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Listen: Next in Tech | Episode 68: Pride Month - Diversity and inclusion in technology

Supporting the communities that make up the modern enterprise requires visibility in ways that many might not have considered. Analyst Marie Froehlicher and Emily Jasper, Global President of S&P Global’s Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group, join host Eric Hanselman to explore the path to greater understanding. DEI perspectives are dynamic and organizations have to consider language and context to build metrics to capture the nuances of the constituencies that make up their community.

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Transcript provided by Kensho.

Eric Hanselman

Welcome to Next in Tech, an S&P Global Market Intelligence podcast with the world of emerging tech lives. I'm your host, Eric Hanselman, Chief Analyst for the 451 Research arm of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

And I'm actually recording on the road today, if you're wondering why I'm sounding a little bit different. I'm actually out at the RSA conference in San Francisco. But today, we're going to be discussing diversity and inclusion with 2 guests: analyst, Marie Froehlicher; and Emily Jasper, the President of Global Pride People Resources Group. Welcome to you both to the podcast.

Emily Jasper

It's wonderful to be here.

Marie Froehlicher

Thank you so much for having us.

Eric Hanselman

Well, it's great to have you, and especially as we kick off Pride Month, to really talk about some of the perspectives that we put together and a lot of our research and some of the topics that we cover. Our listeners will know that we were talking about our Women in Tech study that was out a few episodes ago.

But I wanted to dig into some interesting research that was recently just part of our Sustainability Yearbook, and it includes some perspectives from the S&P Global Sustainability Assessment on diversity and inclusion.

And Marie, that's something that you've been working on. You're the author of some of the aspects on that report. It'd be great to dig into really what that assessment was identifying. Can you give us some key points that are highlighted in the assessment?

Marie Froehlicher

Absolutely, Eric. So indeed, the article was published in February 2022 and co-authored by "Katie Darden," who is working together with me on this piece. And the aim of this piece is to look at DEI, so diversity, equity and inclusion, beyond gender, really how companies are integrating aspects such as race, ethnicity, LGBTQI+ status, disability, age, et cetera, in the DEI strategies.

And some of the key points that we highlight in the article is regarding transparency. So we found that more and more companies are being transparent around gender and gender metrics, although we're not quite there in terms of performance, but at least companies are starting to disclose more.

However, there's a lot less transparency and a lot less reporting when it comes to other identity markers. And actually underreporting is especially marked when it comes to LGBTQI+ status. And so the article is asking, well, why is there such a lack of reporting?

And we focus on mainly 2 aspects. The first one would be the legal limitations. So for example, in Europe, you could think of the Article 9 of the GDPR, which prevents companies from collecting data on race and ethnicity or on the health status of their employees.

Although it's important to note that there are some ways for companies to circumvent that legislation because the Article 9 does say that if the data is being collected for the right purposes and anonymously, it's possible to collect that information.

And the second aspect that we focused on was the lack of reporting could also be due to the employees not feeling safe to report that information. And so a very important step in data collection is to try and create an environment and a company culture in which employees feel safe to disclose their identities.

And maybe the last point that we also mentioned in the article is a point of intersectionality, which, I guess, we will come back to later in the podcast. But the idea is that people don't exist in silos, and they made up of various identities that we need to consider together when we're trying to understand employees' experience in the workplace.

Eric Hanselman

Well, you raised a number of interesting points that we'll get a chance to dig into. I want to start with your, first, which is that idea that, initially, organizations are having to navigate some perceived concerns about that information collection.

But it's sounded like what you were saying is that under the right circumstances, if they're able to assure anonymity, those kinds of things, that there certainly are paths, but a lot of organizations aren't yet collecting a lot of those broader metrics?

Marie Froehlicher

Yes, that would be correct. So it's important to note that the Article 9 of the GDPR does clearly say that companies are not supposed to be collecting that data. And I think it's really acceptable for companies to decide not to collect that information based on the Article 9.

However, it is true that there are some circumstances if it is done properly in -- under which companies would be able to collect some relevant information on those indicators. And we see this happening already in certain countries. But of course, companies need to be careful of the legal regulations around the location where they work.

