DEI is our Catalyst If you’ve been following Bitwise Industries via our social channels or in the news, you’ve probably noticed us talking frequently about diversity, equity, and inclusion (also referred to as DEI) in the technology workforce. We lead with this topic in our Open Letter, it’s in the first phrase you read on our website, and it’s the impetus behind the Digital New Deal—an initiative developed solely to rebuild the IT infrastructure in our country using a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce—which will ultimately invest in and lift up historically disenfranchised people through tech opportunities. The current driving force behind our entire technology movement begins with DEI, so let’s get into the definition of this phrase and what it means—then we’ll talk about what we’re doing at Bitwise to turn this initiative into a nationwide movement. What does DEI mean in the workplace? Simply put, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is the deliberate practice of all three of these initiatives and weaving them into the foundational operations of a company’s fabric or corporate culture to foster a workplace that is reflective of a just, equitable, representative, and inclusive corporate environment. Diversity is the representation of all varied identities and differences (race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, tribe, caste, socio-economic status, thinking and communication styles, etc.), collectively and as individuals. Equity seeks to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and impartiality and fairness in access to information and resources for all. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society. Inclusion is the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups. How Bitwise is Leading the Charge in DEI In one of our previous blog posts that briefly discussed diversity and inclusion in our student body for Bitwise Workforce, we mentioned that the current makeup of our team is >50% Black, Brown and Native people; >50% LGBTQIA+, women, Non-Binary, Gender Nonconforming and Trans individuals; and 20% first-generation immigrant. We also mention that our corporate culture is molded under the philosophy that our company is about humans. All humans. Humans that vary in race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, tribe, socio-economic status, upbringing, and financial status. Building this diverse workforce was intentional and to be quite honest—easy. Why was it easy? Because this workforce is built from our friends, neighbors, church families and work pals. They’re between the ages of 18 and 60. They’re veterans, formerly incarcerated, career changers and curious minds. Building this workforce was easy because we did it deliberately. Instead of spending millions of dollars on diversity officers and diversity departments, we just made it a priority, ingrained it into our ethos, and made it happen. We decided to pay people to learn to code. Many of them we hired into our company and some were hired at other tech companies. We decided to intentionally build a pipeline to careers in technology. It Starts with Our Leadership The captains at the helm of this mothership (Bethany Mily, Irma Olguin Jr. and Jake Soberal) set us on a course early on to create an inclusive and diverse workplace prior to the term “DEI” really taking center stage in the workplace landscape. We readjusted our wording on open job positions to remove four-year-degree requirements. We also removed certification requirements. Instead, we focused on the talent, the stone-cold drive, and grit of each individual. And you’d be surprised at the level of grit in our communities; folks who have the brilliance of a rocket scientist and the drive and passion to keep learning and growing in their skill set—even without an institutional pedigree. Those are the humans we bring on our team. They have pink hair, they’re mountain bikers, they disassemble and reassemble video game modules for fun, they’re retirees from previous careers, they’re in minority groups, they’re veterans, they’re tradespeople, they’re covered in tattoos, they’re introverts, they have disabilities, they taught themselves how to code, they were formerly incarcerated, they’re high school dropouts … and they found a home in our company. They proved to us they could do the job asked of them, regardless of past experience or pedigree and we took a chance on them. And they’re amazing. Every single one of them. The Digital New Deal Our DEI methodology at Bitwise will now be applied to our new initiative, the Digital New Deal (DND). We’ll be pioneering this undertaking as a way to leverage public/private entities to work together to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce at a much larger scale. Organizations have billions of dollars allocated for software projects that can be awarded to traditional consulting firms where the work product will be technology alone. But under this DND model, these projects would allow apprentices we train in our Workforce program to collaborate with senior developers to deliver both the technology and a diverse tech workforce that can then power future economic growth. From our Open Letter: The way to true representation in the tech economy is not rocket science, but it is deliberate and demands a different approach. To us, the way is obvious: connect underestimated people to tech skills and pay them to learn; these people earn tech jobs and help their employers grow; they transform their own lives and the economy of their hometowns; their decent wages buy houses, pay taxes, build playgrounds and rebuild cities. We will continue to remove barriers to technology opportunities and we will continue to build a representative workforce from the faces that make up communities in which Bitwise serves. Ask Us Questions Diversity, equity, and inclusion are topics we could talk about all day long, as it’s what fuels our metaphorical engine to build kick-ass software. If you have a question regarding a technology project or idea, schedule a chat with us via this link. You can read our Open Letter in its entirety HERE or learn more about the Digital New Deal HERE. This post was written by Celeste A. Barron, Content Development Manager for Bitwise Industries. You’ll find her bad-mouthing comic sans and sparking heated debates over the Oxford comma.