An Inclusive future: Tech’s fight to embrace D&I across the world
When it comes to inclusivity and diversity, there’s so much to be positive about nowadays.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a long way to go in ensuring businesses – particularly tech companies – are providing equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.
But more than ever, inclusivity is a priority. Inclusivity means all our diverse employees working together productively and happily. And while Fujitsu still has work to do, I’m proud of our progress – and of the benefits (both ethically and strategically) that we’ve discovered come with embracing a more diverse, inclusive workplace culture.
A question of gender
Here’s some stats that gave me pause for thought: women hold 56% of university degrees overall, but just 36% of STEM degrees. Furthermore, only 22% of AI professionals are women – with the figure dropping to 12% for machine learning researchers.
I’m pleased to say the gender pay and skill gaps are widely acknowledged. But while there’s been great progress in the UK, solving the issue on a global scale is complex.
Why? Because the reasons for these disparities vary so much from region to region.
Any organization that’s serious about inclusivity therefore needs a holistic program. One that takes into account the unique legislative and cultural circumstances of each country.
For example, the success of our inclusivity program in the UK is, in part, thanks to the maturity of the region. The gender pay gap is a hot topic, and there’s legislation in place to reduce it over time. Our efforts therefore were widely welcomed by all our staff.
And while we do measure the gender pay gap across our global offices as well, we see a marked difference in how gender issues are discussed. For example, in India, fewer women work in IT in the region, so we’ve made it a focus to address this imbalance in local offices.
It’s our Philippines team who’ve really blazed a trail though. Over the last five years, they’ve achieved not only an employee split of 50% men and 50% women, but also a 50/50 split in the leadership team as well. It’s wonderful to see how the team have embraced diversity, and I hope it serves as a model for other businesses.
The role of technology
Of course, inclusivity goes beyond gender and ethnicity. It’s important that companies are also welcoming to those with disabilities.
I’m pleased to say, as a technology company, we’ve put our talents to good use in creating innovative solutions to ensure people with disabilities – whether they be visible or invisible – feel comfortable and supported in their place of work.
We’re proud to work with our UK charity partner Autistica to develop BuddyConnect – an app designed to make work more inclusive for neurodiverse people.
The app pairs neurodiverse users with a ‘buddy’ – a one-to-one partner specifically trained to assist neurodiverse people in the workplace.
Neurodiverse people may be especially sensitive to things like bright lights, loud noises, certain colors, or social situations. If a user feels stressed or triggered at any time, they can use the app to simply message their buddy, who will suggest an alternative working method or location or simply provide a calming voice in that situation.
Users can communicate problems even before they feel distressed, helping them improve their productivity – and more importantly, their wellbeing.
This system, along with others, is currently being testing in the UK and in our offices in Russia. But after the pilot, we hope to roll it out to teams worldwide.
The benefits of diversity
But why should companies embrace diversity and inclusivity in the first place?
The most important answer is that, quite simply, it’s the right thing to do. But morals aside, diverse and inclusive companies have a clear business advantage over their less-progressive counterparts.
Research has found 68% of UK employers struggle to find workers with the right skills. Furthermore, a World Economic Forum report has said 30% of the skills that will be needed by 2020 are lacking, or not currently seen as critical.
The message is clear: the digital age is heralding one of the biggest skill upheavals in recent times. And to secure top candidates, businesses must widen their talent pools.
Not only this, but inclusive companies also have a wider pool of knowledge on which to draw on. By avoiding a one-color, one-gender ‘monoculture’, businesses can benefit from a diverse array of ideas, opinions and experiences, helping them to be creative and gain a competitive edge.
The ethical case for inclusivity is clear. And as you can see, so is the business case. We recognize that change won’t happen overnight. But as perceptions shift and I see our global teams break target after target, I’m optimistic that the future of Fujitsu – and the technology industry in general – will be one where everyone feels welcome.
To learn more about the benefits of diversity and inclusion, and the technology which enables it, take a look at our report, ‘How co-creation is enabling a more inclusive workforce’.