DEI that works: 5 companies reaping the benefits of IT diversity strategies

The tech industry has long been known for its lack of diversity and, as a result, there’s been a big push for companies to take DEI strategies seriously. Diversity not only helps organizations perform better but fostering equity and inclusion can also strengthen recruiting and retention rates, as well as overall employee satisfaction.

In fact, diverse companies have been shown to have a 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee and three in four job seekers and workers prefer diverse companies, according to data from a 2022 BuiltIn report. The report also found that diverse management increases revenue by 19% and gender-diverse companies report performing 15% higher financial returns than the industry median.

These five companies provide strong examples of successfully implemented DEI strategies that have helped diversify the talent pipeline, close skills gaps, and create opportunity for underserved populations. Through internship programs, apprenticeships, returnships, and other unique talent and upskilling programs, these examples can help inspire the right DEI strategy for your organization.

AllianceBernstein diversifies its tech talent pipeline

AllianceBernstein has been heralded in the financial services industry for its employee satisfaction, work environment, compensation, career opportunities, and diversity by The Everest Group. And it is the Nashville, Tenn.-based company’s wide-ranging DEI efforts that truly stand out.

AllianceBernstein works directly with job training nonprofit Year Up, which connects the global asset management corporation with tech talent from underserved populations. The company also offers career transition programs for former pro athletes and military members, and partners with the Nashville Software School to offer vocational training. AllianceBernstein also recently added full-time, paid apprenticeships, and tuition-free web development bootcamps alongside the Greater Nashville Technology Council (NTC). The company also recently launched an HBCU Scholars Program, providing up to 20 students with scholarships after completing a 9-week summer internship.

“The more perspectives we can have in the room, having different ideas, people that have different lived experiences, people that have different backgrounds — that really matters,” says Janessa Cox-Irvin, global head of diversity and inclusion at AllianceBernstein.

LinkedIn partners up for a more diverse IT future 

Like AllianceBernstein, LinkedIn also partners with job training nonprofit Year Up, but takes the relationship a step further by pairing an employee volunteership program with workshop events for Year Up students. Through a long-standing partnership that started in 2011 with the company’s first CEO, Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn has long been working to open and diversify its talent pipeline.

The company has a dedicated internal team with employees tasked with maintaining and growing the LinkedIn’s relationship with YearUp, which works to connect underserved young adults with opportunities in the IT industry through a career readiness program that includes an internship. Students are given training on hard and soft skills to prepare them for IT careers, along with hands-on experience in their desired field.  

LinkedIn offers two unique programs alongside YearUp: LinkedIn Coaches and Investment Days, which are referred to as InDays. Through the LinkedIn Coaches program, employees receive training to become coaches to help connect Year Up students seeking job advice and other career resources. On InDays, which occur twice a year, LinkedIn hosts all current Year Up students for an on-site event featuring career workshops, mock interviews, networking events, and resume workshops.

Corporate partners typically offer financial support and internship opportunities, but LinkedIn has invested even more by setting aside significant resources to support the relationship with Year Up. Year Up students get the chance to connect directly with LinkedIn employees, receive support on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles, attend mock interview workshops, and have the chance to network with professionals in the industry.

AAMC’s intentional DEI strategy helps employees flourish

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is a prime example of how a strong and focused DEI strategy can help a company flourish. The organization’s DEI Council focuses on establishing employee resource groups, evaluating reporting systems for biases, and having a critical eye on inclusion at every level. The organization also hired a DEI director to build a small team under HR to serve as a dedicated leader focused on fostering inclusivity in the organization.

It was important to the leadership at AAMC to create a formal strategy and framework to address racism and to offer anti-racism training through the Sustained Dialogue Institute. The company has worked to eliminate bias in hiring to ensure a more diverse workplace, identifying and eliminating problematic terminology, and implementing DEI goals that are tied to leadership performance. It became important to the organization that they model DEI from the top down, making it something they put into regular practice, rather than just lip-service.

“Our formalized DEI strategy focuses on our workforce and challenges our workplace, culture, leadership, the ability to lead in an inclusive way, including partnerships, community engagement, outreach, and more,” says Yvonne Massenburg, chief human resources officer at AAMC.

The organization has focused on creating more avenues for employees to voice opinions and feel heard through town hall meetings, management meetings, and ongoing meetings with leadership where employees can connect with leadership. The goal is to create various pathways for employees to feel heard and seen, without fear that it will impact their career opportunities. It’s about fostering a welcoming environment where people feel comfortable challenging the status quo.

IBM returnship helps restart IT careers 

Taking time away from the tech industry can make it dauting to return, but programs such as IBM’s Tech Re-Entry Program help ease the transition. Program participants are called “returners,” and they aren’t interns, entry-level hires, or apprentices — they are viewed as highly experienced professionals with extensive backgrounds in IT. Therefore, the experience is shaped differently than it would be for a less experienced intern or apprentice.

One IBM returner, Anju Nair, had to take a 15-year break from her IT career to focus on her health and her family, deciding to return to her career once her daughter entered grade school. However, she knew the transition wouldn’t be seamless but soon found IBM’s Tech Re-Entry program and joined the data scientist program. She attributes the program to helping her build confidence and recognize her value to the industry.

“I was confident in my skills, because I had the prior experience, I knew what I was working towards, and I knew I was open to learning; but to get that opportunity is the toughest part,” Nair says.

The program is unique in that it focuses on experienced professionals, rather than entry-level workers or young adults. It’s meant to demystify the process of getting back into the industry, bridge any skills gaps in technologies or skills, and help candidates get a feel of the current corporate landscape. The program diversifies the pool of talented candidates by breaking down unfair barriers that have historically been in place for those with gaps on their resumes.

Accenture bridges IT gaps with apprenticeships

Accenture’s apprenticeship program is a strong example of how these training programs can fill skills gaps and diversity the IT talent pipeline. Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to “earn while you learn,” offering a nontraditional path towards a lucrative IT career. Accenture decided to launch its apprenticeship program when the organization realized they weren’t accessing all available pools of talent, especially candidates without a traditional four-year degree in IT, according to Pallavi Verma, Accenture’s senior managing director of North America Quality and Risk Lead.

“It’s really about providing opportunity for people and for us to open up our pool of people. There’s many pools of talent and we recognize that we shouldn’t be looking at just one pool of talent,” Verma says.

The apprenticeship programs are developed at a local level, enabling Accenture to ensure it is recruiting local talent and building relationships with local colleges and training programs. The program supports candidates enrolled in community college and those with a four-year degree in a nontechnical field who want to change career paths. Examples include an architect, a food truck operator, natural gas pipe fitter, and an English teacher who all wanted to be reskilled for IT roles through the apprenticeship program.

The on-the-job training provided by the apprenticeships enable students to learn through real-life scenarios that can’t always be replicated in a classroom setting. The apprenticeships create opportunity where it may not have existed before and open Accenture to tap into fresh perspectives, ideas, and backgrounds to create better products, services, and software.  

Diversity and Inclusion, Women in IT