Employees develop perceptions regarding which behaviors are expected, supported, and rewarded in their organization through a series of workplace events, practices, and procedures; these beliefs comprise a workplace climate (Schneider, Wheeler, & Cox, 1992). An inclusive workplace climate is one in which everyone has a sense of belonging, is invited to participate in decisions, and feels that their input matters (Hayes, Bartle, & Major, 2002; Major, Davis, Sanchez-Hucles, Germano, & Mann, 2006). For an inclusive climate to exist, all organizational members should feel equally welcome in the IT work environment and feel free to make suggestions regardless of their gender or ethnicity. Moreover, all organizational members should feel that their contributions have an impact (Major et al., 2006). Rather than simply tolerating diversity, organizations with an inclusive climate embrace it and capitalize upon it. In an IT sample, inclusive climate was positively associated with job satisfaction, organizational and career commitment, and intentions to remain with one’s employer (Major et al., 2003). In contrast, exclusion is associated with turnover, reduced organizational commitment and decreased job satisfaction (Greenhaus, Parasuraman, & Wormley, 1990). Research has highlighted the role of three contributors to inclusive climate: (1) strong supervisor/subordinate relationships, (2) supportive coworkers, and (3) a supportive culture (Margolis & Fisher, 2003; Major, Davis, Sanchez-Hucles, & Mann, 2003). The current article briefly reviews social factors that have hindered the realization of a gender and minority inclusive IT climate and draws upon these three contributors to identify strategic levers to guide managers and researchers toward fostering inclusion in the IT workforce.
Women’s underrepresentation in IT education and careers has been recognized as a global problem (Huyer, 2005; Rosser, 2005). In addition, certain U.S. ethnic minority groups, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans, are underrepresented in programs preparing people for IT careers (Tapia, Kvasny, & Trauth, 2004). Researchers refer metaphorically to a “leaky pipeline” to describe the attrition of women and minorities from pathways leading to participation and success in IT education and careers. From childhood to adulthood, a variety of experiences, such as limited access and exposure to computers, and the unappealing portrayal of the IT industry (e.g., depictions of individuals working in solitude and the stereotypical IT “geek image”), discourage female and minority interest in IT (see Rosenblum, Ash, Coder, & Dupont, 2006, Splender, 1997; Tapia et al., 2004).
Barriers persist in the IT workplace. Women encounter a “glass ceiling,” a situation in which men hold top-level positions and women are limited in their ability to move up due to barriers that are not readily obvious or overt (Martin, 2005). In fact, U.S. women hold fewer than 5% of IT executive positions, such as chief information officer (Gingras, 1999). Instead, they are more likely to hold support positions such as help desk operator or support center staff (Belt, 2002). The nature of IT work can be a barrier, requiring long and irregular hours and, in some positions, the flexibility to travel. These job demands infringe upon family life and women are frequently less willing or able to sacrifice their home and childcare duties (Panteli, Stack, & Ramsay, 1999; Roldan, Soe, & Yakura, 2004).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Active Coping: Directly seeking to overcome stressors and reduce their impact by (a) planning, (b) suppressing competing activities (i.e., focusing on the stressor at hand), (c) restraint coping (i.e., waiting for an appropriate time to act), and (d) seeking social support ( Carver et al., 1989 ).
Appreciative Inquiry: An intervention that focuses on an organization’s positive aspects and uniting individuals under a single positive view.
Glass Ceiling: The condition in which men hold top-level positions and women are limited in their ability to move up due to barriers that are not readily apparent.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: A phenomenon that begins with an assumption about a person or group, and evokes behavior that makes the original conception become reality.
Mentoring: A process by which a more experienced employee (a mentor) guides, advises, counsels and otherwise enhances the professional development of another employee (a protégé).
Inclusive Climate: Workers’ perception of a workplace atmosphere where everyone has a sense of belonging, is invited to participate in decisions, and feels that their input matters ( Major et al., 2006 ).
Positive Marginality: The constructive and positive use of one’s minority experiences of exclusion.
Stereotype Threat: The fear that an underrepresented group member experiences about confirming or reinforcing a negative stereotype about their group; it leads to impaired performance.