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What Layoffs Reveal About Big Tech's Commitment to DEI
In the wake of the SVB implosion, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece with an incredibly reactionary take, suggesting that outcomes would have been better with “12 white men” on their board.
There was an immediate backlash—the idea was nonsense—but that it was published in the Journal reveals a lingering undercurrent of anti-DEI sentiment.
It’s a theme mirrored in the ongoing wave of layoffs in Big Tech, which suggest that investing in diverse talent is a fair weather activity. A recent Bloomberg report found that big tech layoffs hit diversity and inclusion jobs extra hard.
“Companies made promises to hire more underrepresented groups,” the Bloomberg report reads. Some of these promises, we are now learning, were empty.
So what should happen now to help those companies recover this fumble? And if the DEI bubble was fake, how can we make it real?
At the most recent Change Makers dinner, co-hosted by A.Team and the executive recruiting firm, Hunt Club, Angelique Bellmer Krembs, A.Team’s CMO-in-Residence, asked these provocative questions to a diverse group of investors, founders, and enterprise leaders who are obsessed with the future of work.
They came up with five steps for tech leaders who want to get strategic about DEI:
- Set DEI up correctly. If DEI’s last wave wasn’t real - set up too quickly, not anchored in a clear business case and not integrated into the strategy, then let’s start that now. Create clear goals and through-the-line accountability, starting from the top.
- Maintain a visible access point. One clear benefit of the standalone DEI office was not only the signal of intent, but also the clear access point for outsiders to find a way into otherwise fortressed institutions. Even if we do integrate thoughtful intention into the businesses, we need to preserve that access point for outsiders until more progress is made.
- Strap in for the long haul. Early change makers can spark initial progress, but it's important to keep in mind that this is a continuous process with long term goals. Since the work has to start somewhere, we have to be willing to accept our role at the beginning, without a guarantee of quick results.
- Accountability starts at the top. There is no question that real change starts with a real intention at the top of an organization. In the case of DEI, it really needs to be company boards that hold the c-suite accountable for their talent, and the metrics that matter in a modern workplace.
- Bring it back to shared values. We need visible values to set the right intentions for DEI to work. Take the story of a Big Tech CEO who cared authentically about nurturing diverse talent: She started a meeting on the topic by saying “I’ll give everyone 5 minutes to leave if they don’t believe this is important and urgent. I won’t judge you, I just don’t want to waste your time or mine. I only want you to stay here if you are as committed to this work as I am.”
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