And this is also why it's so important, when we think about DEI, to think in terms of localized approach. And there will not be any one-size-fits-all metric or way of approaching DEI. Companies will really need to understand the local context and to start working from there.

Eric Hanselman

Well, that's one of those things that I think we wind up identifying so often, which is the -- not having that expectation that one-size-fits-all in so many different aspects. I mean, that's one of those core pieces in tech that we see forever and ever.

But I think the key piece that's interesting to focus on there is really thinking about some of the challenges to building better metrics, and really understanding both the different constituencies that you're working with.

But Marie the points that you made, in fact, in some locales, of simply the disclosure of LGBTQI+ status is going to potentially be risky in a number of different aspects, and that's an area that I think that organizations need to consider when they're looking across their entire base of participating constituents in their organizations?

Marie Froehlicher

Yes, absolutely. And that's also where companies need to be a little bit creative and also to listen to the employee needs. Because in such cases, it might not be relevant to ask employees to disclose their identities. May be more qualitative programs and awareness raising campaigns would be more relevant.

Eric Hanselman

Yes. Something that when you start really thinking about what's the overall perspective that an awareness approach means that they don't have to take the risk of disclosure in those areas where, in fact, that might potentially be an issue.

This gets back to some of the data handling and approaches that we get in so many different aspects of analytics so broadly. You really have to think about the constituencies you're working with. But it's something that organizations have to make the effort to really achieve because otherwise, they're flying blind without an understanding about really what are the foundational elements of the communities from which they're built.

Emily Jasper

I would also say, if I can chime in. One of the other things to also consider is that just even the items in a drop-down menu may not apply. And I think Marie had a very good point that the localized approach is really important.

And when you think, especially as Gen Z is entering the workforce, many are more likely to put a rainbow or a flag in their profile as an identifier as opposed to using a label. Well, an emoji is not necessarily an item used in a rigorous study.

So how do you combat that? How do you identify other options just so that you're even then reaching the individuals who you're trying to connect with, at the same time as having that rigor, being able to use items or definitions or metrics that can at least be compared or within the same family as language or as functions change?

Eric Hanselman

Well -- and you've raised a really interesting point, which is the fact that there's so many different ways that people are going to be comfortable expressing preference, identity, allyship, all of those different aspects in which those interrelations have to occur.

Emily Jasper

Yes, think of the plus. The plus has so many other identifying orientations or genders or identities under it. And if you really want to feel seen, you want to know that you are included and not just shuffled along in the plus.

However, people are also then on a journey. So someone might start out in one category and move along to another. And to me, that shift and change is also just as important as whether or not someone embraced L or G or I when you're collecting that kind of information.

Eric Hanselman

Well, that -- you get into that aspect that I think Marie was touching on originally, which is that those language considerations have a big part to play in building how we assess of where we stand in our constituencies.

And that -- the combination of sensitivity with language -- and also I think more than anything else, getting to an understanding that this is not a static thing. This is something that's evolving.

And I think there are so many things we look at from data and analytics in which we expect the data to change, but we don't necessarily look at how we're actually understanding, categorizing and classifying. And that's an area that's just as much in flux as the data itself.

Emily Jasper

And then if you throw actual languages on top of that, pronouns, for example, for every instance in which we're excited to include they, he, him, hers, are we thinking of our Spanish colleagues, our Japanese, any number other languages, especially in a global organization, where that pronoun is different? So you're spending time recognizing both gender or identity as well as culture. And I think that is just a way to hit that intersectionality as Marie was mentioning.

Eric Hanselman

Well -- and Marie, to your point, one of the points raised originally was about some of these intersectionalities. What are your thoughts in terms of both the perspective of the assessment? And what that really means from a longer term?

Marie Froehlicher

It's a very good question. And it's one that from a data collection perspective is not so easy to answer because typically, when we collect data, we look for clear indicators that we can then compare companies with.

And that's not so easy when you think about human beings because we're not so easy to put in boxes. And so then it makes it kind of hard to compare between companies and even between locations.

