How to Increase Diversity in Your ISV’s Team

Your intentions may be admirable, but if applicants for jobs at your company all come from a common demographic, what can you do to build a more diverse workforce?

If you’re like most ISVs and software development companies, you probably have a paragraph on your employment applications and on your website that you are an equal opportunity employer committed to increasing diversity. You state something to the effect of your business does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, gender, gender expression, age, ancestry, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or military status.

When you look around the room at a scrum meeting or annual company gathering, though, do you see primarily young, white, single men?

Your intentions may be admirable, but if applicants for jobs at your company all come from a common demographic, what can you do to build a more diverse workforce?

Catherine Reid, Chief Human Resources Officer at Veracode, shares some ideas for how to increase diversity on your team:

Build diversity in leadership: When you are choosing a co-founder, are you likely to look for people who share traits with you? Then, do you follow that same pattern when filling other leadership roles? Or, are you providing role models for diverse applicants and employees?

“It’s so important to have diversity within leadership,” says Reid. “Only 30 CEOs among the Fortune 500 are women, according to Fortune Magazine. That’s just not good enough.”

“We’re fortunate at Veracode to have a significant number of women in leadership positions, including our CEO, Sam King. Indeed, 40 percent of our executive team at Veracode is female, and as a team, we have a number of ethnicities, diverse backgrounds, and experiences represented,” she says. “This demonstrates our commitment to career growth and paths to success for all employees, not just some, and allows for mentorship at all levels that also builds sustained success.”

Consider hiring employees without traditional tech backgrounds: If you don’t consider applicants unless they have specific degrees, you may limit your ability to increase diversity. For example, in 1970, women represented only 13.6 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer science. That number rose to 37 percent in 1984. Now, that number is down to 18 percent. Women with degrees in other areas, however, may be quite valuable to your organization.

“People from outside traditional tech backgrounds should be considered for more opportunities in tech companies to improve diversity and add or promote from beyond the majority in the workforce,” Reid comments.

Mentor students as they choose degree programs: Reid explains, “The importance of role models for anyone choosing a degree program or career is key. When people see peers or people like them succeeding in an industry, it follows that more will believe it is attainable and will pursue degrees in those fields.”

She adds that building a culture that helps all employees find success is also vital. “If the tech industry can improve not just recruitment but retaining women and minorities in the workforce, I think that can go a long way towards encouraging others to pursue those career paths and relevant degree programs,” Reid says.

More than a Compliance Issue

If a diversity policy has only been a way to check a box on a compliance checklist, you may want to think again. Reid points out that research is clear: Boston Consulting Group research found that the most diverse organizations had nearly 20 percent higher revenues than less diverse companies.

Reid says, however, “Above all, a diverse and inclusive culture creates a healthy, supportive environment where each individual can bring their best selves to work and realize their full potential – in turn helping our customers, our colleagues and community realize their potential, too.”

“It’s also widely accepted that diverse workplaces are more productive environments,” she says. “Diverse teams fuel innovation, and as a tech company, Veracode thrives on innovation. Without having diversity, equality, and inclusion at the heart of our values, we would simply be limiting our ability to tap into a wider talent pool and get the best from our people.”