Sustainable DEI Goals: How Two Tech Leaders Are Heading Into 2024

DEI leaders from Mendix and Immersive Labs share their tips for best DEI practices in the new year.

Written by Dana Cassell
Published on Dec. 07, 2023
Sustainable DEI Goals: How Two Tech Leaders Are Heading Into 2024
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Built In’s study on the state of DEI reported in February that 51 percent of tech employees think their company needs to improve its DEI initiatives, expressing dissatisfaction with the current level of effort being put forth. Since 2020, the tech industry has joined other industries in scrambling to implement and maintain efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Built In sat down with two Boston DEI leaders to learn how companies can stay abreast of upcoming trends and work toward sustainable equity and inclusion goals. Two topics stood out: data and AI.

At Mendix, Global Head of DEI Mia Ellis is focused on collecting good data; but having the data alone isn’t sufficient. Companies also need to make good use of it. “Data metrics (beyond just recruitment) have become more sophisticated and companies are now collecting and using data from the entire employee lifecycle (from recruitment to offboarding) to identify areas to improve employee experience, career development, and retention,” she said.

Maggie Bertram, director of learning and development and head of DEI at Immersive Labs is curious and concerned about how AI is affecting DEI efforts. “AI has a lot of learning to do around accessibility and inclusion,” she said. “My hope is that humans make tremendous and necessary strides in eliminating racist, bigoted, and ableist tendencies within technology.”

The wisdom from these DEI leaders will be essential in moving the tech industry toward more sustainable diversity and inclusion practices.  
 

Mia Ellis
Global Head of DEI • Mendix

Mendix is the fastest and easiest high-productivity platform to create and continuously improve multi-channel applications at scale.

 

What are 1-2 DEI trends you expect to take center stage in 2024?

I’ve recognized two emerging trends.

First, an increase of data-informed strategies and accountability measures. Data metrics (beyond just recruitment) have become more sophisticated and companies are now collecting and using data from the entire employee lifecycle (from recruitment to offboarding) to identify areas to improve employee experience, career development and retention.

Second, using more of a global lens to refine DEI strategies. Industries are becoming more global, especially with remote/hybrid work, and with that comes the need for more fluid DEI initiatives and strategies. These initiatives must be capable of meeting the needs of employees and customers who are located in different parts of the world where the concept of DEI differs from what it is in North America. 

 

How will you keep a pulse on these trends? How will they shape your DEI strategy?

The most effective ways that I have found to keep a pulse on emerging trends are staying connected (virtually and in-person) with thought leaders and experts in the field of DEI, reading books, listening to podcasts and finding peer-reviewed research from academic sources. I also actively listen to the perspectives and lived experiences of marginalized groups and individuals and participate in continuing education opportunities such as conferences, professional organization events, and virtual webinars covering a diverse range of DEI topics.

 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to leaders rethinking their DEI strategy for 2024?

Ensure that you have an experienced professional leading this work full-time, as opposed to someone volunteering in their spare time from their full-time job. This person must be properly supported by leadership and provided the resources that they need to have an impact on the organization, and the leadership team must fully understand the problems that the organization is trying to solve and their role in supporting the initiatives launched to resolve them. 

 

Ensure that you have an experienced professional leading this work full-time, as opposed to someone volunteering in their spare time from their full-time job.”

 

Additionally, while it is essential to align DEI with business goals and priorities, the essential need for “human skills” development, particularly with leaders, cannot be overlooked. Both are needed to resolve systemic inequities and foster inclusive work environments.

 

 

Maggie Bertram
Director of Learning & Development and Head of DEI • Immersive Labs

Immersive Labs is an on-demand cyber skills platform that rewards critical thinking, problem solving and curiosity.

 

What are 1-2 DEI trends you expect to take center stage in 2024?

Across industries, we need more energy and conversation around how artificial intelligence can help drive DEI in our workplaces and products. AI has a lot of learning to do around accessibility and inclusion. My hope is that humans make tremendous and necessary strides in eliminating racist, bigoted and ableist tendencies within technology. 

 

Across industries, we need more energy and conversation around how artificial intelligence can help drive DEI in our workplaces and products.”

 

If we are going to hold AI technology accountable, we also must acknowledge our own shortcomings and recommit to the DEI initiatives we saw across tech in 2020 and 2021, including investment in DEI programs and employee resource groups, required training for all employees, and increased pay transparency. Showing investors, customers, and especially future hires that DEI is an evergreen priority is always going to be a strategic and human advantage.
 

How will you keep a pulse on these trends? How will they shape your DEI strategy?

For me, keeping a pulse on trends starts with asking for employee feedback about structural diversity and equity efforts, our DEI educational programming, as well as Immersers’ overall feelings of well-being and belonging. That data will drive what my passionate colleagues and I choose to build programs and initiatives around in 2024.

I also stay tuned into voices in my network who I trust and who inspire me. I’m very lucky to have a mentor and advisor in Ashley Ladd over at Snyk, and I learn daily from some of my favorite thought leaders like Aiko Bethea, Ruchika Tulshyan, and Julie Harris via LinkedIn. 
 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to leaders rethinking their DEI strategy for 2024?

Look at the data from your employees and customers. Ultimately, the right DEI strategy will look different at every organization. Let the data guide you, and find trusted folks in your network who will be brutally honest about what will work and what won’t.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and listed companies.

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