprising only 9 per cent and 7 per cent of technology workers. 2 The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that 80 per cent of technology executives are men; 82 per cent are white. 3

To address these challenges, a comprehensive IT D&I programme typically focuses not only on hiring but also on:

  • Goals, metrics and accountability
  • Inclusive IT cultures
  • Access to career development opportunities
  • Engaging male supporters

Goals, metrics and accountability for diversity recruiting and hiring

To bring in diverse candidates at all levels, many organisations have reinvented recruitment efforts, looked to eliminate bias throughout the hiring process and partnered with educational institutions or external organisations that emphasise STEM careers or STEM education. For example, diverse recruiting and interviewing teams can proactively serve as a testament to an organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Keysight VP and CIO Dan Krantz increased the number of female applicants and hires by sending a team of all-female recruiters to college job fairs. “Qualified women technologists are out there, but you have to be intentional about finding them,” he says. 4

Developing and publishing a formalised plan with quantifiable goals and metrics that track the results of diversity recruiting and hiring can signal a company’s commitment to the process and show a willingness to be held publicly accountable. For example, what percentage of new hires are diverse hires? How many diverse applicants were there for every open role? How many diverse candidates got a phone screening and how many made it through the phone screening but not past the in-person interview?

Workforce metrics help COUNTRY Financial CIO Brad Hildestad understand whether his team is meeting diversity objectives and other talent goals. “Our HR team provides key information about the IT workforce that my direct reports use to develop talent plans for their teams,” he says. “We can see where there are gaps—for example, in gender, race, or age—and we can strategise how to recruit to eliminate those gaps.” 5

Mark Roellig, chief technology and administrative officer of life insurer MassMutual, helps the MassMutual IT team remain aligned with the company’s comprehensive strategy for recruiting and retaining diverse groups of employees by requiring his direct reports to have D&I objectives. He tracks their progress in these areas throughout the year and in end-of-year evaluations, recognising and rewarding those who advance the organisation’s and company’s objectives. 6

Inclusive cultures can make room for new ways of thinking and working

Researchers at Deloitte define inclusive cultures as those that support the diversity of thinking that arises when companies hire employees with diverse backgrounds, experiences and ideas. 7 Organisations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets as those without, three times as likely to be high-performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. 8

Inclusive IT cultures can often eliminate many of the obstacles that lead women and members of other underrepresented groups to change companies or leave the workforce altogether. According to one study, organisations with inclusive cultures have higher rates of employee retention and find it easier to recruit new employees than those without. 9 Companies with more diverse teams have a 22 per cent lower turnover than those without. 10

Creating inclusive environments likely requires CIOs and other executives to make room for new ways of thinking, collaborating, leading and networking. Many CIOs leverage corporate employee resource groups (ERGs) created for women, veterans, people of colour and other diverse groups of employees with shared characteristics or life experiences. Members typically support each other through networking and mentoring, explore potential career opportunities and work on career development strategies.

Target’s female tech employees can participate in both the Women’s Business Council and Target Women in Science and Technology. In addition, every business unit across Target has a diversity action committee (DAC) that is tasked with aligning to the company’s overall D&I vision, mission and goals. The technology team’s DAC has developed partnerships and hosts events with key advocacy groups nationally and across the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, where Target is headquartered. “These events show our support for the community, provide exposure for us and our partners and help create a recruitment pool for our team,” says Jeanette Olson, Target’s VP of technology services. 11

Can inclusivity be measured? Olson says Target sought to quantify its progress at developing a female-friendly culture by benchmarking against other companies and industries and by establishing hiring and retention goals. This created one tangible way to measure inclusivity. “Diverse teams are better,” she says. “It’s good for Target’s business when our team reflects our guests, because then we can better understand and better serve the needs of our guests.”

Career development can help fill the leadership pipeline

In the work environment, some women have not always had access to the social and networking opportunities available to their peers. Frustrated by the lack of informal networks of sponsors and mentors, clear career paths and professional development plans, many women feel their careers are stagnating and leave the IT workforce. 12 The same holds true for many members of other underrepresented groups.