But the point here is, instead of thinking about categories, and then asking your employees to report based on those categories that you predefine, the best approach might be to start from our employee base, to start to have an understanding of how your employees identify, and to try and build on from that to categorize people in a way that enables you to track your performance regarding your DEI goals.

We see companies starting to report more and more on intersectionalities, especially when it comes to gender and race or ethnicity, a little bit less when it comes to LGBTQI+ identity because for the moment, generally, companies are not really reporting on that indicator at all.

But I'm sure that this is something that will come as we realize more and more that intersectionalities need to be taken into account, otherwise, we can't achieve DEI. Because if we just look at women as in isolation of any other type of identity markers, we won't actually understand what type of experience women are having in the workplace as an example.

Eric Hanselman

Well -- and that's actually something that we got into when we were talking about the Women in Tech data, which is that thinking about any of these constituencies as one unified block.

It means that you lose out on some of the nuances that are so important in terms of understanding what these communities are actually valuing and as an organization, how you can support them, how you can work with them and what they're really looking for.

I mean, that's -- unfortunately, we've gotten, from a reporting perspective, used to this fairly two-dimensional kind of view of the world. We've got -- everything fits in a particular bucket. So we've made a whole bunch of buckets to be able to dump things into.

When we think about intersectionality, we're really talking about a third dimension in terms of where things have to fit. So that's an area, I think, that organizations really need to think -- need to consider that they have to think in new ways about how they're actually starting to move forward.

Marie Froehlicher

Absolutely. It's a new exciting challenge for organizations like us to try to collect information and for investors who try to build portfolios based on the data that we collect. But I think there's a lot of opportunity there to start collecting really relevant and meaningful information.

Eric Hanselman

Well -- and to start to build data models, which it sounded like where you're heading towards that account for that, that are able to do more sophisticated -- understand -- or to build more sophisticated understandings of what they're actually looking for.

So I was curious, when we start looking at the kinds of ways that organizations can expand communities and build allyship, what are things that are underway? And what should organizations be looking at when they start to hit in those directions?

Emily Jasper

So one of the things that we think about in our people resource groups or as others might have heard of them as employee resource groups is how can we speak back to the organization and help show that there is a spectrum of engagement opportunity?

So on one hand, you want easy, fun, engaging activities to invite everyone and especially our allies to trivia events, speakers, some one-on-one programming. But as we then move along, we think about tools and resources needed to support the community and those who serve it, including DEI training, manager workshops, conference participation and more.

But then, at the end of the day, and this is what everybody looks at when they're making memes about companies joining Pride Month and saying, "You're not putting your money where your mouth is." And that is exactly what happen literally and figuratively.

So we have to be the voice to executive leadership for enterprise changes until they are running a lot of that on their own. So we will ask about signing of an amicus brief filing for the Supreme Court or technology changes for improved representation or accessibility, maybe even funds from our foundation for nonprofit serving the community and more.

So while we're the voice, and we hope eventually organizations don't need us to point them in that direction, organizations hearing us and then following through are some of the best ways for engaging your employees and potential talent, but then helping really strive for setting that up in your organization.

Eric Hanselman

And that's something where -- and we'll also stop a moment here and say, "Here we are doing a Pride Month-focused episode of the podcast in June." Hopefully, this is a catalyzing activity. But it is something that organizations need to get to a point at which they're establishing the processes that are going to build those muscles that stick with the organization.

That means that you can create all of the regular processes that run the organization that stop treating -- working with any constituency as an exception and understand that this has got to serve the entire population that you're working with.

Emily Jasper

Well, think about what you just mentioned about modeling. If you had an idea of the size of the population and perhaps you have to extrapolate a little bit because you may not have a concrete number, but you're going to maybe change your health care provider.

If you know there's a certain percentage who may need access to health care services or perhaps you're looking at legal benefits and they need adoption services, you will actually make an effort to review those packages or policies or benefits so that you're meeting a portion of your employee base as opposed to just not thinking about it, taking the default and moving on.

