What STEM Leaders can Learn from MLK's Legacy - InformationWeek
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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
2/5/2019
07:00 AM
Alisia Genzler, President and Chief Client Officer, Randstad Technologies
Alisia Genzler, President and Chief Client Officer, Randstad Technologies
Commentary
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What STEM Leaders can Learn from MLK’s Legacy

Businesses across all sectors have to improve their efforts to drive greater diversity in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforces.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” King saw the true value in an interconnected, diverse America and devoted his life to achieving just that. While we have made historic strides toward a more diverse and inclusive society, there’s still room for improvement, especially within the STEM workplace.

For example, the number of women in IT occupations has declined over the last decade  just as blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented across most STEM occupations. That also is negatively impacting business performance, as recent workplace predictions from Randstad make clear: Diversity helps companies innovate and outpace rival companies. To remain competitive, then, companies must weave diversity and inclusion strategies into the fabric of their businesses.

Here are three questions to consider when improving your diversity and inclusion strategy.

Is your company minority-friendly?

A majority of employees (78%) say a workplace where people are treated equally — regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, race or religion — is important to them. Despite the heightened attention to recruiting minorities in the technology sector, significant work remains to be done to close this gap. In fact, less than half of employees consider their companies to be a diversity employer of choice. Here are some best practices to attract more minority candidates.

  • Partner with a staffing company. Discuss your diversity goals with a staffing company, and develop an action plan to achieve them.
  • Create an internship program. Provide internship opportunities that provide shadowing and mentorship. This also allows recruits to get an idea of the workplace culture.
  • Provide reskilling/retraining programs. Create programs for existing minority employees to get the skill sets they need to grow within your company.
  • Pledge to provide equal pay. Consider improving your communication efforts around pay practices and pledge to be more transparent. The majority (82%) of companies believe they offer equal pay regardless of gender, but only slightly more than half of workers agree.

Armed with these simple best practices, you should be able to spearhead change in your workplace today.

Are you aware of unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is defined as social stereotypes towards certain groups of people that exist below the level of conscious thought. Those unconscious biases, if unchecked, can derail diversity and inclusion initiatives before they even get off the ground. Hiring managers, for example, might be unconsciously selecting for certain types of candidates, for the same reason that some candidates might unwittingly be getting an unwelcoming message from your company.

In a Stanford University study, researchers observed recruiting styles in tech companies and found that many alienated female candidates. Companies with predominantly male employees have also been found to use more masculine language in job descriptions, which can deter female candidates from applying in the first place. Unconscious bias has its effects within the workplace as well. One study found that 88% of women have had clients or colleagues address questions to their male counterparts that should have been addressed to them. Behaviors such as this may not be intentional, but they occur all the time, and that needs to change.

How can my business help diversify the STEM talent pipeline?

The US will need to fill about 3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025, yet as many as 2 million of those jobs may go unfilled due to the lack of candidates who have the requisite skills. To change that we need to start engaging with students earlier. Indeed, one study found four out of five STEM college students decided to study STEM topics in high school — or earlier. What’s more, given that students between the ages of 11 and 17 tend to have a natural curiosity around STEM topics, the challenge for us is not generating student interest in STEM, but simply nurturing their inborn curiosity. 

Looking to play an active part in improving — and diversifying — the nation’s STEM talent pipeline? Check out these STEM resources to see how your business can get involved in nurturing tomorrow’s talent, today.

Key takeaways

By asking and answering these three simple questions, you can begin to make changes, and grow your business by diversifying your workforce. It’s not going to happen overnight, of course. And that is reflected in something else Dr. King once said: “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

Businesses across the board must engage in that struggle in 2019 and beyond. Those that do it best will also discover they’ve gained a significant competitive advantage on all the rest.

Alisia Genzler, President and Chief Client Officer, Randstad Technologies. With over 20 years of industry experience, she oversees all sales teams and manages sales performance across strategic, major, key and emerging account segments, bringing strategy to major and emerging client accounts. Additionally, she is responsible for expanding the company’s staffing, permanent and solutions portfolios at the client level. Genzler previously served as executive vice president for the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of Randstad Technologies. She graduated from Marquette University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in finance as well as a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (B.S.B.A.) in finance and financial management services.

 

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