As part of our Role Model Campaign, centred around International Women’s Day 2023, we interviewed companies that are making an effort to ensure diversity and inclusion within their organization. For this article, we interviewed Cassandra Shapiro, global head of DEI at Reaktor. This global software and technology consultancy company works with clients all over the world, helping to solve critical business problems. With a workforce of around 700 people globally, Reaktor has spent the past several years implementing DEI initiatives and are currently rolling out various programs aimed at increasing the diversity, equity, and inclusion in all areas of the organization. Cassandra has played a crucial part in this, and shares Reaktor’s story with us in this interview.
From grassroots initiatives to a formalised team
DEI is not new to Reaktor, as various initiatives have been going on throughout the organization for a long time. However, the DEI work has only been formalized in the past couple of years. Having been one of the initiators of DEI work in Amsterdam, Cassandra has seen the formalization up close. After several local initiatives in New York, Amsterdam, and Finland were launched, leadership in the Helsinki HQ decided to make DEI a fundamental part of the entire business, which is how Cassandra’s new function was established. Formalising the work gives Reaktor’s DEI team the opportunity to give DEI the focus it deserves.
Cassandra mentions how “it’s hard to be what you can’t see”, meaning that we all need to have a more representative workforce in order to attract a more diverse group of people to the tech industry. Not only is the industry missing out on perspectives when lacking gender balance, women are at the same time missing out on promising career opportunities with more equity and better salary. This needs to change, starting at the inner practices of companies.
Data to your benefit
Inclusion first, is a principle Reaktor swears by. “You need to look at your company culture before you start hiring people from diverse backgrounds”, Cassandra emphasizes. At Reaktor, a scientific approach is being taken by using data and insights to help the topic forward. From the results of surveys, the organization is now building a global DEI strategy. In the meantime, they have developed their own DEI Fundamentals training, and they’re busy rolling it out in several locations. These trainings encourage conversations about complex and emotional topics, working against unconscious bias, myths and misconceptions about DEI. Their overall goal being to “create a workplace where people feel like they don’t need to change anything about their identity to belong”.
DEI in tech products and services
An area that Cassandra and the DEI team are also interested in is DEI from a product and services perspective. “In tech, women and people from underrepresented groups have historically been considered an afterthought. The immense scalability of technology means that the features that are built in, and the accessibility levels digital products are designed for can either empower or isolate entire parts of the population. So, increasing DEI in tech benefits everybody.”
Acknowledge and appreciate
Having experienced and contributed to the development of DEI at Reaktor, Cassandra advises companies to keep an eye out for employees that are showing initiative for DEI practices voluntarily. “If you know that there are people from underrepresented, diverse backgrounds, that are informally doing the work, find ways to formalize that.: Ask how you can support them: give them budget, employee allocation, and other resources. Ultimately, it’s often because they like their job enough to want to improve the culture that they‘re going the extra mile. ”. Once their work is formalized, it’s time to take a critical look at recruitment practices to make sure that these also are inclusive and attractive to people from different backgrounds.
The DEI lens
On a final note, Cassandra highlights that DEI is not one person, nor one department’s responsibility but instead is something that should spread out through all company operations. At Reaktor, this translates into making sure that everyone has the tools and capabilities to do their job through a DEI lens. DEI might not be as clean-cut as other operational units, but that is only because it is more than that: “the need for DEI is everywhere”. Keeping that in mind, Cassandra will continue to put all effort in with the DEI team to spread this message across the entire organization. The DEI lens is there formally, and now it’s time to scale it out across the organization for every team, every decision, and each individual.
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