Infotech’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are essential components of a thriving innovation ecosystem. They promote a culture that we can be proud of, foster an atmosphere of creativity, and uphold best practices that attract top talent. So how do we shift from box-checking to culture-changing?

Infotech’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are essential components of a thriving innovation ecosystem.

They promote a culture that we can be proud of, foster an atmosphere of creativity, and uphold best practices that attract top talent.

The question is not 'do we implement diversity and inclusion (D&I)' …. but how? … and how do we keep implementing them?

How do we shift from box-checking to culture-changing?

This week we sat down with Ale Nunez and Cynthia Allen, members of Infotech's committee for diversity and inclusion (CDI). Check out our post below to learn how one of Gainesville's top local employers is converting critical conversations to sustainable actions.

Featuring:

Ale Nunez, Infotech Talent Specialist Focused on Engagement and Organizational Development and Chair of the CDI

Cynthia Allen, Infotech Senior Account Specialist; Founding Member of the CDI


Infotech in 30 seconds

As Ale shared, Infotech has two businesses under one roof. One creates digital solutions for the infrastructure construction industry (Infotech Systems) and the other provides expert statistical and econometric consulting services (Infotech Consulting). While the markets the two businesses serve are different, we’re united by our common values and goals since our founding.

Why Infotech values diversity

According to Ale, diversity and inclusion are integral to Infotech's corporate culture.

"Infotech has four pillars- integrity, innovation, insight and inclusion. Diversity and treating people right is a key part of integrity, and we even sing about TPR [Treat People Right] in the Infotech song," she says.

The events that inspired action

Cynthia recalls that in the wake of George Floyd's death, the start of the pandemic, and multiple tragic events that forced America to confront racism in 2020, she mostly wanted to reach out and start the conversation.

"We have African-American employees who are part of this family. I reached out to all of them and asked, 'How is the health of your household? How are you feeling?," she says.

She wanted to know-- does Infotech have anything to say about this? So during the Summer of 2020- she asked.

"I reached out to a company vice president and told her what these experiences were like for me, and she was moved to tears. We had a couple more talks, and we both realized that while we recognized the importance of diversity, nobody knew how to approach the topic amongst employees. People's job performance could be impacted by what's going on. So we put our heads together on ways to address the issue and recognized that most immediately, people needed a place to speak openly and have a call to action."

They started with a slack channel called Black Lives Matter. From there, employees and leadership began a series of town halls so everyone could voice their feelings and collectively brainstorm ways the company could help.

Shortly after that, the Infotech talent management  team invited Cynthia to help spearhead the diversity and inclusion committee.

According to Cynthia, the intentional approach they took in setting up the Committee for Diversity & Inclusion (CDI) was imperative for sparking change.

"We knew we wanted to approach topics you can't easily bring up at the watercooler, and we didn't appoint a single staff member to represent everyone. We knew the importance of having employees involved and having them express how they feel."

How the CDI was formed and what it does

The CDI formally started the third week of September 2020, where the group’s founders quickly went to work studying and cataloging any and all best practices and sources they could find.

Then they recruited committee members with diverse racial and ethnic, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, cultural, national original, religious commitments, age, and (dis)ability status. According to Ale, it was critical to get the committee up and running quickly.  

"We tried to move quickly because we wanted to see action sooner than later," she says. "We had applications open for a couple of weeks and ended up with ten members and 2 leadership sponsors from the company."

The CDI Charter, finalized shortly after, outlines four significant objectives for the committee, which we've summarized below.

According to its charter: The Committee for Diversity and Inclusion promotes diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion for all Infotech employees by supporting an environment founded on Infotech's commitment to treat people right.

 

According to its charter: The Committee for Diversity and Inclusion promotes diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion for all Infotech employees by supporting an environment founded on Infotech's commitment to treat people right.

       

Number 1. Support education and awareness by positioning learning opportunities

Number 2. Engage with the company's broader communities

Number 3. Identify and tackle D&I gaps with internal and external measures of success

Number 4. Execute celebratory and educational diversity and inclusion events and programs

Ale neatly summarizes their efforts in one swift phrase "We work hard on words AND actions," she says.

A commitment to show up and speak up

Infotech's CDI asks members to commit a two-year term, dedicate an average of four hours a month to committee causes, and champion a significant event or workshop during their tenure.

But according to Cynthia and Ale, one of the most critical elements of serving on the committee is a member's willingness to step out of their comfort zone and ask others to do the same.

"We have difficult conversations, and the people on this committee aren't afraid to speak up," says Cynthia. "I'm not just speaking on behalf of me; I'm speaking on behalf of the future of this company. The people who come behind me need to see impact and openness now so that it won't be difficult for our sons and daughters to have these conversations."

CDI marketing also encourages other employees to have open, honest conversations by designating CDI members with a Slack badge. For Cynthia, the badge signifies a safe space to learn. "People just wanted to have conversations and know where to ask a question safely to ask about what they're confused about- that helps a lot of employees just to know that we're here. And if we don't know the answer, we'll get it the best way that we can."

