Improving Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I) is a pledge that many businesses make and promote today. However, to truly embed a long-term DE&I strategy into the company culture takes commitment. This is especially the case in a traditionally white, male-dominated tech industry. Efforts in achieving DE&I goals go toward enhancing workplace culture, thereby improving the productivity and performance of an existing workforce and making the company more attractive to new candidates.

The journey of DE&I is challenging, but coming from a company where women take up two thirds (66 per cent) of senior leadership roles and 10 per cent of employees identifying as LGBTQI+, I can attest to the fact that change is possible. With dedication and focus from all levels, encouraging transparent conversation and ongoing engagement in company initiatives, businesses can build a more inclusive and diverse tech workforce. 

Support transparent conversations around DE&I

The most important pillar of DE&I is transparency, fostering a company culture that values and supports transparency can promote open and constructive conversations. When companies break the ice and encourage discussions around DE&I, concerns and challenges can be identified and begin to be addressed. The process takes leadership and input from all levels of the business with champions and advocates to encourage engagement.

Establishing employee resource groups (ERGs) is a great way to gather employees to initiate dialogue, share experiences and brainstorm how to move towards a more equitable workplace. For example, WP Engine has ERGs that focus on advocating for women, the LGBTQI+ community, mental health, sustainability and caregivers. Across APAC, these ERGs have invited speakers to present on important topics such as breaking barriers around self-promotion and equality in tech. They have also hosted events in line with key dates, such as Movember and Harmony Day, as well as give-back weeks to encourage blood donations and support for charities such as St Vinnies. 

Empowering through representation in leadership

People empower people. To inspire the next generation of women in tech, businesses need to show employees what their career path to leadership can look like and have real examples of what can be achieved. If a business has strong female representation across senior leadership and management, it signals that younger women can also aspire to be in those roles.

With six out of ten (66%) of senior leaders and more than half (57%) of managers at WP Engine being female, women like me can feel empowered to strive for the top. Because I can see someone like me there now, I feel like it’s possible for me to get there one day too. By ensuring all employees are considered equally for promotions, businesses can curate an environment where people know they have equal opportunities.

Embed equality in company policies

One step that businesses can take to address the gender gap is through pay transparency, which aims at ensuring employees have visibility to pay range information within their job family. This has been a watercooler topic in Australia, following the recent announcement that mandatory pay transparency reporting will commence in 2024.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), men are earning $253 more per week than their female counterparts, totalling a difference of over $13,000 a year. Businesses can further support transparency by having open conversations and through the use of tech tools.

For example, WP Engine uses a platform called Pave to provide employees with a visual explanation of their compensation, from base pay to incentives and stock. WP Engine also implemented pay band transparency for each role and has trained managers to enable better understanding of how pay practices work and how to navigate conversations around pay with teams and individuals.

The next critical step that WP Engine has implemented is the introduction of equal pay policies, which ensures people are paid the same for the role, regardless of gender. This process requires a tedious process of market evaluation and analysis of every role to ensure there are no gaps between genders. However, it is a necessary step to help close the gender gap and an example of the dedication and commitment toward realising our DE&I goals.

Businesses can also support primary caregivers by implementing workplace policies that allow for remote work and flexible working hours where possible. For example, WP Engine became a remote-first company, meaning employees could work fully remote or in one of our office hubs. This provides employees with flexibility while also allowing the businesses to expand beyond office locations and fill positions with the best talent. WP Engine encourages you to do your best work from where you work best.

Embracing people from all walks of life

Finally, diversity doesn’t only apply to gender and gender identities. Businesses must recognise that people with different academic backgrounds can bring great value and broad perspective to the business. More than three out of ten employees at WP Engine don’t have a university degree, bringing different skill sets and experiences that help make our services and solutions better. Ensuring that hiring processes incorporate a holistic assessment of candidates rather than focusing solely on education can help build a diverse portfolio of talented employees.

DE&I does not have a final destination, it is a journey, and we as a company and industry are certainly on our way. By continuing to inspire through leadership and promote open, constructive discussions, we can foster a more inclusive workplace and more engaged workforce which in turn helps us make better decisions, fuel greater innovation and provide better services for our customers.

Helena Softley is director of sales APAC at WP Engine.