Microsoft/the state of Texas expand education opportunities
In an announcement made by Microsoft, the company reports its new digital alliance made with the state of Texas to expand educational and skills opportunities in the state as part of its ‘Accelerate’ initiative.
The digital alliance aims to address the need for digital and technological skills in the workforce, by creating new economic opportunities, closing the equity and digital skills gaps, and preparing workforces for the 21st century.
“The expansion of our Accelerate program to the state of Texas is an unparalleled opportunity to speed up the local economic recovery and bring critical digital skills to Texans. We hope this program will be a transformative opportunity for students, teachers, workers and the entire community,” commented Kate Johnson, president of Microsoft US.
In collaboration with the Texas Education Agency, the organisations will provide digital skills via Microsoft’s Accelerate initiative, designed to address such tasks and drive economic recovery by skilling underserved communities and re-skilling Americans impacted by COVID-19.
“Education was the launching pad that took me from a low-income Houston community to medical school, NASA, space and beyond. As a native Texan and lifelong STEM advocate, I’m grateful for Microsoft’s investment in this initiative. NMSI is committed to ensuring digital access, digital literacy and high-quality STEM content for all teachers and students across Texas and our great nation, and we’re excited to work with Microsoft, the TEA, DISD, NASA and other partners,” added Dr. Bernard Harris, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative and former NASA astronaut.
Microsoft and the Texas Education Agency will collaborate on a wide range if programs in Texas, that aim to address a variety of needs, including: STEM engagement and talent pipeline growth for students in K-12; professional development for K-16 educators, thought leaders and the education NGO ecosystem; and workforce development for high school and college students.
“Closing the digital divide is critical to developing the current and future workforce. Our collaboration with Microsoft and the Texas Education Agency is a model for how to apply civic innovation to advance equity in our schools,” commented Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of Dallas ISD.
Image source: Microsoft
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.