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Deep Thoughts on Tech
and Diversity

By Rick Bell

Tarsha McCormick is a long-tenured employee of ThoughtWorks, having joined the company in January 1999 as a recruiting specialist when it was a small startup of fewer than 100 staffers. McCormick, now head of diversity and inclusion for the Chicago-based software company, took the role in January 2015 and is responsible for driving the strategic thinking and work related to making ThoughtWorks more diverse and inclusive while also advocating for change in the technology industry. Born and raised in Chicago, she has called Atlanta home since 2010. Workforce Editorial Director Rick Bell caught up with McCormick via email.

WF: What were your diversity hiring goals in 1999 compared 2018?

Tarsha McCormick: We have always valued aptitude and attitude, and although diversity has always been weaved into the fiber of our organization, I wish I could say that we had the same focus and intention on diversity hiring 20 years ago as we do today. We did, however, recognize and start to address the gender imbalance in IT before it became a popular topic. Today we look at diversity and recruiting holistically, including how and where we recruit and source candidates, the training and education we provide, our benefits and policies, as well as support and retention at ThoughtWorks.

WF: Is the tech industry rightly criticized for its lack of a diverse workforce?

McCormick: Unfortunately, right now that criticism is justified. While we are starting to see some small improvements. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, white men are immensely overrepresented in the tech sector, holding 53.5 percent of the jobs. The good news is that in recent years there has been more attention given to the lack of workforce diversity in the tech industry and small progress is being made. Organizations should continue to look at their recruiting practices to see how they can be more inclusive instead of exclusive.

WF: What is the key element missing from corporate diversity initiatives?

McCormick: Organizations need to be prepared and committed to the long haul as it relates to diversity and inclusion. Intention, time, and focus are necessary to achieve long-term sustainable results. It is impossible to achieve those results overnight. I also recommend taking creative approaches, creating measures of success and being open to adjusting efforts when necessary.

WF: Your role touches recruiting, benefits, HR operations and talent management. Is that the case with most D&I leaders?

McCormick: It certainly should be. [D&I] is about much more than hiring diverse candidates. It is also about looking at the entire organization holistically to see where changes can be made to ensure all employees are comfortable, supported, and have opportunities for growth. This can only be done if there are touchpoints and collaboration with other areas of the business. At the same time, diversity and inclusion is not the sole responsibility of a D&I leader. We are tasked with creating the strategic plan and leading some of the efforts, but diversity and inclusion is everyone’s job.