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Better IT Outcomes Require Diverse Perspectives

Organizations in the public and private sectors are embracing the benefits of a more diverse workforce. IT leaders shared their approach and the changes they’ve seen.

Maisha Dottery, CIO, DCSD.jpg
Department of Community Services and Development CIO Maisha Dottery speaks on a panel at the Los Angeles IT Leadership Forum March 7.
There’s a familiar color scheme that repeats throughout the IT world: blue, brown and white. That’s a blue suit, brown shoes and belt, and white skin.

This description perfectly matched a contingent of men (myself included) in the audience at a recent Los Angeles IT Leadership Forum* panel discussion on the importance of diversity in IT organizations.

Breaking away from the homogeneous hallmarks of the space takes intention and a willingness to listen to all voices at all levels of an organization, panelists said.

Google’s Dianne Hackett said this work had traditionally been relegated to the interpersonal level between hiring managers and employees, but has since spread to the organizational level as companies and government embrace the importance of inclusion. Google, she noted, has been very open about not only its diversity goals, but how well it’s meeting those goals.

“When you drill down to the team level, the way it really shows up for us is not just in terms of the diversity of our teams, representation on teams, but how we build better products as a result of that,” Hackett said.

Diverse perspectives have been instrumental in the success of products, like the Pixel smartphone, which, among other things, uses guided frame technology that allows people with visual impairments to take better photos.

“We've designed that, with that in mind, because we have diverse teams saying we need to design products that actually work for all of our users,” Hackett added.

Maisha Dottery, chief information officer of the California Department of Community Services and Development (DCSD), said her approach has been to create a space where all voices feel comfortable offering their opinions. She called this “breaking the yolk.”

“Valuing the voice of the people is really important and central to my leadership style; to get diverse teams, you have to value everybody on the team,” Dottery said.

Like Dottery, Ventura County Employees’ Retirement Association (VCERA) Chief Technology Officer Leah Oliver said leading with intention and supporting staff are the first steps in creating an environment where all voices can be heard.

“I've been learning as I've been growing my team, that everybody has a diverse perspective, I have men and women on my team, different ethnicities, different levels of abilities, and knowledge, and I’ve found that their viewpoints are very important,” Oliver said.

Ultimately, the panelists said, the benefits of inclusion extend beyond new hires and will also help with another pain point for IT organization: worker retention.

* The Los Angeles IT Leadership Forum is hosted by Government Technology, Industry Insider — California's sister publication. Both are a part of e.Republic.
Eyragon is the Managing Editor for Industry Insider — California. He previously served as the Daily News Editor for Government Technology. He lives in Sacramento, Calif.