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Diversity and Inclusion as Business Drivers in the Tech Industry

Microsoft's commitment to diversity & inclusion:

Microsoft has a clear mission: to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. These are not mere words to us - it's a part of our core DNA, are basics of how we work with our customers, our partners, our stakeholders and internally with our people and teams. And what does this mean.

There are billions of people who want to achieve more, but have a different set of circumstances, abilities, and backgrounds that often lock them out of participating in the world that is happening around them.

We believe strongly that our mission to empower everyone will only be fulfilled when everyone is included. We understand that diversity is the full range of human identities and organizational differences—both visible and invisible —including beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, age, ability, socioeconomics, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, language, nationality, and more. So, this effort isn't centralized or top down. It's diffused across the company.

Our cultural principles. We're applying our cultural principles to everything from how we conceptualize and create products to how we treat our suppliers and our neighbors anywhere we do business.

We're integrating diversity and inclusion into our processes, behaviors, and operational rhythms. Not a separate group or initiative. It's part of every Microsoft employee's core commitment.

As part of the employee performance and development experience, we continually state and reaffirm our mission, values, and expected behaviors—behaviors like bringing out the best in one another, building on the work of others, and contributing to team results and the success of others.

To achieve our aspirations for diversity and inclusion—and our mission—Microsoft is looking beyond our own workplace and even our immediate communities.

We're making investments in the areas where data shows we have the potential to make the greatest impact, including building early interest and skills in tech through collaboration with other tech companies, and accelerating diversity across industries and business.

We partner with suppliers that show better practices and policies for the workplace. And, in some circumstances, we actively engage to develop solutions to problems that can only be resolved through changes in public policy.

Having a more diverse and inclusive workforce helps us shape technology that can serve the full range of human experiences and needs.

These efforts are part and parcel of our mission to help every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

How does diversity & inclusion drive business value? More specifically in the tech industry:

Diversity, Inclusion and Allyship are both a responsibility and an opportunity.

Diverse and inclusive companies are not only more innovative and profitable, but they’re also better at retaining top talent who can meet the needs of customers from a wide range of communities. The better you represent global diversity within your company, the more prepared you will be to innovate and meet the needs of your customers.

Did you know that there is over are 1 billion people in the world who have disabilities, many of whom need assistive technology? But only 1 in 10 have access to the products needed, and this means many of them can't fully participate in our economies and societies.

Think about it this way—if you don’t design for accessibility and inclusion, you are excluding a large segment of the global population who could be customers or employees.

In a 2018 study done by Accenture it was established that more diverse companies are more innovative and outperform the competition by 35%

Diversity and inclusion are especially important to millennials who will be 75% of the global workforce by 2025- say they want to work at places that reflect their values. Diversity and inclusion are on the top of their list.

62% millennials said they want a career with social impact and purpose

What we don't talk enough about is the human case. Based on what we know about how the brain works, a strong culture of inclusion is critical for employees to do their best work.

Feelings of exclusion activate the brain in a way similar to the experience of physical pain.

  • When we feel excluded

  • We're less productive

  • We don't think as intelligently

  • We procrastinate

  • We become more frustrated

  • We are less likely to cooperate with others

  • This is a pretty strong case for working extra hard to be inclusive.

  • When you do not intentionally include. You unintentionally exclude.

What advice can you offer to the business leader on how to make the tech sector more diverse?

I believe the secret to success in this space is to 'manage' D and Inclusion like a business. Let me talk to you about our own real example in an effort to share and help trigger thought. This is specific to the work we are doing in the space of accessibility.

Microsoft believes disability is a strength and, over the years, we have worked to enable our products to help meet the needs of all our customers. Accessibility is a built-in not a bolt on for us.

What does it mean for tech companies to manage accessibility like a business.

We rebuilt our company-wide accessibility program with a more systematic way to measure progress and set targets.

Our model is comprised of eight overarching dimensions by which we assess our accessibility journey.

We realize that each organization has its own pace and starting point, and you may have your own criteria. Consider these as examples to consider as you progress on your journey.

Our dimensions include:

  • People & Culture

  • Vision, Strategy and Engagement

  • Investments

  • Standards

  • Training, Support & Tools

  • Procurement

  • Product Development Lifecycle

  • Sales, Marketing & Communications

In any discussion about accessibility, we must start with people and culture.

Because accessibility starts with culture in the workplace, we approach inclusion in everything we do. The more you focus on it, the more your culture will improve and evolve. It is at the beginning, middle, and end of every journey.

Core to this is understanding that diversity, inclusion is a strength. Generate new ideas and perspectives to your organization that will benefit everyone.

To build products and services that meet the needs of people with disabilities, it is important to understand and embrace and welcome people with disabilities and take steps to increase representation of people with disabilities in your organization.

The vision and strategy for your program can start anywhere within the organization, and it ultimately needs to be embraced and supported by executive management.

Even if the initiative starts at the exec level, the task remains to spread the vision throughout the rest of the organization.

Training, support, and tools are very critical. Putting the right people, tools, processes, training, testing and design resources in place so that new products could be created, from the start, with accessibility in mind.

Waiting until the last phase of development to address accessibility takes more time and costs more money.

Built in vs. Bolted on... Putting accessibility at the heart of design means we make products and services that are accessible for people with disabilities.

Accessibility needs to be included and defined in the development lifecycle activities of the organization.

This includes how to plan, design, build & deploy, test and receive feedback, to ensure accessibility is built into the development lifecycle and is a part of the normal engineering processes. Designing for inclusivity not only opens up our products and services to more people, but it also reflects how people really are.

  • Embed accessibility standards and expectations into daily workflows: Provide clear guidance to the engineering teams which enables them to keep focus on development as a standard that is built-in to the types of solutions they develop.

  • Enhance Designer workflows and support: The standards and controls provide clear accountabilities to designers and assists them to understand the elements that should be included in a complete product design.

  • Enhance Developer workflows and support: It is also important to provide quick and simple ways for developers to find and update work items, suggested fixes through automatic build linking, discussion markdown support, etc.

Marketing and communications, from Brand to Product to Feature. Your marketing and communication teams need to be aware and capable of telling the DI&A story.

Dedicate an Accessibility Marketing and Commons resource early to help shape the narrative and product vision

So for example if you are releasing material do check for accessibility.

In conclusion I would urge all to move D&I from an initiative or a project to a core value a part of your DNA - generate company-wide awareness about the business drivers. Drive tech innovation. Inclusion drives innovation. Join us on the journey to make the world more inclusive.

Presented By:

Pratima Amonkar

APAC Leader for Cloud and AI Busines Strategy


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