Did you know that companies working with diverse teams are 36% more profitable (McKinsey, 2019)? Did you also know that diverse and inclusive leadership brings on more innovation (Forbes, 2018) and employee motivation and satisfaction (McKinsey, 2020)?
Working on improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is therefore essential, because it is not only an ethical must for companies but also a lever for productivity and well-being of employees.
Focusing on gender as a starting point
At B12 Consulting, our attention came to DEI first through the lens of the large gender imbalance in the IT sector and, let’s admit it, in our team as well, although to a lesser extent. In fact, only 18.2% of IT professionals are women (2021) while, at B12, 28.5% (2022) of our employees are female.
We are convinced we could benefit from more gender balance but we also feel it is our social responsibility towards young women to actively participate in reversing this trend. This conviction led us to our initial step towards DEI. Our first move was to make sure that women working for our company feel included and get the same opportunities as men. In June 2021, we created the Women@B12 group in order to open the discussion about gender bias within B12.
After a few months, we felt that, although successful in making our female team feel more comfortable at work and breaking the gender bias, taking actions in this restricted context could only have a limited effect. That is why we opened the debate to the rest of the company by writing newsletter articles and presenting a knowledge sharing session about gender bias to the whole company. The session was about "Gender Differences in Emotional Response" and reported on scientific studies comparing female and male reactions in different contexts. The conclusion was that, although the expression of emotional response can be different depending on gender and emotions, bio markers, such has blood pressure, showing the “feeling” of emotions were about the same.
More than a year later, the group still exists and gathers regularly, even though it seems to focus more and more on what we could do as a company to reduce gender imbalance in our sector — indeed, our ambitions have grown! Today, we can definitely say that Women@B12 is a success because it has strengthened the links among the women in our team, which allows them to feel more comfortable to speak up if any bias should arise.
Starting from Women@B12, working towards a better gender balance has became one of our central strategic concerns. Each time we have an opportunity to promote gender balance or put it in the spotlight, we do it and will keep on doing so. For instance, our team, both male and female became more and more present and active in events and initiatives promoting women in IT.
Moreover, as a part of our effort to promote gender balance, we do not miss any opportunities to highlight other women working in IT or STEM. For example, in 2022, we dedicated a special "WomenInIT" award to our hackathon. We also had the chance to sponsor the university association WomInTech. This partnership allowed us to give an interactive conference on "how to respond to gender inequalities in tech?" as well as to welcome 5 female students studying engineering in our offices to give them 3 workshops on IT jobs.
Creating a broader DEI strategy
Even though we have put a lot of emphasis on gender balance, it is still important that everyone who works for us, regardless of their age, race, background, sexual identity or orientation, feel good and has the same opportunities to grow in our company. In this context, we came across the Level IT out workshops and decided to open the debate to diversity, equity and inclusion more generally.
The first recommended step during the Level IT out workshops was to perform a DEI scan of the B12 employees, meaning collecting and analyzing data about the profiles of our team. Diversity can be measured in many dimensions but we choose to focus on gender, nationality, age and background, that are relevant and retrievable information without violating people’s privacy and intimacy.
In 2022, we are around 35 employees and the results of the DEI scan showed a general bias towards being a young Belgian male and having a Master’s or a PhD’s degree.
To dig further, we decided to look at the composition of our team by seniority (Junior, Senior, Manager, Partner), because we were interested to know how the biases impacted the different levels in the organisation and then implicitly the career opportunities inside our company.
Considering the level of seniority, the gender and nationality distribution is very similar at the different levels of seniority. We can happily say that this observation shows that even though there is still a lot of work to reach diversity amongst our employees, our company culture is actually quite good in terms of inclusion. Everybody at B12 seems to get equal chance to develop themselves and take responsibilities independently of their gender or nationality. A further analysis of the employees’ salaries showed no identity bias in terms of recognition at B12.
The HR scans taught us a lot about DEI amongst our employees. This was only the first step and we still have to work further on our DEI strategy in a continuous improvement vision.
What really makes us proud is that even though some groups are underrepresented, data shows that we are able to give them equal opportunities in terms of development: male/female, Belgian/international are represented at every level of the company (from Junior to Partner).
We already started the next step by constituting a DEI task force in which all levels of seniority, age, background, role, nationality and gender are represented. The DEI task force has a lot of work ahead but has already defined their mission: to make sure that everybody at B12 gets the same opportunities to grow and feels at home in a single and welcoming environment, whatever their background, race, gender, age and position.
What are the next steps for us? We will continue with a qualitative study of our DEI culture at B12, participation in larger projects for the inclusion of women in tech as well as hopefully concrete actions and ideas for a more diversified recruitment. Stay tuned to follow our DEI journey! We also hope that our action and this blog will inspire other companies to take steps toward more DEI in their teams.