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Fostering and Promoting Diversity in Workplace IT Departments

By Kristina Draper, Wells Fargo In today's business environment, there is an increasing focus on cultivating a diverse workforce. But achieving diversity can be a challenge for many organizations, particularly in IT fields. While there are several contributing factors, one key driver is simply that the numbers of certain racial and ethnic minorities in IT are not proportional to their numbers in the population. In addition, in the U.S., the percentage of female IT employees has steadil

By Kristina Draper, Wells Fargo

In today's business environment, there is an increasing focus on cultivating a diverse workforce. But achieving diversity can be a challenge for many organizations, particularly in IT fields. While there are several contributing factors, one key driver is simply that the numbers of certain racial and ethnic minorities in IT are not proportional to their numbers in the population. In addition, in the U.S., the percentage of female IT employees has steadily declined. Taking the time to understand the reasons for and obstacles to recruitment and retention of any underrepresented groups is important and showcases why it is so critical to increase retention of key talent. Wells Fargo strongly believes that a diverse workforce with diverse perspectives brings numerous advantages to organizations, including the flexibility needed to drive innovation. While there are a number of ways to help foster diversity within an IT organization, here are three principles that I have found to be absolutely essential.Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk Diversity should not be just a program, but a part of the culture. At Wells Fargo, we've created diversity councils within the lines of business. Our Technology and Operations council meets monthly and advises managers on policy, programs, culture and leadership best practices, and coordinates activities designed to educate and engage our team members (employees). To join the council, team members must apply and meet a number of qualifications, including the ability and willingness to represent their team, engage leadership and create momentum around diversity initiatives, and the proven ability to deliver on commitments and work well with others. Team members must also receive manager endorsements before the application can be reviewed. Applicants are selected by the current council to ensure broad representation from all levels and groups across the organization.

The council actively makes recommendations to our leadership. One example surfaced in late 2007 - early 2008. The council committed itself to helping team members understand the importance of personal accountability to Diversity Growth/Awareness. In collaboration with Human Resources, the council successfully introduced revisions supporting these goals to the Team Member Development Plan Template. This was rolled out first at a divisional level and was later adopted at the Technology and Operations group level.

Be committed to mentoring When managers are committed to mentoring, employees are exposed to fresh perspectives, instruction and management styles. In addition, when mentors recognize the impact their protégés' personal and cultural differences have on the team's success, mentoring relationships create a stronger, more supportive work environment where all employees feel valued for their diverse perspectives.

I've benefited personally from mentoring relationships throughout my career with Wells Fargo. Not only have I been fortunate enough to have formal mentors work with me on my personal and professional growth, but I have also had managers who supported me throughout my career. I joined Wells Fargo on the retail banking side in 1992. My education was not focused on computer science/technology-rather, economics and statistics. I learned technology here at Wells Fargo. I was given opportunities to take positions that allowed for a great deal of growth. Along the way, I was exposed to great managers willing to work with me to further develop my strengths and shore up my weaknesses.

I mark 2004 as the most significant professional milestone. A manager encouraged me to make a lateral move into a position in the Information Services group. This was a defining moment because it ultimately introduced me to Wayne Mekjian, executive vice president and group technology executive for Information Services. Wayne has without question been the most positive influence in my Wells Fargo career. I could not have achieved the success that I have had at Wells Fargo if it wasn't for Wayne's support, encouragement and trust, as well as the guidance and leadership that he has shared.

Focus on development At Wells Fargo, team members are able to join multiple Team Member Networks. These groups are designed to help attract and retain diverse team members through networking opportunities, mentoring, career development resources and community outreach programs that have a positive influence on diverse segments of our local communities. Within the network are Team Member Resource Groups (TMRGs) that focus on workforce diversity (gender, race, ethnicity, origin, age, physical/mental abilities/disabilities, and sexual orientation). Our TMRGs include I.N.D.I.A. (Individuals Networking to Develop Indian Culture Awareness), DisAbilities Awareness, and PRIDE (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) among many others.

TMRGs are inclusive to all team members and any team member can create a group, though it must meet TMRG guidelines for approval to receive corporate funding and other resources.

I am currently a member of the Amigos Arizona TMRG. In the last year, Amigos Arizona has offered members the chance to participate in many volunteer events, including a recent mountain hike to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

We also focus on fostering diversity of thought through Communities of Practice (CoPs) within the Team Member Networks. CoPs are groups that promote opportunities for professional growth and development and informal networking while supporting our business strategies. These groups provide team members across the enterprise a forum to share perspectives on a wide variety of topics, including disability awareness, environmentalism and innovation.

I am also a member of the Women in Technology (WIT) Community of Practice. The WIT group-open to both women and men-brings together team members who share a passion for technology and wish to facilitate team member success through networking, support and education. WIT recently offered volunteer opportunities to provide online academic mentoring to young people. The system identified academic topics where mentors were needed and then made it very easy to schedule convenient times for mentors and students to meet.

In addition, Wells Fargo encourages team members to job shadow, with manager approval, as a way to learn new skills and foster collaboration. By job shadowing, team members can develop their careers, while coming together to think of new ways to deliver great products and services for our customers.

Kristina Draper manages the Enterprise Business Services and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Technology group and has served as the Technology and Operations Diversity Council Chair at Wells Fargo since 2008.

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