Michael Smith, the Chief Information Officer of Estee Lauder, brought together a group of technology executives for a conference the day following George Floyd’s death. Given the terrible circumstances of his demise and the subsequent protests in the wake of the tragedy, the technology topics that the group planned to discuss did not seem so meaningful. Ralph Lauren’s CIO Janet Sherlock decided this was a good time to talk about how the gathered executives could be agents for change. Inspired by Sherlock’s comments, Smith decided to activate the ideas, reaching out to his network, fleshing out the ideas further. Earl Newsome, the CIO for the Americas at Linde Inc. was a member of the original group and a primary architect defining the approach.
The technology sector is behind other professional sectors when it comes to fostering a diverse workforce where there is a proportionate representation of African Americans, Latin Americans and women. The passion of a team of technology leaders to address the misrepresentation lead to the establishment of the TechPACT, with a crystal-clear vision and mission.
The team includes the chief information officers of Save the Children, Guardian Life, Deloitte, and Footlocker, among others.
The vision, mission and pledge are as follows:
For those who join the group, the TechPACT suggests that they pledge to
- “Be Out Front” – be the voice of the mission and vision of the TechPACT and use the powerful tools at their disposals such as their personal platform, social media and public speaking platforms to support the bold cause of the pact.
- “Advance Development” – the TechPACT members will focus on the career readiness, exposure, launch and success of underrepresented communities through partnerships and programs
- “Provide Information” – the TechPACT team members will offer dedicated support for research on how to advance Diversity and Equity in the technology community and educate and advance the Diversity and Equity practices throughout the technology sector
- “Lend Support” – the team members will be provided with a forum to discuss topics such as career advice or guidance on Diversity and Equity to support or guide each other through small group or 1-1 discussions
The goal is “to have 5,000 committed TechPACT pledges in the first year.” The TechPACT members are not pledging on behalf of their organization as the pact is more of a personal commitment of the member. The TechPACT committee says that “organizations and companies can support the TechPACT by supporting their Tech employees’ commitments to diversity in their respective tech organization and support their commitments to The TechPACT.” In addition to taking the pledge, members are welcomed to join any of the committees to offer their support.
There is no financial or legal obligation in becoming a member, although there are future plans to make donations to support organization’s programs. The membership is open to all in the technology community and individuals, other than the C-suite who are interested in contributing to diversity and equity are also highly encouraged to take the pledge as the committee says, “The TechPACT pledge supports diversity at all levels of organizations, and advocates for young people of color and young women to aspire to be tech leaders.” All that is required from a member is their personal commitment to work towards the cause of the TechPACT and the committee notes, “our power to create change is found in both our individual and collective initiative and we ask that members voluntarily contribute to both.”
The TechPACT committee has plans to collaborate with equity-based professionals and developmental groups as the goals of the pact align with the efforts of these groups. However, what differentiates the TechPACT is that
- It is an individual pledge and commitment
- Members are welcomed to join from all levels of the organizations, not just C-suite and executives
- The focus is on all underrepresented communities, not just one
- The pact spans across all of the technology community including the technology groups or departments within non-technology companies, tech education and tech consulting
- Some equity-based professional or development organizations focus on selective aspects such as STEM/STEAM programs, recruitment, etc., while the TechPACT commitment to address all aspects
The goal of the TechPACT is to “reduce the digital divide and pursue representative diversity in technology across all levels.”
Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His has written two bestselling books, moderates the Technovation podcast series and speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.
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