Why tech companies need to embrace equity, diversity and inclusion

The high-tech sector tends to lag behind when it comes to gender parity and diversity. But diverse companies perform better and increase employee satisfaction, according to Dr. Lisa Graham, CEO of Seeq. See video.

By Gary Cohen June 11, 2022
Dr. Lisa Graham, chief executive officer at Seeq, discusses why gender equity, diversity and inclusion are essential in technology, and especially in technology leadership, in a video interview. Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

A 2020 report from McKinsey found that diverse companies perform better, hire better talent, have a more engaged employee base and retain workers better. Unfortunately, women and minorities remain widely underrepresented in the technology field. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the high-tech sector employs a larger share of whites and men than does overall private-sector employment. A study by Deloitte Global predicted that large global tech firms will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in 2022, but the number of women in leadership positions is even lower than that.

Those numbers are not optimal in manufacturing and technology, said Dr. Lisa Graham, chief executive officer at Seeq, a process data analytics company that serves the manufacturing industry. Gender equity, diversity and inclusion are essential in technology, and especially in technology leadership.

“I would say it takes a highly talented, diversified team to do what we do here at Seeq,” Graham said. “That’s really the case at all tech companies. Every member of organizations, for example, has a different perspective, a different skillset, a different set of experiences, and that diversity really adds value to the business.”

Equity, diversity and inclusion

Gender equity, diversity and inclusion are important in tech leadership in particular because diverse leaders can serve as role models for other diverse employees within their companies. These leaders can provide support and mentorship, enabling a dynamic workforce to advance in their own careers as well as in what they do for their organization.

Seeq has made it a priority to both help recruit women into the industry and improve diversity and inclusion in technology. Over the last two years, they have kicked off something they call a returnship program. This is like an internship for experienced workers seeking to reenter the workforce after an extended period of time away for, say, family caregiving.

“Caregivers with career gaps are often mothers, and so returnships can play a significant role in increasing the number of women on staff and particularly in technical roles,” Graham said.

In fact, one of Seeq’s software engineering teams is now 80% women as a result of the returnship program. Returnships have also increased the company’s diversity. According to Graham, four employees were hired from the first cohort, and all four came from different cultural backgrounds from around the world.

Because Seeq is a fully remote company, they pride themselves on geographic diversity. Adding employees from different cultures and backgrounds can provide new perspectives and contribute to the growth and expertise of an enterprise. Even something as simple as increasing language fluency can be essential for a company attempting to support a global suite of customers.

But while Seeq often gets credit for hiring a female CEO and embracing diversity and inclusion, Graham was somewhat hesitant to accept those plaudits. She said Seeq shouldn’t have to stand out in that regard because more tech companies should be embracing gender parity and diversity as the standard.

“It really is time for companies to truly value diverse perspectives,” Graham said. “We see it in the numbers. We see companies that have a diverse set of perspectives in their company and on their boards are outperforming at the business level over those that are not. A company should no longer stand out, though, because it has a female CEO or a diverse C-suite. It shouldn’t be something where we go, ‘Oh, gosh, do they have that?’ Come on, that should be the norm.”

People, profit and planet

Another area where Graham is hoping Seeq can make a global difference in with the company’s climate and sustainability efforts. Seeq is an application dedicated to process manufacturing data analytics. The company is hoping to leverage their data expertise to create a more sustainable world for businesses, communities and the surrounding environment.

One of the major challenges around sustainability is that, despite acknowledging concern for climate change, many organizations still struggle with determining the best approach, due to either a lack of capital allocation, competing priorities or difficulty quantifying the return on investment. Using industrial data analytics can enable manufacturers to accelerate the pace of insights impact by making sustainability progress measurable and prioritizing areas of focus.

“We can reduce the risk of curiosity,” Graham said. “Data analytics supports engineers and others who want to look at the data to say, ‘What can I do with this?’ — and long before they have to make a capital investment, accelerating innovation, and leading to improved throughput, which is obviously a positive from a return on investment [standpoint], and finally, retaining and attracting human talent by empowering people to make a difference. It’s very engaging for these companies, especially during this great resignation that we’re seeing, to leverage data analytics as a way to draw people into their work, into what they do every day, because they can see how they’re making a difference.”

Industrial analytics can also allow companies to find new perspectives and opportunities to innovate. In a perfect world, this can help them achieve the triple bottom line of “people, profit and planet.”

“We can help organizations, through using applications like Seeq, to positively impact the people by empowering them with the tools they need to drive profits for the business through improving efficiencies and operation and workflows,” Graham said. “Those very profits then that can be used to make those capital investments in order to bring in those new technologies that we need to become sustainable, and finally, finding areas of opportunity hidden in the data to reduce the impact on our planet.”

Gary Cohen is senior editor, CFE Media and Technology, gcohen@cfemedia.com.

Author Bio: Gary Cohen is senior editor and product manager at CFE Media and Technology.