Eric Hanselman

And considering that this really is this entire community that you've got to start thinking about. And I think the other piece that you were mentioning here, we hadn't touched on as much, which is those efforts to build allyship and to extend connections throughout an organization, I think is another one of those critical aspects that organizations need to think about, and carving out any particular set of actions without an understanding that this has to be something that -- this brought our community together, I think, is a missed opportunity?

Emily Jasper

I love it when I send an event to my management or to some of my peers who I know they're not on my distro list. And they say, "Awesome. I signed up for that." Or they changed their Zoom background for a meeting, or they've added pronouns to their signature.

Those little things that are showing that they heard something I mentioned to them, and that they are taking advantage of it, helps build that allyship. So it's a lot of those little things.

We're not doing it just to add a number pieces to check off, it's ways that you can signal to other employees, especially if we're all so much more virtual, that you are someone who will take a moment and understand a little bit more of who they are as a person. And that is something that is so critical for both allies and those of us in the community.

Eric Hanselman

And something that we should be doing in the world at large, I might add. But -- so what should organizations be considering as they're looking to build better support for their communities?

I think we've talked a little bit about this? Certainly, understanding the metrics have to expand, but I'm interested to get what your thoughts about sort of what are those things that organizations should really be looking towards?

Marie Froehlicher

We've touched upon some really important points already. I think Emily what you said is really relevant regarding the resource groups, also, the policy work that needs to be done regarding health care, care leave, parental leave. But I guess one thing that we see more and more as well is that companies are starting to take a stance.

So in the past, maybe companies were a little bit more neutral, a little bit more reluctant to actually share their values with the broad public. And I think today, the situation should change and is changing. And companies will need to start standing behind the values that they defend within the company.

And that might mean making some people angry, potentially losing some customers. It might also mean having to end a relationship with a supplier because they don't share the same values as your organization or not giving political donations to certain candidates because of the stance that they took on certain diversity topics.

But I think it will be really necessary for companies to better support their community by publicly standing behind their values, and this will also help them to find the talent and to attract the customers that they need to sustain their business in the decades to come.

Eric Hanselman

To be brave enough in the knowledge that doing the right thing for their broader community will serve them in the long run.

Marie Froehlicher


Emily Jasper

It's also an excellent opportunity to elevate those who are willing to represent or speak out. I think that -- and making sure that the voices who are speaking about, either new policies, or changes, or even just updating a LinkedIn message, allyship is wonderful, but also elevate those who are members of these communities.

So for me, being LGBTQI+ is not the most important thing about me or many of my colleagues. But if you part in the phrase, "I am gay every day so that I can speak up for those who can't." And I know that there could be a risk that a client sees my post. And maybe the next time they're on a call, things could be a little awkward.

But you know what, I am so happy to do that and to help brave some of that space because I know there is somebody else who is not ready to do that or they have been tired of doing the work before, it's their turn to rest. I'm here.

And many of us who share that same sense of responsibility as long as organizations continue to support us, so that we are there to help, be visible to all of those who are not in a position to, it really creates an opportunity for that future community building that we want to make sure we entrust.

Eric Hanselman

Well, I appreciate both of you coming on and for all of the insights and perspectives. There is so much more that we could talk about. Unfortunately, we are at time. But thank you both for being on.

Marie Froehlicher

Thank you so much to you both as well for this great conversation.

Emily Jasper

Yes. We're really excited. And don't worry, we'll try and find a way so that it's not only in June that we talk about this again.

Eric Hanselman

Well, if we look at a lot of things we've been talking about, I mean, the language aspects, we've actually touched on this a little bit in some of the early episodes of the podcast. There's a lot more that we could potentially cover. So more episodes to come. I hope you'll -- both will rejoin me at some point as we start rolling through this and help to elevate some of these conversations' perspectives.

So that is it for this episode of Next In Tech. Thanks to our audience for hanging in there with us. And thanks to our production team, including Caroline Wright, Catarina Iacoviello and Ethan Zimman and the Marketing and Events team and, our studio lead, Kyle Cangialosi.

I hope you join us for our next episode, where we'll be discussing customer success with Bruce Daily. Hope you'll join us then because there's always something Next in Tech.

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