Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Technical Communication

Wendy Rossby Wendy Ross
Diversity and Inclusion, also called Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), has increasingly become a topic of interest for professionals and the companies and organizations with which they are associated. In order to recruit and train the best talent and to bring a diverse set of ideas and perspectives to the work we do, companies and professional organizations need to take steps to create inclusive spaces for employees, members, and volunteers.
As a technical writer or educator, you likely have obtained training about writing, designing, and teaching diverse groups of people. In technical writing, much of the focus has been on writing for international audiences and for translation. For those working in colleges and universities, teaching and interacting with international students and students from diverse cultural, religious, and social backgrounds present different challenges and rewards, but most colleges now provide encouragement and support, whereas technical writers and trainers in corporations often do not have the same support.
Regarding colleges and universities, many have developed Diversity and Inclusion programs to support faculty, staff, and students. Some examples of programs in schools in the Rochester area are:

Furthermore, STC’s Intercom has provided an article about diversity in the classroom, which STC members can read on the Intercom website: The Academic Conversation: Gearing Up for Diversity.
For professionals in companies across the U.S., the movement has been slower. Technology companies such as Google and Xerox have led the way. Recognizing the need to recruit the best tech talent, these companies created employee resource groups to support diverse employees, while also educating their traditional employees on diversity and inclusion. To learn more about Google and Xerox activities, see the Google Diversity Annual Report and the Xerox Diversity brochure.

What is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and why is this important for you in your work?

Diversity is recognizing and embracing all the ways people are different, including age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. Many HR departments and recruiters seek out diverse candidates. Diversity and Inclusion expert Verna Myers calls this “being invited to the party.”
Inclusion is actively seeking to make people welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate at work. Employers have tried to be more inclusive by creating employee resource groups. Other examples include establishing private areas in the company for employees to practice religion or for breast milk extraction. Verna Myers calls this “being asked to dance at the party.”
Equity is fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all employees, and striving to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent the full participation of some groups. A common example is making an office wheelchair-accessible. A growing example is that set by SAP; the company hires talented programmers with autism and trains and supports the employees in their corporate social skills.
Equality versus equityToday, equality is not enough. The times demand equity. This image shows the important differences. For equality, we can provide the same support for everyone, but for equity, we provide support based on individual needs.
For a leader in STC or another company or organization, DEI is critical to sustainability. Diversity of thought brings different perspectives to problem-solving and creative work.
Without DEI, professional organizations find their member roles and attendance in events diminishing as mostly traditional professionals participate.

What can STC and you do to promote DEI?

Everyone can learn more about DEI and why it is important; this post only scratches the surface. Examples of reading from STC Intercom are:

STC leaders can create DEI programs (at the Chapter and international levels) with a committee to:

Department managers can educate themselves and their direct reports in DEI and discuss the topic with HR managers and recruiters.
Individual contributing writers and educators can educate themselves, colleagues, and friends on DEI subjects. Learn about your own implicit biases and about microaggressions so that you can avoid them. Attend community events at local colleges, through the United Way, and through other non-profits in your area. To impact your work, research how writers in particular can accommodate various end users through technology, straightforward writing, and examples that are not race-, gender-, age-, or ability-specific. Being aware of these issues goes a long way in making change for you, your colleagues, and your end users.
In my role as the Diversity and Inclusion Director of the Rochester Chapter of the Project Management Institute, I have much to learn. In fact, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. If it is humbling experience, but a worthwhile one. My journey has positive implications in every aspect of my life – work, volunteering, family, and friends. I welcome you to join me — and others — in this journey!
Wendy Ross is Director of Diversity and Inclusion (soon to be DEI) for the PMI Rochester Chapter, She is an STC Senior Member and former President of the Rochester Chapter of STC.