The Number One Diversity Issue These Companies Face — And How They're Tackling It

by Alton Zenon III
November 20, 2019

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to moving the needle on diversity.

In Chicago tech for example, companies are working with local organizations such as WomenHack and Everwonder to develop the tech skills of women and minorities, creating internal programs for minority entrepreneurship in the cannabis industry and partnering with third-party organizations that specialize in company diversity assessments.

The following seven companies are making significant strides to uplift marginalized groups within tech. And they won't slow down till they see real change. 

 

Motorola Solutions team members chatting
Motorola Solutions

Monica Boada Mueller is the executive director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation as well as the senior director of inclusion, diversity and outreach, so she knows a thing or two about celebrating differences.

The internal foundation she leads at the communications company puts girls on professional paths in STEM. She said initiatives like that and the company’s leadership academy for women help diversify the pool of techies in the industry.

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing? 

We recognize the importance of diversity and consistently making strides toward diversifying our employee base, particularly in regards to hiring female employees. It starts with making sure we have a pipeline of girls entering STEM fields that allow companies like ours to attract the talent we need. One way we do that is through our Motorola Solutions Foundation, which supports STEM programming — particularly technology and engineering — reaching women. We believe it is critically important to support the next generation of innovators. 

...we’ve enhanced our parental and family leave policy and provided unconscious bias training.”

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue?

First, our leaders are bringing a sense of intentionality to inclusion and diversity. As a Hispanic woman, when presented with the opportunity to lead our inclusion and diversity initiatives, I accepted the role because I firmly believed our top leaders had intentionality. 

Among some of our efforts, we’ve enhanced our parental and family leave policy and provided unconscious bias training. We also offer an internship program — which was recognized by WayUp as a Top 100 U.S. internship — that provides at pipeline of diverse candidates.

Our “Women Who Lead” speaker series is another way we demonstrate our commitment to inclusion and diversity. Led by our CEO, this series exposes our employees to influential women leaders from all backgrounds who share their diverse leadership experiences. We also offer a leadership academy experience for our women employees. This includes in-person training and self-paced learning and practice activities, all geared toward building their leadership skills.

 

Green Thumb Industries' Dina Rollman giving speech
Green Thumb Industries

As a nationwide cannabis cultivator and retailer, Green Thumb Industries has gained a lot of experience navigating the complex cannabis industry.

SVP of Government and Regulatory Affairs Dina Rollman said that through a recently launched program, the company is sharing its understanding of the industry with minority populations most affected by the U.S. laws that govern cannabis.

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing? 

In the cannabis industry as a whole, there is a lack of business ownership for minorities as well as a path to entry for those most directly impacted by the war on drugs. The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act signed into law this past June reduces barriers to entry for those wanting to enter the cannabis industry. It does this by creating additional license categories, discounting license application fees for those who qualify as social equity applicants and creating a low-interest loan and grant program for social equity license winners. The Act also mandates automatic expungement of minor cannabis offenses.

There is a lack of business ownership for minorities...”

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue?

In September, GTI launched its Illinois Social Equity License Application Assistance Program, dubbed LEAP, to help educate social equity applicants about the adult-use cannabis business application process and to help them prepare for the categories of licenses. GTI has a history of winning licenses and believes it is part of our corporate responsibility to use our in-house expertise and resources to help reduce barriers to cannabis business ownership for minorities and others impacted by the war on drugs.

Our application experts meet weekly with applicants to offer guidance on the required application content. We wanted to share our expertise with the next generation of cannabis entrepreneurs and are looking forward to seeing many social equity applicants win licenses and build their own businesses. 

 

Rightpoint - stock image of women in working in an office
shutterstock

Rightpoint is an end-to-end digital consultancy. In the same way companies partner with them to upgrade their customer experiences, the agency looks to outside sources to improve its internal diversity.

Senior Vice President of Strategy and Design Anamika Lasser said Rightpoint wanted to get consulted on where they needed to enhance their diversity efforts, so they partnered with another firm to get feedback.

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing? 

There are some common issues the technology industry faces that we seem to be facing as well. The lack of diversity in leadership roles is compounded by the lack of diverse candidates applying for these roles. Without increased diversity in the higher levels, junior talent has a more difficult time finding mentors they can relate to. It’s crucial to have diverse voices in meetings where decisions are being made.

We’ve engaged an outside firm to conduct a diversity, equity and inclusion audit so that we can better understand our internal landscape.”

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue?

We are doing a number of things to increase diversity, beginning with framing the issue as a business priority and a people priority. We’ve engaged an outside firm to conduct a diversity, equity and inclusion audit so that we can better understand our internal landscape and also create a baseline to measure our progress. 

Concurrently, we have identified three areas of focus: leadership training on inclusivity and mentorship; recruiting for diverse senior and junior talent; and creating diversity at the team level. A council of senior leadership that includes our “people potential” team will continue to ensure progress and equity. Quarterly, they will evaluate the company against specific measurements, like the number of diverse candidates received and hires made.

 

Ulta Beauty team members working
ulta beauty

Deb Coomer, senior director of enterprise data, integration and analytics at retailer Ulta Beauty, said the company stays active in the women in tech community through events.

