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Four Actions for CIOs to Advance Diversity, Equity & Inclusion


As part of their leadership responsibilities, CIOs should leverage their influence and technology resources to take an active role in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, according to Gartner, Inc.

“The disruption from the pandemic and social injustices have raised employee expectations when it comes to DEI,” said Rob O’Donohue, senior research director at Gartner. “CIOs have an enormous opportunity to use their position as a digital business leader to support marginalized groups and meet executive commitments with action.”

Gartner recommends that CIOs and their direct reports focus on four key actions to advance DEI in the enterprise and in their communities:

Challenge Existing Thinking on DEI Programs
CIOs must take a strategic and self-reflective approach to their involvement in DEI initiatives, identifying a shortlist of DEI priorities that will have high impact and that IT can directly influence.

CIOs should challenge their IT teams to answer different questions on DEI, such as, “What are the barriers to increasing diversity in the technology profession?” or “Why do women tend to drop out of the technology pipeline as their careers progress?” CIOs should select initiatives to become involved with where there is a collective passion and aligned sense of purpose.

Develop an Array of Partnerships
CIOs can advance diversity within IT by forging connections with educational institutes and nonprofits to help pivot or accelerate marginalized groups into a technology career. These partnerships can offer training and access to technology, which supports the creation of a diverse IT talent pipeline.

Additionally, CIOs can develop partnerships with sourcing, procurement and other stakeholders to ensure the diversity of their organization’s technology suppliers. Gartner defines a diverse supplier as a business that is at least 51% owned and operated by individuals that are part of a traditionally underrepresented group.

“Supplier diversity offers advantages to the organization such as new approaches to digital transformation, increased innovation and new channels for procuring goods and services,” said O’Donohue.

Forge Connections to Overcome Digital Inequities in the Community
“In many parts of the world, one of the biggest barriers to equity is technology access,” said O’Donohue. “The digital divide has been even more visible since the pandemic hit.”

CIOs should identify technology inequities in the local community or in other regions of the world and leverage partnerships and internal resources to help close the gap. Address inequities by offering access to technology services, applications, and/or technical expertise. For example, consider partnering with a local school in a lower-income neighborhood to provide laptops and tablets to students, or volunteer your employees to host an introduction to coding bootcamp.

Strengthen IT Community Inclusion
CIOs and their IT leaders can use their influence to reach out to marginalized groups within their teams to instill a sense of inclusion. Supporting employees through coaching initiatives or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), such as a “Women in Technology” community, can help to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace.

“As members of the C-suite, CIOs are uniquely positioned to provide key executive sponsorship and allocate resources for ERGs, mentoring and other inclusivity efforts,” said O’Donohue.

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