To help level the playing field, CIOs can help identify and develop high-performing candidates with diverse backgrounds by giving them access to formal career and professional development resources, including programmes that can enable them to develop networks, find mentors, design career paths, and gain professional and leadership skills. A six-year study measuring the results of leadership programmes targeted towards mid-career women technologists identified dramatic increases in participants’ confidence levels, goal clarity and network strength after completing the programme. Participants were promoted at twice the rate as those in a control group who had not participated in the programme. 13

Target cultivates women technology leaders through its year-long Engineering Manager Immersion Programme (eMIP). “Through eMIP, we create training and mentorship opportunities that help more women accelerate their career path and become senior engineering managers,” says Olson. “Participants attend classroom training, become a part of a supportive cohort and receive individual sponsorship and on-the-job leadership experience.”

To combat the pipeline issue, Harley-Davidson CIO Taren Rodabaugh is careful to proactively look for high-performing women rather than expecting them to self-select. “We found that many high-performing women aren’t raising their hands to say they’re ready to move up because they don’t have 100 per cent of the requirements,” she says. “Many women need to be coached to feel ready to move up if they can’t ‘check all the boxes.’” 14

Rodabaugh doesn’t exclude women without traditional technology backgrounds. “We don’t limit ourselves to IT,” she says. “We’ve looked to areas such as manufacturing or even sales and marketing to find highly qualified project managers or financial experts who understand how to get things done. There are certain core leadership skillsets that aren't technology-specific.”

Building awareness can encourage everyone to
lean in

Successful D&I programmes generally rely on everyone to “lean in” as supporters and educate others on implicit biases, advocate for equality and serve as mentors and sponsors. But this is often a challenge: One study found that women technologists are more likely than men to believe that mixed-gender teams are more productive, innovative and creative than single-gender teams. 15

Research has shown that inclusion training programmes can be effective in giving employees the information and tools they need to become better supporters of D&I. In a 2016 pilot programme, mid-career men and women who were influential in their organisations were given training to become ambassadors for gender partnership. Upon conclusion of the programme, male participants’ self-ranking of their knowledge of the business case for diversity increased along with their self-ranking of their ability to be a good gender partner. 16

Education and awareness can help transcend these barriers. Roellig emphasises the value in articulating diversity’s business benefits: “We need to explain why diversity is beneficial and in everyone’s personal best interest,” he says.

Key takeaways: Six ways to help move the needle

To create inclusive IT cultures that enable all employees to thrive regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability, or other characteristics, consider these six leading practices that are based on Deloitte interviews and research.

  1. Articulatethe business case. Clearly outlining the business benefits for IT D&I can help CIOs align any team sceptics to the D&I strategy. More diversity can help teams overcome persistent IT talent shortages and research has shown that the heterogeneity of ideas present in diverse technology teams can enable better operational and financial performance and greater innovation, among other benefits. Employees on such teams benefit from higher performance ratings and pay bonuses. 17
  2. Establish metrics and hold leaders accountable. Diversity-related data on talent, hiring and salary, among others, can help CIOs create baseline measures, set goals, compare progress across teams and industry averages and hold IT leaders (and themselves) accountable for meeting targets. Talent data may reveal gaps in racial and ethnic diversity, sexual orientation, age, educational background, disability, geography, or other factors, enabling CIOs to determine what diversity means for their team and extend their commitment to diversity beyond gender.
  3. Pay attention to inclusion, not just diversity. Organisations that focus primarily on recruiting and hiring diverse populations but not on retaining them may not be fully committed to true inclusivity. Many employees appreciate perks such as generous parental leave and on-site childcare, but they also want to work on IT teams that authentically prioritise and value inclusivity, provide advancement and development opportunities and remove biases that may exist in HR and IT policies (e.g., salaries, performance reviews and flexible scheduling). 18
  4. Provide networking, mentoring, sponsoring and professional development opportunities. ERGs, formal and informal mentoring and sponsorship opportunities, and professional and career development opportunities can help level the playing field by creating an environment where women and underrepresented minorities don’t have to climb uphill to access the same opportunities as others.
  5. Enlist everyone in D&I initiatives. Inclusion training can provide men and women with the information and tools to become valuable supporters of diversity. Some CIOs may be able to leverage enterprisewide inclusion training initiatives, such as MassMutual’s employee programme “White Men and Allies,” which is designed to bring men into the D&I conversation.
  6. Walk the talk. In any department, leaders set the tone. CIOs’ beliefs, words, and actions usually help drive IT D&I goals and objectives. For example, they can serve as advisors for ERGs, lead corporate or team D&I initiatives or committees, or sponsor and mentor high-performing women technologists. CIOs can also work to help ensure that outside vendors and partners share similar corporate diversity objectives. “Employees watch leaders like hawks,” Roellig says. “Leaders need to make clear that diversity and inclusion are priorities. They are not just extracurriculars or nice things to have if you have spare time, but part of your corporate objectives,” he says. “Live it, breathe it and show it to the organisation in all of your actions.”