From speaking at functions on International Women’s Day to hosting a WomenHacks event, Coomer said the company makes its presence felt on the ground so it can empower women in the industry. 

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing? 

Diversity, especially among women within IT across many industries, is certainly an important topic at Ulta Beauty. While our CEO, CIO, chief legal officer and chief store officer are all women, there is still work to be done within IT. And the women and men in our IT and HR groups are tackling that challenge head-on.

While our CEO, CIO, chief legal officer and chief store officer are all women, there is still work to be done within IT.”

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue?

One of Ulta Beauty’s six core values is “champion diversity”, so we ensure it’s at the heart of everything we do. We, along with our partners, speak at conferences and events, such as International Women’s Day, to bring attention to women in technology. We have also participated in WomenHacks, an event focused on connecting top female engineers, designers and product managers with opportunities at diversity-first companies; we will be hosting a WomenHack next year. Ulta Beauty continues to provide role models to women in technology and mentor women at various stages of their technology career to show them what the possibilities can be.

 

OppLoans team chatting in their office
OppLoans

OppLoans offers more affordable personal loans to help customers build credit and create a more inclusive economy. They’re also ushering in a more inclusive workplace.

IT Support Engineer Tisa Johnson and Senior Technical Recruiter Alex Riewer said partnerships with diversity hiring platforms and using data to improve their candidate sourcing has allowed the company to diversify their workforce.

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing? 

Johnson: When I initially interviewed with OppLoans three months ago, I did not see many people like me — an African American female — in the tech department. But since joining, our people team has worked to diversify the talent in that department and across the company. 

The tech population is becoming more diverse each year, and OppLoans is taking full advantage of that. We’re ensuring we are on candidates’ radar, and that starts with the recruiting and hiring process. 

A diverse candidate pool is an important first step to building a diverse workforce.”

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue?

Riewer: As we continue to grow our tech team, we as recruiters are dedicated to providing the hiring teams with a diverse candidate pool. Our recent hires have demonstrated that a diverse candidate pool is an important first step to building a diverse workforce at all levels of the business. We use data to continuously improve the quality and diversity of our candidate slates during the onsite interview process.

We have formed partnerships with diversity hiring platforms, and we recently started a tech community meetup series with events every few weeks called “Oppt for Tech Diversity.” This series brings together diverse technologists in an inclusive space for learning, development and networking.

Internally, we have several employee-led communities. They enable staff with different backgrounds and identities to create programs for personal and professional development and have a positive, direct impact on the business. 

 

Nerdery team members in group photo
nerdery

Senior Engineering Manager Gregg Walrod said Nerdery is embedding diversity into the foundation of the company, starting with the training of its leadership.

In addition to the IT and digital solutions consultancy’s top-down approach, Walrod said the company’s community-based partnerships aim at giving minorities and women greater opportunities in tech.

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing? 

One of Nerdery’s primary challenges is being able to attract and compete for highly sought-after people from underrepresented groups. We need to be able to connect with talented individuals that we want to add to our teams and demonstrate that they will not only be welcomed, but will also thrive as a part of our team. 

We have partnered with Everwonder, who works with women and people of color to provide job shadowing experiences in tech.”

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue?

Fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce is a key priority of our CEO and company. We are investing in resources to build a comprehensive and scalable approach to meaningfully embed diversity, equity and inclusion principles into the core of our operations, which includes training for our leadership team as a starting point. We also have a group that meets monthly to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion at Nerdery and in the broader community.

Locally, we have partnered with Everwonder, who works with women and people of color to provide job shadowing experiences in tech. Our Chicago team has also partnered with General Assembly in support of their Women in Tech scholarship, with engineers on our team providing review and feedback on their final projects.

 

CityBase team in group photo
CityBase

CityBase provides end-to-end payment solutions and other digital services for government clients.

Marketing Coordinator Samuel Hutchins said one of the services he assists with is ensuring those in government keep diversity top of mind when connecting with constituents. 

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing? 

At CityBase, it’s part of our culture to continually be sharing and learning from perspectives outside of our purview — whether that be our weekly cross-functional demo days, to this year’s LGBTQ+ pride party, to having gender representation at every level of the organization.

Additionally, my work involves showcasing how our products and solutions serve culturally and economically diverse populations in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and Indianapolis. It’s imperative that our government tech solutions are accessible and user-friendly for 100 percent of the population because that’s who the government must serve. An important part of creating products for local government and the people they serve is making sure those developing the products reflect that same level of diversity.

It’s imperative that our government tech solutions are accessible and user-friendly for 100 percent of the population.”

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue?

Collaboration with senior HR leadership is instrumental in how companies develop an inclusive and equitable approach. The tech industry is focused on the next step of diversity and inclusion, moving toward an equity and empowerment approach. 

Digital technology can help bridge gaps between local government and their constituents. Governments can partner with tech companies to achieve their goals surrounding constituent engagement. However, if tech companies are going to help improve government accessibility, it’s important that they’re bringing diverse perspectives to the table. I’m focused on helping to build company alliances alongside local organizations committed to ensuring that technology is a sector that fields contributions from everyone. 

 

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