How technology can enhance diversity and inclusion


By Marina Ruggieri, IEEE fellow and professor of telecommunications at University of Roma “Tor Vergata”

If I were a painter, I would consider a canvas as a neutral means to transfer my ideas and emotions into a painting.

When we discuss the neutrality of technology, we are referring to the idea that the technology is the canvas, and technologists and scientists are the painters. We have the role, competence, and responsibility to make the canvas become artwork.

A blank canvas

The beauty of technology is its intrinsic neutrality. Technology has a huge potential to either benefit or damage the environment, and the teams working on said technology have the opportunity to shape it to fully benefit them. This is indeed a fascinating opportunity, which is open to all in a broad breath of diversity and inclusiveness. The more diverse and inclusive the technology team is, the more diverse and inclusive the application developers are, and the more beneficial the result will be. New technologies which are fair and unbiased are really the best ally when it comes to designing an attractive and lasting future for humans and the planet.

The power of AI

One example of neutral technology can be seen with artificial intelligence (AI). This particular technology often generates mixed feelings, and many individuals have a strong lack of trust with it. What worries a lot of people, is perhaps potentially an uncontrolled evolution of the algorithms which can cause damage to humans. For example, the troubles caused to the protagonist of the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” by a super intelligent calculator are hard to forget, for people of all generations.

AI algorithms need to be trusted in the most objective way – and what is more objective than a truly diverse and inclusive team of developers? Diversity and inclusiveness could be a strong guideline for the algorithm evaluation from the performance and ethical viewpoints. AI is going to be increasingly pervasive and, if properly developed and tested, is destined to become an extremely beneficial pillar for the sustainability of the planet. AI is just one of the many examples of technology frameworks where diversity and inclusiveness can improve the results, create a powerful osmosis between the means and goals and create a natural outcome.

Collaboration is key

A deep trust in technology and its neutrality is very important to appreciate the role AI can play to create an even environment. For example, when daily activities in either professional or social domains are widely supported by the neutrality of a key-technology such as AI, diversity and inclusion can be more easily guaranteed. Neutral technology is the “guardian” of even opportunities which can contribute to various domains in the most diverse way. Only an unbalanced trust in technology could result in a lack of diversity and inclusion.

As humans, we are intrinsically non-linear, and our unconscious bias is aligned with natural behaviour. The rational approach of AI-based algorithms is an effective means to balance the human non-linear trait in various application domains, like recruiting procedures. The best outcome is teamwork between humans and AI, as this provides a contribution of rational and non-linear behaviour. In fact, the rational and data-driven approach identifies the short list of solutions to a given task or issue while the non-linear contribution helps identify the spike often associated with an ingenious solution.

Any technology which is prone to exchange knowledge from data and to allow the proper use of knowledge is an ally to diversity and inclusion. Going forward, we can expect technologies that have broad coverage and highly reliable speed and latency to be utilised within the super-connected infrastructure.

About the author

Marina Ruggieri is an IEEE fellow and Full Professor of Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. She is co-founder and Chair of the Steering Board of the interdisciplinary Center for Teleinfrastructures (CTIF) at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. The Center focuses on the use of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for vertical applications (health, energy, cultural heritage, economics, law) by integrating terrestrial, air and space communications, computing, positioning and sensing.

5 strategies for building a more diverse and inclusive tech workplace

Front view of diverse business people looking at camera while working together at conference room in a modern office

The tech sector has always been incredibly fast paced, with the pandemic creating even more demand for new products and services—and the professionals that can work with these.

But with available tech talent still lacking in its diversity, we need to bring these underrepresented groups into the influx of tech roles we’re seeing crop up.

We’ve already made some impressive progress in places. However, with research from Ten Spot revealing that an alarming 70% of people report having experienced discrimination or abuse at work, we still have work to do to make our workplaces safe and welcoming for people from diverse backgrounds—and here are five ways you can do this.

  1. Be transparent with data reporting

Data is a powerful tool to help people acknowledge and understand a problem—and when used correctly, it can drive important decision-making in a range of areas, like diversity.

Although it can be a sensitive topic, it’s important that you’re transparent with reporting your diversity findings. For example, Google’s 2021 Diversity Annual Report revealed that the number of females hires they made globally in 2021 (33.7%) was almost half of that of male hires (66.3%). By honestly communicating these figures, they—and others—can hold them accountable for making a change. Plus, they’ll have something to refer to in future to see how effective these changes have been. So, be honest with your data and let it encourage you to do better.

  1. Welcome constructive criticism

Diversity has so many different rungs to it, so realistically, none of us are ever going to do anything perfectly—but we can try! Continuing to challenge ourselves and welcome a diversity of thought can make a huge change to the process, and accepting constructive criticism is critical to how well your strategy improves.

Society changes so quickly and working with feedback from people immersed within it ensures you stay up to date with these changing demographics, as well as allowing you to think about diversity on a deeper level, for example, thinking about the intersectionality of a demographic.

To get the best feedback, you need to go straight to the source and ask the people who live and breathe as part of the societal group you’re trying to improve the diversity of. In doing this, you’ll receive the most relevant and in-depth information that you can then use to make the most impactful changes.

  1. Diversify your talent pool during recruitment

The whole point of the hiring process is to find top talent, but when your talent pool is restricted, you also limit the people you will reach with your job ads, or who will apply. And with research from Gartner revealing that workplace performance improves by 12% in a diverse company culture, it’s clear we shouldn’t be omitting anyone from our search.