CIO Programme

CIOs lead unique and complex lives—operating at the intersection of business and IT to deliver value to their organisations. To help CIOs manage these challenges and issues, Deloitte has created the CIO Programme. The programme provides distinctive offerings to support the CIO career life cycle through leadership-development programmes, immersive lab experiences, insights on provocative topics and career transition support to complement the technology services and solutions we provide to our clients.

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Anjali Shaikh is a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP. She is based in Costa Mesa, California.
Kristi Lamar is a managing director at Deloitte Consulting LLP. She is based in Denver, Colorado.
Kavitha Prabhakar is a principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP. She is based in Chicago, Illinois.
Caroline Brown is a senior writer at Deloitte LLP. She is based in Portland, Oregon.

The authors would like to acknowledge Dan Krantz, Brad Hildestad, Jeanette Olson, Taren Rodabaugh, and Mark Roellig for their valuable contributions to the editorial development of this CIO Insider.

Elizabeth Moore, Allen Qiu, and Liz Sarno diligently analysed data, provided quality control, and conducted secondary research. Rachel Lebeaux cheerfully managed the MassMutual interviewing and writing process, and Dana Kublin created the cover art with her usual unique blend of elegance and precision.

As always, we are indebted to Junko Kaji, Rithu Thomas, Mike Boone, Sonya Vasilieff, Molly Woodworth and the entire Deloitte Insights team for their editorial and production skills, patience, and flexibility.

The participation of Dan Krantz, Brad Hildestad, Jeanette Olson, Taren Rodabaugh, and Mark Roellig in this article is solely for educational purposes based on their knowledge of the subject, and the views expressed by them are solely their own.

Cover image by: Dana Kublin


    Maynard Webb, “How to alter your hiring practices to increase diversity,” Forbes, October 29, 2017.

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  2. Cary Funk and Kim Parker, “Women and men in STEM often at odds over workplace equity,” Pew Research Centre, January 9, 2018.

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  3. US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Diversity in high tech,” accessed September 21, 2018.

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  4. All information from Dan Krantz taken from phone interview conducted on February 22, 2018.

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  5. All information from Brad Hildestad taken from phone interview conducted on July 9, 2018.

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  6. All information from Mark Roellig taken from phone interview conducted on May 31, 2018.

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  7. Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon, “The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths,” Deloitte Review 22, January 22, 2018.

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  8. Ibid.

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    Shannon Anderson-Finch and Nicole Patterson, Inclusive mobility: How mobilizing a diverse workforce can drive business performance, Deloitte, 2018.


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  10. Ibid.

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  11. All information from Jeanette Olson taken from phone interview conducted on August 9, 2018.

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  12. Catherine Ashcraft, Brad McLain, and Elizabeth Eger, Women in tech: the facts, National Centre for Women, 2016.

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  13. Susan Davis-Ali, Advancing women technologists into positions of leadership, Anita, 2017.

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  14. All information from Taren Rodabaugh taken from phone interview conducted on July 16, 2018.

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  15. Ibid.

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  16. Ibid.

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  17. Kavitha Prabhakar et. al, Smashing IT’s glass ceiling: Perspectives from leading women CIOs, Deloitte Insights, March 7, 2018.

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  18. Kate Ward, “The truth is in the data: The top 5 ways to recruit more women,” Inhersight, accessed October 3, 2018.

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