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Our deliberate and action-oriented approach to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) plays a part in the extraordinary accomplishments of our teams, and has built an industry-leading DEI rating amongst our employees [1]. Women and underrepresented gender minorities (WUGM) now make up the majority of our executive officers [2]

"For many years our approach to DEI has been fundamental to our values, culture, vision, community, and business strategy. We understood early on that the true value of DEI can only be realized if it’s integrated within all aspects of the business, across functions, and specifically within teams." 
 
From The DEI and Business Agility Series by Tina Vinod and Vishal Prasad

We have assimilated DEI into every aspect of our operations, complementary to the Agile principles that are at the core of how we deliver software for and with our clients. Agile and DEI are built upon many similar values — collaboration, adaptability, flexibility and offering a safe space for all. But as we delve deeper into creating an equitable space for all to contribute, these commonalities are not enough — it’s also essential to challenge preconceived notions of what’s normal.

 

This questioning process includes reevaluating the assumptions underlying Agile principles and practices with an eye to rooting out unconscious bias. One obvious example is the term ‘stand-up’ to describe the daily meeting ritual in many Agile teams. While it emphasizes the need to conduct a meeting in an active way to keep it short and sharp, it creates a daily sense of exclusion for employees who can’t get up on their feet. Let’s also consider how those with hearing or visual impairments, or neurodiverse people who struggle to be productive in a noisy working space, can be limited by the environment from bringing their best to a role. 

 

As a company and an industry, there’s much we can achieve by reexamining our ways of working, to make our processes more sensitive to people of different backgrounds, cultures and abilities. At Thoughtworks India, we developed an initiative to address just this issue. The inclusive team social contract [3] which is an exercise for teams and individuals to relook at existing ways of working and help define collectively aspirational behaviors and social norms to enhance connection, empathy, engagement, collaboration and more. It requires teams to identify and adjust biased or non-inclusive work processes in four key areas: how meetings are scheduled and performed, building trust, communication practices and norms of engagement. The social contract is revisited every time a new member comes on board, and adapted to ensure the new joiner feels included and comfortable. 

A group of five technologists having a relaxed meeting, some standing, some sitting in an office, in the background are windows and a whiteboard they have been using

Looking past gender and other labels  

 

Thoughtworks has made significant strides to increase the representation of WUGM throughout our organization. As of March 31, 2022, WUGM represented over 40% of our global workforce, 38.3% of tech roles and 62.6% of employees in non-tech roles [4]. We are striving to be 40% WUGM in tech roles by the end of 2022 and are constantly focused on how we attract, retain and advance WUGM in every region to support this goal.

 

Women and Underrepresented Gender Minorities at Thoughtworks

Ring charts showing the representation of WUGM at Thoughtworks: 40.8% in all roles, 38.3 in tech roles, 62.6 in non tech roles and 60% of our executive officers Ring charts showing the representation of WUGM at Thoughtworks: 40.8% in all roles, 38.3 in tech roles, 62.6 in non tech roles and 60% of our executive officers
Source: https://www.thoughtworks.com/about-us/diversity-and-inclusion/our-people

 

However, our work doesn’t stop there. We strive to create an equitable and inclusive space for both the people who are part of Thoughtworks and the tech industry at large. We don’t believe the proportion of WUGM in tech is just a pipeline problem. It's about the systemic inequities that exist and impact the underrepresented disproportionately. But, critically, it’s also about making all people in the room feel valued as technologists, and providing them with equal opportunities to advance and grow.

 

Slowly but surely, we have been breaking biases as we introduce new voices, perspectives and norms into the system. We are honored that our efforts to enhance LGBTQIA+ inclusion have been recognized by the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. At the institute’s invitation, Thoughtworks India co-created a case study to document our LGBTQIA+ inclusion journey. 

 

This case study shows how organizations can build a welcoming and inclusive culture and safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ employees, along with the employee resource groups and human resources systems and processes required to do so. These can range from providing gender-neutral washrooms, to inclusive training programs, to providing the option for employees to state their  personal pronouns in internal systems. This case study is available on Harvard Business Publishing’s website and has been cited as one of the most impactful on the topic. It will serve as a learning resource for business management students, many of whom will go on to leadership positions in large corporations and shape conversations on DEI and LGBTQIA+ inclusion throughout India for the next generation.

Helping people with disabilities progress in the workplace

 

The push for a more equitable and inclusive society needs systemic change and the participation of  many — with educational institutions key to opening up more equitable opportunities and setting the path for successful careers. To this end, we work with many organizations where tech talent is fostered. 


One such institution is the Informal School of IT in Romania, a nonprofit that cultivates the next generation of tech talent through courses and mentorship from IT professionals. Thoughtworks Romania initiated the IT4Teens project, which provided the school with support for an online programming course for high school students with physical and associated disabilities. The second stage of the course is recognized with a diploma and the third stage gives students the opportunity to achieve credentials recognized by Romania’s Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labor, paving the way for careers in tech.

