Let’s talk about diversity and inclusion in nearshore software development companies. There is a phrase that remains framed in my head and it serves as a reference every time I think about this very delicate subject and for which we still have a long way to go: Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being invited to dance. We have all attended a party or meeting in which, despite having been invited, we feel that we do not fit in until someone reaches out to us and asks us to dance. The same happens with the collaborators in the organization.
In the past, the concept of diversity that was approached was from compliance. In other words, the company's policies established that everyone, including minorities, should have the opportunity to be invited to work, but this was not put into practice. Inclusion, for its part, simply manifested itself with respectful coexistence towards these minorities.
However, with the recent movements that promote the acceptance and inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community, of people of different ethnicities, of young and not so young professionals, of different nationalities and of gender equality, today diversity and inclusion take on a new protagonist within the organization.
Still, these strategies can easily fail for a reason: having great diversity among employees isn't enough if the people who make it up don't feel welcome. In other words, you need to have a diverse workforce but also an inclusive work culture so that we are all at the center of the track and at the heart of the organization.
Starting by recognizing that the workforce is not homogeneous and that a single solution will not be suitable for all is crucial to promote inclusive strategies. For example, a young employee in your organization will not value a pregnancy benefit in the same way when she does not plan to have children in the near future. Perhaps, her interests are more in line with discounts on yoga classes. Meeting specific needs and requirements and customizing the delivery of benefits by offering a diverse range is a good idea to enhance diversity.
A corporate culture that encourages, embraces and celebrates the unique contributions of each employee makes the employee feel valued for who she/he is.
Every organization has rules and systems that, even by government law, require job diversity and the inclusion of minorities.
However, it is imperative that there is a process of comprehensive cultural change that moves from awareness to action and responsibility. We must encourage, support and demand not only new behaviors but also accountability from the leaders of the organization.
First, it is necessary to start for ourselves and recognize our own impartiality. Letting go of our prejudices towards those who are different from us is difficult for everyone, even for minorities that have historically been oppressed.
Understanding that we can lose the opportunity to hire great talent just because of their age, skin color or sexuality, is crucial. In the same way, it is also necessary to resist hiring only for its differentiating aspect and meet the quota required by law. We must all become vigilantes for inclusive behaviors, not just leaders. Our role in the organization must include holding ourselves accountable for creating and fostering an inclusive culture.
Building an inclusive culture is the shared responsibility of employees, managers, and organizational leaders as it takes all levels of the organization to maintain an inclusive workplace.
However, the role of leaders remains essential. They are the ones who must be fair when hiring, assigning work, evaluating compensation or conducting promotions; in addition to worrying about managers doing the same. Having leaders represent minorities not only helps recruit and manage a more inclusive workforce but also contributes to business strategy.
Going back to the party’s metaphor, in the center of the dance floor there must be women and men, whether or not they are members of the LGBTQIA+ community. There must be diversity of races, nationalities, zip codes, and social classes. The more generational groups, the better: from baby boomers to the newest talents of Gen Z. Even religion shouldn't be an impediment to dancing to organizational culture. Only in this way can we create and maintain a truly diverse and inclusive organization to improve the experience of all employees.