Navigating unknowns is something the CDI embraces readily. "We're totally ok saying we don't know the answer to that question, and with spending time looking into them," she says. "Trusting that we're all trying to learn and grow together is important."

Subcommittee volunteers are also recruited regularly for larger events and initiatives. The staggered structure offers all employees an opportunity to be involved, even if they face scheduling time constraints.

Embedding leadership

Ale attributes another critical component of their success to having company leadership embedded in the CDI. "They're not only open to having these conversations, they actively seek them," she says. "They come to us to make sure that our language is inclusive- it's an honor that our companies let us impact that."

The committee is also invited to review new initiatives for the company, such as gender-neutral bathrooms. "We actually got to talk about where the bathroom would be and whether we were placing it intentionally," says Ale. The CDI is consulted throughout the idea, strategy, policy planning to ensure decisions are embedded in our company's culture for the long run.

How can we duplicate this?

While every workplace is different, we heard four key themes loud and clear from our friends at Infotech and would encourage others to do the same!

Listen- Find out what your employees care about and need.

Evaluate- Identify diversity, equity, and inclusion gaps and use that to guide actions for change.

Plan: Look at what you're doing and how you can grow. Embed sustainable change into the company culture with training AND everyday initiatives that celebrate, educate, inform, and encourage discussion.

Act- Don't just check the box; go beyond that.

Examples from Infotech's CDI that we love

Listening both ways: Infotech not only used traditional town hall methods to engage its employees-- it also uses a very cool strategy called a reverse town hall, where employees talk to leadership and run the discussion.

Taking an in-depth look: Infotech actively works to identify gaps in D&I using methods like pulse surveys. They compile and analyze their findings into a formal report and determine plans for actionable change.

Using inclusive language: The CDI not only works hand-in-hand with the legal team and human relations team to integrate inclusive language into all copy, but they also promote inclusive language into everyday workplace elements. Infotech employees have pronouns on their professional titles, email signatures, and zoom names.

Proving an inclusive working environment: Infotech offers stellar employee benefits, including support for individual gender transitions, paid parental leave, and infertility support to name a few.

Creating everyday opportunities for awareness and education:  One of the CDI's primary goals "was to educate people and help people educate themselves with practices that could be embedded in everyday life sustainably," says Ale.

A few examples include:

- Purchasing a diversity calendar and using Slack to highlight celebrations and events from diverse religions and cultures

- Hosting a transgender diversity training and awareness week

- Bringing in D&I experts for company-wide workshops that educate employees and leadership

Making space for new experiences: The company not only offers four hours of company-billed time to learn more about diversity and inclusion, but they also facilitate experiences.

"We want people to get a little uncomfortable, we want to pair people who wouldn't normally talk, and we wanted to break the normal psychological trend of pairing with people who look like us," says Ale.

Most recently, employees were partnered with another employee they had never worked with and given 30 minutes to discuss a set of select topics. Pairs asked each other questions to get to know eachother better, including ‘What is one thing about yourself that you wish people knew about you, but don't?” and “Who has been instrumental in your life?” According to Cynthia, the event was a success. "The person I was paired with, we worked in the same department for some time but never interacted, and now we're Facebook friends," she says.

Working with the community: The CDI hosts heritage celebrations that feature speakers from across the community to highlight its diverse culture. For Cynthia, the experience hasn't just been educational for her peers at work but also for her community outreach peers. "Serving the community is part of what I do anyway,” she says “But I was able to have conversations with people in our community who didn't know that Infotech was here this long, and they were impressed that our place of work gave us a platform to learn about different cultures."

But the Infotech CDI isn't the only Infotech committee working to forward D&I. The Infotech internship program hosts shadow projects for women studying computer science. The Community Involvement Committee (which promotes charity and community giving) is currently focused on serving East Gainesville.

Infotech employees are forwarding D&I in their spare time. When she's not at work, Usha Suryadevara, Director of Engineering at Infotech, runs We Advance Tech Together (WATT), an organization dedicated to helping men and women support women's presence in tech workspaces.


Open space, open minds, open hearts

Editor's note- When I asked Cynthia about the CDI, she described how it felt to her so perfectly that I couldn't resist ending this story with it.

       

"I remember when we moved into this new building with tons of windows and space- and suddenly it was like you could see everyone. Nobody was siloed anymore- things are wide open. This is like that, we're here, expressing our differences and embracing them. What a beautiful thing”.

           


Info Tech, Inc., DBA Infotech (Infotech) bridges innovation and integrity by developing cutting-edge digital solutions for the infrastructure construction industry and providing expert statistical and econometric consulting services across multiple industries. Infotech's two core businesses, Infotech Systems and Infotech Consulting, use technology and data to bring transparency, integrity and efficiency to the people we serve. Informed by DOT relationships and decades of experience, Infotech Systems develops software solutions that bridge the gaps between owners, consultants, contractors, and other project stakeholders. Infotech is the developer of Appia®, Bid Express®, and Doc Express®, as well as the official contractor for AASHTOWare Project™.

For more information on our SaaS offerings, visit infotechinc.com.

For more information about our expert consulting services, visit infotechconsulting.com.