Diversity & Inclusion ‘A Must For Tech Leaders’: UnTapped Tech Breakfast Features Vancouver Changemakers

by | Aug 24, 2017 | News | 0 comments

JUNE 26, VANCOUVER—For Lilian Umurungi, Human Resources Specialist at Capcom Studio, there is a simple reason for diversity in the workplace: “It’s less boring.”

Umurungi was one of four panelists at the UnTapped Tech Breakfast organized by Open Door Group last Thursday, where employers and community leaders gathered to hear about diversity and inclusion initiatives in the technology sector. She was joined by Briana Sim, co-founder and COO of Radical I/O; Christin Wiedemann, Chief Scientist and co-CEO at Professional Quality Assurance Ltd.; and Gary Birch, Executive Director of the Neil Squire Society.

Although diversity helps a business’ bottom line, the panelists were passionate about diversity and inclusion work for other reasons. “It’s about creating a community of shared values,” said Sims, whose company has reached gender parity. For Birch, who has been in a wheelchair since age 17, it’s about “making a fuss” and advocating for oneself so that others may also benefit.

For a company wanting to diversify their workplace, recruitment practices are a crucial place to start. “Words matter,” said Wiedemann, and both Sims and Birch also advocated for replacing long requirement lists with more friendly, open wording. At Capcom, Umurungi explained that they run job postings through an app that looks for gender neutral language.

Beyond written postings, job interviews must also be reimagined. “Look for the potential in the ability of a person,” said Birch. Likewise, Sims looks for life experience in an interview along with certifications. Umurungi allows anyone interested to tour Capcom’s work space and meet employees before an interview to ensure a fit on both ends. The composition of an interview panel can also impact diversity, and Wiedemann reminded the audience that unconscious bias can affect people hiring others similar to themselves. “Homogeneity keeps us within boxes,” she said.

Employers may improve diversity through better hiring, but inclusion is an ongoing, active process. As Wiedemann put it: “Diversity is being invited to the party—inclusion is being asked to dance.” Asking employees to dance, so to speak, means a reflection on workplace culture. “[It’s a myth] that there aren’t qualified women for tech jobs,” said Sims, but not a myth that tech workplaces are male-dominated and often exclusionary for women. Wiedemann constantly asks employees with barriers what they need, recognizing that situations can change daily and that certain barriers are invisible. “The genius in the room is…the person who asks the questions,” said Umurungi.

Accommodations for employees with barriers do take extra effort, but technology can help. “[It] allows people to define their own work environment,” said Wiedemann. Panelists spoke of technology facilitating more flexibility for women with young children and supporting employees with physical disabilities. Further, an employer committed to an inclusive workplace will likely have employees that are committed long-term, said Birch—grateful for the opportunity to work after years of struggling to find the right fit.

Although leaders in the field, the UnTapped panelists also shared mistakes they’d made throughout their careers. “I wish I was less nice,” said Wiedemann, explaining that people will always come up for excuses regarding why they can’t do diversity and inclusion work. For Sims and Umurungi, connecting sooner with others doing similar work would have expanded their networks and increased support. This solidifies the importance of the UnTapped Series as one such network.

We respectfully acknowledge the work of Open Door Group & Untapped Awards takes place across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario — the homelands of over 500 distinct Indigenous nations and cultures. We extend thanks, honour, and respect to our hosts for stewarding these lands since time immemorial.