When you have a team of people that have had varied life experiences, and can offer diversity of thoughts and strengths, your ideation pool will also become larger and your chances of coming up with successful solutions will be much higher. Not only that, but it can improve your workplace inclusivity as your employees will be more exposed to different races, religions, values, and beliefs.

Taking the time to work on diversifying your talent pool and essentially, your workforce, can support your long-term ED&I strategy, as prospective employees will see the representation you have built within your company—making them more likely to want to join. You need to, however, ensure that diverse talent appears in every level and area of the business, because as humans, we always look out for people that look like us—and when we don’t see this, it can mean we don’t apply. To tackle this, it can help to build a diverse panel for interviews to remove any unconscious bias and ensure that the right people land the right positions.

  1. Celebrate cultural differences internally and externally

The only way we can build an inclusive workplace is if we work to understand each other’s differences and cultures—and ultimately, respect them. Because after all, the more we learn about each other, the more accepting we can be of one another.

For most U.K businesses, the Christmas period is a given for celebration, but what about all the other celebrations that happen throughout the year for different religions? Festivals like Eid, Diwali, and Chanukah are highlights on other religious calendars and educating your employees on this can be a way of opening their eyes to different cultures and will also help the religious groups that celebrate these events to feel less separated from their colleagues—particularly if they know others understand the premise behind these.

But remember—your diversification efforts don’t just need to be done internally, but rather celebrating your teams’ differences externally can also help. When people from these societal groups see you representing them on a wider scale, they’re sure to feel valued and understood. So, consider holding some social events or fundraisers to raise team spirit and help attract more diverse talent in the future.

  1. Provide inclusion training

One of the simplest, but most effective ways of creating an accepting workforce is to provide your employees with inclusion training to teach them about the groups of people they might meet in the workplace, and how they should treat them. By ensuring everybody undertakes this training, you can be sure your employees know what is, and what’s not acceptable.

At some point, we’ll all fall victim to unconscious biases about people, and diverse groups can often bear the brunt of this. So, it’s important that your staff also understand how to identify harassment, bullying, and discrimination in the workplace—and these courses can help develop their knowledge of this.

Ensuring you have a diverse workplace can open your business up to a range of fresh ideas and perspectives. And can make for a happier, more productive and inclusive place for everybody.

About the author

Caroline Fox is the Global EDI Leader at cloud talent solution firm, Tenth Revolution Group. Inspired by advances made to address ED&I with real action over recent years, Caroline is passionate about encouraging everybody to drive their diversity efforts forward.

diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profiles

Driving diversity in tech communications – why the onus isn’t just on women

diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profilesBy Vicky Sleight, VP of Diversity & Inclusion, Human Factor, TM Forum

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is finally recognised as indispensable for business success. In the two decades of working in the tech communications industry, I have witnessed the understanding of this function evolve from a nice-to-understand to a must-have. 

When I first landed in tech comms, it was unusual to find a senior female executive leading meetings in boardrooms or on conference platforms. The lack of a diverse and inclusive culture was reflective of a historical mindset that tech comms was a male and engineering-based industry.

Today, there are (just) six women CEOs leading 31 companies within the top global telco space. Professionals across the industry welcome this progress, but the journey the tech comms industry is on, still has a way to go.

Start with education

I feel a responsibility to teach younger generations, especially women, what it’s like to work in tech comms. It’s not an intimidating male-heavy space but rather an innovative industry that’s using technology to change the way we interact daily. If you’re passionate about collaboration, collective problem solving and driving change, then I truly believe tech comms is the industry for you.

We need women from different educational, professional and personal backgrounds to diversify the thinking in tech comms at one of the most exciting times for the industry. Working with schools and universities to showcase the potential of tech communications and the range of opportunities available will get us closer to achieving the diversity the industry craves.

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Networks of allies

While extremely rewarding, working in the tech comms industry can still sometimes be challenging for women. However, there are ways we can help level the playing field while we wait for individual corporate cultures to catch up with the prevailing desire for demonstrable D&I in wider society.

First, build a strong network of supporters. This isn’t just about talking to other women, but men too. The fight for diversity has never been just about women supporting women; it’s about involving our allies as well. The more diverse your network, the more different abilities and skill sets are available. Everyone will make mistakes during their career, but you can learn a lot from collaboration with other people with other viewpoints.

The same philosophy extends to allowing others to access your skillsets and advice, and mentoring is one way you can give back. Be a mentor and a mentee, and make sure you champion someone different to you. You don’t want to create a carbon copy of who you are or who your mentor is; you want someone different to learn your skills and benefit from your experience. In this way, we help deepen diversity even further.

The journey towards true equity is still very much a work in progress. However, no business or individual should go at it alone. It’s a collaborative effort that needs buy-in at all levels to succeed. Once the collective drive and strategic understanding are set in stone, we can start to action real change and develop a healthy environment that attracts and retains the right talent to capitalise on the tremendous growth the industry is seeing and create the future workplace.

About the author

Vicky SleightA cultural diversity and inclusion executive with 20 years’ experience in the global tech communication’s industry, Vicky Sleight is leading, influencing, and driving change at international level in culture change, equality, diversity and inclusion.  She has a successful track record of fostering innovative approaches to D&I and cultural change through collaboration with key stakeholders in industry, government, NGO’s and academia. 

At TM Forum, as VP Human Factor and Diversity and Inclusion, Vicky has built and is leading the global industry collaboration and Executive Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion along with the Digital Organisation Transformation & Culture program – the mission to accelerate digital transformation and succeed in the digital economy through ensuring tech communications is the most diverse industry in the world.