Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are ongoing priorities for OneIT as the organization and its people continue to learn, develop resources, and discuss DEI topics.
OneIT was actively engaged in the university’s strategic planning initiatives related to DEI, contributing ideas and data to the process. Many OneIT employees earned BUILD program certificates after completing a series of workshops to help create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all. Many more participated in BUILD courses and other professional development on DEI.
One project the OneIT DEI Committee completed this year was development of an inclusive hiring toolkit. The resource recommends best practices for applying an inclusivity lens to each step of the hiring process. It builds upon work done by the non-profit higher education IT organization EDUCAUSE, covering topics such as recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, retention, and belonging.
Liz Montag, an IT support consultant for the Extended Technical Support team in Information Technology Services, was one of several contributors to the toolkit. She said the recommendations seek to make the hiring process as comfortable as possible for individuals going through it.
“The process is a stressful one, and doing what we can to ease those stressors allows each candidate their opportunity to shine,” Montag says. “From an organizational perspective I think making the process easier allows us to really get a good feel for candidates, and really attract the best talent we can. In addition, being sensitive to a diverse array of backgrounds allows us to make sure we’re retaining the talent that does come in.”
Montag was motivated to get involved with the project because of her personal experiences.
“As a transgender woman who went through the whole process recently, there were several instances where I wish the organizations I interviewed with had a resource like this,” she says. “I got called the wrong name often enough, as well as being misgendered, and I feel like those things impacted my performance in interviews.”
Recommendations made in the inclusive hiring kit could’ve prevented this—things like including a preferred name field on applications, or confirming pronouns with candidates before interviews.
“I’m passionate about making OneIT the best place possible for people like me, but also those who are different from me,” Montag says. “I think DEI is something that benefits everyone, and embracing it allows us to create a better workplace for everyone.”
Promoting IT accessibility
This year OneIT also convened a new, campus-wide cohort of staff to act as IT accessibility liaisons. Each liaison serves as a first point of contact for IT accessibility issues within their respective units.
The IT accessibility liaisons group meets monthly to discuss accessibility issues and to offer feedback on accessibility initiatives on campus. They receive specialized training and resources on digital and IT accessibility policy, standards, and practice.
Roles liaisons may serve include overseeing the Siteimprove accessibility module for websites, providing basic guidance on IT accessibility, performing basic testing and remediation of unit technologies and tools, and developing alternate access plans for individuals who use assistive technologies.
Currently more than 40 IT accessibility liaisons participate in the group, representing 30 campus units.
Reflecting on DEI topics
Creating conversation around DEI topics is another important aspect of the OneIT DEI committee’s work.
Each month they share a OneIT DEI Digest focused on a specific DEI topic. Over the past year, they have provided more than 70 resources. In addition to the readings and videos, the committee hosts regular virtual coffees for casual conversation around diversity topics.
Reflections on the digest themes are a part of monthly staff forums (known as the CIO Listening Posts). Each time, a member of the OneIT community shares their perspective with more than 300 colleagues.
Speakers have addressed what DEI success looks like, barriers to DEI and how to overcome them, non-apparent disabilities, neurodiversity, and immigration status, among other topics.
One speaker was Giang Rudderham, who talked about how her cultural background of growing up in Vietnam influenced her approach to meetings. Rudderham is a senior business intelligence analyst in the Research Services department in Information Technology Services.
“In my culture, there’s a saying that’s roughly translated to, ‘If you know something then you can politely speak up. If you don’t know, you should stay on the sidelines and listen,’” Rudderham says. “That saying was something that was meant to teach young children the value of listening.”
But the practice has a side effect of making her hesitant to ask questions and sometimes doubting the value of her contributions. Rudderham talked about how she likes to observe team dynamics before jumping into a conversation and how observing an openness to questions and respectful communication encourages her to jump in. She also described a cultural difference related to uncomfortable silence.
“When I was growing up, people tended to be ok with silences in conversation, probably with a silence of 10 seconds or more,” she says. “Silence can mean that people are thinking or reflecting on what was said, or they are considering what to say next.”
Sometimes, Rudderham says, giving few extra seconds of silence helps individuals who might have trepidation about sharing their thoughts. It gives them the time they need to build up courage to speak.
Recognition for a DEI leader
José Jiménez, director of Research Information Systems in Information Technology Services, has been an integral part of DEI initiatives for OneIT. He was a key collaborator on the first OneIT DEI strategic plan, and continues to work toward expanding the understanding of DEI issues across the IT community.
For his efforts, Jiménez received a Staff Award for Distinguished Leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He was honored as a role model for integrating DEI into all aspects of work life and successfully encouraging others to do the same.
As described in his recognition, Jiménez is an active ally and mentor who consistently works to elevate others’ voices. He invests time in relationship-building and outreach to drive inclusion and engage a broad range of staff, and is attuned to identities that may be forgotten or not immediately evident.
Next steps for OneIT DEI
Along with striving to provide multiple opportunities for OneIT staff to be in conversation with others regarding DEI topics this past year, the OneIT DEI committee has broadened its own conversations to include the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and other DEI units across campus.
“Our committee recognizes that our willingness to discover new knowledge continually prompts us to adopt new ways of thinking, which is important in the dynamic environment that is DEI,” says Manda Marshall, DEI Committee co-chair and campus technology trainer in ITS Enterprise Services.
In the coming year, as new committee members are identified, the committee will continue offering opportunities for conversation and promote an environment for learning about and from one another.
“We each can contribute to a culture in which multiple perspectives are valued,” says Bill Easton, DEI Committee co-chair and an application developer in pathology informatics. “Bringing more people into the conversation allows us to broaden our thinking on any topic because of the knowledge and experience that each person brings with them.”
The team also looks forward to collaborating with OneIT communities, leadership, and other groups to ensure DEI is part of strategic planning and goal setting for the coming years.