 

In addition to equipping people from underrepresented groups with career skills, extra effort needs to be taken to increase their visibility on the job market. To that end, we joined forces with Australia’s Autism CRC — the world’s first autism-focused national, cooperative research organization — to raise the profile and perception of individuals diagnosed with autism. Thoughtworkers lent their expertise to the development of myWAY Employability, a web-based career management tool to help young autistic individuals discover their interests, match with job opportunities that align with their preferences and profiles, and systematically work toward their professional goals. We plan to expand our work with Autism CRC in the coming months and develop digital tools that help teachers create more autism-friendly classroom environments. 

Autism CRC & Vulcan Coalition logos

We are also proud to have had the opportunity to collaborate with organizations building inclusive tech and enhancing the employability of people with disabilities (PwDs), such as Thailand’s Vulcan Coalition. Vulcan Coalition builds AI tools co-created by PwDs to hone their tech skills, providing them with the path to fulfilling careers. The potential impact on Thailand’s AI industry and the country’s economic and social progress is significant. Among the over 800,000 people identified as PwDs of working age in Thailand, currently only one-third have access to employment while more than a third remain dependent on state funding [5]. We are supporting Vulcan Coalition’s efforts to change that by selecting and testing a learning management system designed for PwDs. We’ve extended our initial partnership by doing a discovery workshop on a job matching platform for people with disabilities.  

Using technology to reach vulnerable populations and enhance mental wellbeing

 

Mental health has become a pressing challenge for workers in all industries, and all generations in the wake of the pandemic. [6]

 

Internally we have both formal and informal channels in place, such as employee assistance programs and a global chat group for Thoughtworkers to discuss and share tips on mental wellbeing — a vibrant space with around 700 participants. Our regional employee assistance programs offer access to mental health resources, and our people and communications teams ensure we regularly provide Thoughtworkers with avenues to seek help, and reminders to take care of their mental wellbeing, look out for each others’ and recognize when to seek support.

"To create a well-being culture we have to pay attention to both individual and holistic needs. We are constantly rethinking what's possible so that care for our people is nurtured in the collective."
 
Grazi Mendes
Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Brazil, Thoughtworks

In China, where 20% of college students are reportedly dealing with varying degrees of mental health or psychological disorders [7], a huge mental health gap at universities urgently needs to be addressed. Morning Public Welfare, an organization in Wuhan that provides support for people with mental health issues, is focused on closing this divide. Together we conducted a two-day workshop where college students were invited to design a solution targeted at improving their peers’ mental health awareness. The outcome was a vision and blueprint for an interactive online mental health science museum that will provide a rich resource for students facing or keen to learn more about psychological or emotional challenges.

Two of our partner logos: Todo Mejora logo ( a heart) and Public Morning Welfare (in Chinese)

The convenience and privacy digital avenues afford are creating opportunities for people to seek the advice of trusted mental health professionals in a safe, virtual space. Todo Mejora is part of the global It Gets Better Project, which provides LGBTQIA+ youth with a supportive community network and educational resources. We worked with them to transform their mobile app, web platform, and organizational practices with the goal of optimizing the emotional support and suicide prevention services they offer to LGBTQIA+ youth in Chile. 


We began with a workshop to understand the features required for an app that serves as a suicide prevention line for LGBTIQA+ young people facing violence. The result was the improvement of Hora Segura, or ‘Safe Hour,’ a pioneering helpline for at-risk youths staffed by trained volunteers. We continue to support Todo Mejora by developing their platform and building the product roadmap to improve the app’s functionality.

 

In addition to working with partners supporting long-term mental health challenges, we have paired with those providing rapid support for individuals and communities affected by traumatic events. In the wake of the devastating Australian bushfires, Thoughtworks helped a network of medical practitioners who had created a support group for adults and children affected by the fires. The goal was to digitize a 12-week course the group developed to help it reach more people grappling with trauma. With our technical advice, they identified a SaaS platform that met their needs and budget, and also welcomed our design advice and recommendations for their website upgrade. We will continue to help develop the solution to maximize its reach and impact. 

"DEI for us is completely embedded — not just in who we are, but also in what we do and how we work together. The values of inclusion and equity inform the way we work and interact, the way we show up for each other and for our clients; it’s a huge part of what makes us a community, over and above a company."
 
Joanna Parke
Chief Talent Officer, Thoughtworks

Explore all chapters

Introduction: Sustainability, solidarity and service

Chapter one: Responsible tech and innovation

Chapter two: Beyond diversity

Chapter three: Inclusivity and social justice

Chapter four: Sustainability and climate action

Chapter five: Healthcare as a human right

Chapter six: Education

Chapter seven: Operating with integrity

Our DEI approach