The giants of tech are starting to lay off employees, and diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) related roles have been some of the first on the chopping block. A report by Bloomberg (News - Alert) has highlighted significant cuts to such teams in companies including social media giants Twitter (News - Alert), and has served to witness industry-wide trends. With the people who worked in a role at the vanguard of providing for and championing DEI progressiveness within the businesses, the question remains on how businesses can continue to serve employees from marginalized backgrounds without that support.
Doing the minimum
A good way for businesses to critically assess their attitude and processes towards employees and to meet DEI goals is to look at how they can make the day-to-day process of life a little bit easier. As HR magazine SHRM highlights, employers can absolutely do more for employees, especially those from minority groups or with disabilities. The latter group have rejoined the workforce in record numbers post-pandemic, and are potentially in need of the most assistance from compassionate employers. This is especially true with remote working, which many remaining employees will be committed to. The disconnect between employer and employee has been enhanced by remote working, and while the reasonable adjustments of working at home have helped a lot, there is a time when employers need to step in. This is especially important when considering short-term disability and similar events within the lifetime of the employee.
Overtaking unconscious bias
DEI advisers and professionals had helped to break down the barriers that had been put up by unconscious bias training. As the BBC highlights, the stated intention of unconscious bias training is to deliver against unknown and potentially deep-seated biases in each and every employee; however, this does take the onus away from structural inequality and how to tackle it. If DEI advisers are to be removed from their roles, businesses must continue to approach discussion on DEI with a frank and open opinion, rather than diverting back to the sometimes harmful impact of unconscious bias training.
The next tech generation
Much of tech is moving in one clear direction - towards automation and artificial decision making. While this is a great opportunity to entirely remove bias from the decision making process, the reality isn’t quite as perfect. As the Washington Post highlights, cutting-edge AI systems are as disposed towards non-inclusive behavior as anything else designed by a workforce with biases. For that reason, tech companies need to be aware of DEI issues at every step of the design process - they will only build good quality products if they have focus in this area.
DEI is not just a matter of ensuring fairness for employees when it comes to the tech industry. It’s also a matter of ensuring that the next generation of digital products are fit for purpose and are to the benefit, not the detriment, of the wider user base.