The NASCIO 2017 Annual Conference is sharing best practices, key lessons, and useful strategies for state and local government technology leaders. For those unable to attend the conference, MeriTalk State & Local is sharing key lessons, in a bite-size format, from the conference. Next up: Valuing diversity.

James Collins (Photo: State of Delaware)

Improving diversity is a constant struggle for the technology industry, in both the public and private sector. The industry as a whole suffers from a talent shortage to begin with, so to combine that with a desire to improve gender and racial diversity is a serious challenge. James Collins, Delaware CIO, shares how other states can not only improve diversity in hiring, but also in retention.

“Diversity isn’t valuable unless there is inclusion,” said Collins.

For many in the industry, the push for diversity stops at the job offer. Collins believes hiring is only the first step. Leaders then need to go further and make sure the office is inclusive for everyone, regardless of background.

“Diversity in and of itself creates conflict because of the differences involved,” Collins said. “Only when we are deliberate about inclusion can we realize the value of diversity. Diversity gets people in the door, inclusion keeps them sticking around.”

Everyone recognizes the benefits of diversity, Collins said, specifically calling out increased creativity, effective problem solving, and developing a competitive edge. However, Collins reminded state leaders in the room that this problem will not passively resolve itself.

In terms of increasing diversity and retention Collins offers up concrete steps state IT leaders can take:

  • Work with Human Resources to understand how your agency stacks up in terms of diversity.
  • Build initiatives to improve diversity, including posting job applications in new spaces and strengthening recruiting efforts among diverse communities.
  • Ensure your agency’s strategic objectives include diversity and inclusion.
  • Look at who is working on your most important projects. Are those teams diverse?
  • Make sure your leadership team is diverse. Collins says that sets the tone for the whole organization.
  • Be very deliberate about taking steps to make sure your workplace is accepting for all employees. Collins acknowledges that this might mean having some uncomfortable conversations, but it’s worth it.

“Focus on the outcomes, not the numbers,” Collins says. “Diversity creates opportunity for everyone in the organization.”


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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs