The tech industry thrives on innovation, and that innovation flourishes with diverse perspectives. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) are not just buzzwords – they’re crucial for building high-performing software development teams.

Studies by McKinsey & Company have shown that companies with greater diversity outperform their less diverse peers on a range of metrics, including profitability and innovation. Here, we’ll explore three key DEIB concepts that tech leaders can implement to foster a more inclusive and successful team environment:

1. Recognizing and Mitigating Affinity Bias

The Challenge

We all have biases, and affinity bias – the subconscious tendency to favor people similar to ourselves – is a common one. In software development teams, this can manifest in several ways:

  • A hiring manager might unconsciously favor a candidate from their alma mater, overlooking a candidate with stronger technical skills from a different university.
  • During code reviews, a developer might be more critical of code written by a colleague from a different gender or ethnicity.
  • Team leads might unintentionally assign projects based on preconceived notions about someone’s abilities, limiting opportunities for professional growth.

These scenarios, while seemingly small, can have a significant impact. A report by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) found that women in tech are more likely to be interrupted in meetings, receive less credit for their work, and be passed over for promotions compared to their male colleagues.

Solutions for Tech Leaders

By understanding and addressing affinity bias, tech leaders can create a fairer and more inclusive environment for all. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Standardized Hiring Rubrics: Develop clear, objective criteria for evaluating candidates based on skills and experience, not personal connections.
  • Diverse Interview Panels: Include team members from different backgrounds in the interview process to ensure a broader perspective and mitigate bias from any single individual.
  • Blind Resumes: Remove identifying information from resumes during the initial screening phase to focus solely on qualifications.

Be Applied built an amazing example of how this and other biases come in effect during hiring. Have a look:

Halo Effect, Confirmation Bias, Affinity Bias, GroupThink, and Stereotype Bias all can lead to wrongful assumptions around talent.

Halo Effect, Confirmation Bias, Affinity Bias, GroupThink, and Stereotype Bias all can lead to wrongful assumptions around talent.

2. Cultivating Intercultural Competence

The Challenge

The beauty of the tech industry lies in its global reach. Software development teams often work with colleagues or clients from diverse cultural backgrounds. Without intercultural competence – the ability to understand and effectively interact with people from different cultures – communication breakdowns and misunderstandings can occur.

For example, a team lead from the United States might expect direct communication and quick decision-making, while a team member from a collectivist culture might prefer to consult with colleagues before offering a solution. These differences can lead to frustration and missed opportunities for collaboration.

Solutions for Tech Leaders

Investing in intercultural competence training equips your team with the skills necessary to navigate diverse cultural dynamics. Here are some ways to foster intercultural competence:

  • Cultural Sensitivity Training: Provide training to equip your team with skills for effective intercultural communication, including understanding different communication styles, nonverbal cues, and decision-making processes.
  • Embrace Different Work Styles: Recognize that communication styles and work approaches can vary across cultures. Promote flexibility and understanding. For instance, some cultures prioritize in-person meetings, while others might prefer asynchronous communication via email or project management tools.
  • Encourage Global Collaboration: Offer opportunities for team members to work with colleagues from different cultures on projects. This fosters a sense of understanding and appreciation for diverse perspectives.

To dive deeper, you may want to check out our “5 Tips to Build Cohesive International Teams according to Sean Ways, VP of Eng at eHealth” piece.

3. The Power of Microaffirmations

The Opportunity

Microaffirmations are small, positive messages that acknowledge someone’s skills, talents, or contributions based on their background or identity. These seemingly simple actions can have a profound impact on building a sense of belonging.

A study by Yale University found that microaffirmations can boost confidence, improve academic performance, and reduce feelings of stereotype threat (the anxiety that arises from the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about one’s group).

Examples of Microaffirmations

Instead of generic praise, tailor your microaffirmations to acknowledge someone’s unique background or identity. Here’s how to craft microaffirmations that are genuine and avoid sounding condescending or underestimating someone:

  • Focus on Specific Contributions: Instead of generic praise (“You did a good job”), highlight a specific skill or contribution related to their background or identity. For example, “Your understanding of Latin American user preferences was invaluable in tailoring the app’s interface.” This acknowledges their unique perspective without implying they wouldn’t have succeeded otherwise.
  • Emphasize Effort and Growth: Microaffirmations can celebrate someone’s dedication to learning and growth. For example, “I’m impressed by how quickly you’ve grasped the intricacies of this new framework. Your willingness to learn is inspiring!” This acknowledges their effort without implying a lack of prior knowledge.
  • Focus on Collaboration: Highlight how their background enriches the team dynamic. For example, “The brainstorming session wouldn’t have been as fruitful without your cultural insights. Thank you for sharing your perspective!” This acknowledges their contribution to the team’s success without singling them out or implying they wouldn’t have had good ideas otherwise.
  • Avoid Assumptions: Don’t make assumptions about someone’s background or how they perceive your microaffirmation. If you’re unsure, err on the side of more general praise focused on skills or contributions.

Here are three additional tips:

  1. Be Sincere: Deliver microaffirmations with genuine enthusiasm and appreciation. Insincerity can be counterproductive.
  2. Maintain Balance: While microaffirmations are valuable, don’t overdo them. Aim for a natural flow of communication with occasional acknowledgments of someone’s unique background and contributions.
  3. Follow Up with Action: Pair microaffirmations with opportunities for growth and recognition. For example, after praising someone’s cultural insights, consider assigning them a project that leverages their expertise.

Investing in DEIB Pays Off

Implementing these strategies requires effort, but the benefits are undeniable. Studies have shown that companies with diverse leadership teams are more innovative and achieve higher financial returns. Here’s how DEIB fosters a stronger software development team:

  • A Wider Talent Pool: By dismantling barriers created by unconscious bias, you attract a broader range of qualified candidates, leading to a richer talent pool and the potential to discover hidden gems.
  • Enhanced Innovation: Diversity of thought leads to a wider range of ideas and approaches to problem-solving, ultimately leading to more innovative solutions.
  • Improved Decision-Making: Teams with diverse perspectives consider a wider range of factors, leading to more informed and well-rounded decisions.
  • Employee Satisfaction & Retention: Employees who feel valued and respected for their unique contributions are more likely to be satisfied and stay with the company.
  • Enhanced Brand Reputation: A commitment to DEIB strengthens your employer brand and attracts top talent seeking a progressive and inclusive work environment.

Ready to Build a More Inclusive Team?

Have a look at our “Championing Diversity Beyond Borders: Remote Hiring and DE&I in SaaS” article. Ubiminds can be a strong partner for Latino inclusion in the tech industry, connecting you to tech talent in Latin America as a whole. Contact us today to learn more!


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