5 Steps to Overcoming Diversity Challenges

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“It’s not a skills gap. It’s a confidence gap,” said CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux at ChannelCon in Austin, Texas, last month. He explained that technology skills can be acquired, but people need the confidence that they can learn these skills and succeed in IT careers.

“We can take anyone who has the commitment and get them the skills to work in this industry,” he said.

Thibodeaux attributes the confidence gap to a lack of diversity in IT – race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, education and location. He said that we have to embrace a new way of thinking about how we can bring more people into the workforce.

“The more you bring people into your world, the more that breeds acceptance,” he said.

He cited three challenges to diversity:

  • Visibility – having a good understanding of the field you’re going into and knowing what you need to be successful.
  • Pipeline – helping underrepresented groups to find their way to IT, bridge the confidence gap and let them see that they can succeed.
  • Culture – creating a culture that embraces diversity.

Thibodeaux shared that diversity in the workplace can lead to faster innovation, better customer insight, productivity, greater market share and more.

To overcome these three diversity challenges, he offered five steps to move ahead.

  1. Make unconscious bias conscious. It’s human nature to connect with similar people, he said. We have to intentionally remove this bias by standardizing hiring practices and overcoming stereotypes, such as thinking women aren’t good at science.

  2. Prioritize diversity inclusion. You can’t simply post jobs in the usual places and expect diverse candidates to apply. Thibodeaux suggested approaching it as a market issue – find out where diverse candidates are and how you can reach them.

  3. Fill the pipeline. Be proactive in recruitment and start searches earlier so you can cast a wide net. Make diversity part of your brand and recruit non-traditional candidates, such as those without a college degree or without an IT background, Thibodeaux said. Partner with diversity groups, including nonprofits, educational groups and workforce investment boards.

  4. Examine your workforce culture. Don’t expect that new hires will assimilate to your culture, he said. Mentor and nurture staff and offer diversity training to create an environment that welcomes diversity.

  5. Be a mentor and connect. Leverage social media to learn about other professions or from other cultures. Thibodeaux recommended intentionally diversifying your LinkedIn connections and following a variety of people on Twitter.

“The people who could work in those fields don’t have the confidence they can do it. The confidence that you can succeed in an industry like IT has contributed to the confidence gap,” Thibodeaux said. “If we can narrow that confidence gap, we can get more people into the skills pipeline and address that.”

CompTIA AITP aims to attract and support a large, diverse and skilled IT talent pool. Learn more about how CompTIA AITP can help you start, grow and advance your technology career.