The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) is recommending several key steps that state technology organizations can take to boost workforce diversity and inclusion (D&I), including formalizing programs to measure progress and putting senior state tech leaders in charge of making those programs work.

In a report issued April 12, NASCIO said it has studied D&I trends among state technology organizations for the last few years, and in particular cited findings from its surveys of state CIOs that showed an increasing number of them listed D&I as a priority in 2021 compared to when they were surveyed in 2020.  The same surveys revealed sentiment that “culture was more important than ever,” with several CIOs listing workplace flexibility, culture management, and creating a connected culture as important goals.

Based on those survey findings, NASCIO in 2021 in its Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A Resilient and Adaptable State IT Workforce report featured the recommendation that state CIOs must look for ways to embrace and understand diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) by recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.

The NASCIO Executive Committee in December 2021 voted to study the state IT workforce, “and identify gaps and meaningful steps that state CIOs can take to recruit and retain a diverse workforce and maintain an inclusive workplace,” the group said in its April 12 report.

Based on its CIO diversity and inclusion survey, interviews with corporate members, and other research undertaken by the group, NASCIO said in the April 12 report that its top recommendations for CIO offices just beginning diversity and inclusion efforts are:

  • Designating a senior executive sponsor, such as the CIO or a deputy – “to place utmost importance” on D&I;
  • Establishing a formal diversity and inclusion program and/or strategic plan and set goals and metrics; and
  • Creating employee-led D&I councils “to take the temperature of the D&I-friendliness of your office.”

In addition to those three recommendations, the report offers a long list of additional recommendations and advice to make progress on D&I goals, including:

  • States must embrace remote and flexible work “as traditionally underrepresented groups view remote work more positively”;
  • Workforce diversity “should mirror your state and/or region’s community,” adding that census and community survey data can shed light on that factor;
  • State tech organizations should consider creating a position to focus solely or partly on D&I;
  • Organizations should create outreach programs to K-12 schools “with a specific emphasis on girls of color”;
  • Organizations should put in place “blind hiring practices” to reduce unconscious bias; and
  • Organizations should make job descriptions more skills-based than education or background-based.

“The vast majority of job seekers today prioritize diversity and inclusion,” commented Doug Robinson, NASCIO’s Executive Director, in releasing the April 12 report. “If state CIOs are to recruit and retain the needed workforce to meet the current and future needs of the states we serve, they must also prioritize diversity and inclusion.”

The full report and its extensive list of recommendations are available here.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk SLG's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.