What a Year! Plans and Reflections on Our Inclusion and Diversity Journey
2020 was a year fraught with events that laid bare many weaknesses and inequalities in our societal models. This includes structural racism, gender and income inequality, unemployment, and a digital divide – some because of the pandemic, others exasperated by it.
Achieving a level playing field during this uncertain time has felt aspirational at best. But with the election behind us and optimism for the end of the pandemic; I believe that companies, like Macro Solutions, play a renewed and urgent role in addressing diversity and inclusion issues.
How today’s business climate impedes progress
As a women-owned government contractor, I’ve spent more than 20 years plowing through the gender bias that women face when starting a business. Today, women represent 42% of all American businesses yet less than 3% of venture capital funding goes to female founders. Furthermore, although the tech sector (where skill sets tend to trump any ingrained misogyny or racism) offers equal opportunity for women of any color, top executives in the contracting community are predominantly white men. According to analysis by Wolf Den Associates, 88% of leaders in the Top 100 prime contractors are white and 75% are male.
That lack of diversity extends to contract awards. Despite policy to promote diversity and inclusion, the SBA reports that 8(a) companies were awarded only 3,871 of the total 654,000 set-aside contracts in 2020.
Creating a culture of inclusion
Too many Americans are hitting up against barriers to success. Public policy is working hard to address racial and gender diversity, but it shouldn’t take policies to make that happen. It’s not a pipe dream. The United States was founded on the principle that each citizen is created equal – it should happen automatically.
This is a key philosophy that Macro Solutions was founded upon. We’ve made it a matter of policy to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness. That’s because we understand that putting up barriers isn’t simply wrong, it’s the antithesis of how we do business. In fact, we’ve taken the same barrier-free approach that we apply in our Agile and DevOps practices and embedded it in our workplace culture.
We do this by creating a judgment-free environment from the top down where every person and every idea is welcome. No one should be afraid to raise their hand because their idea isn’t perfect or they’re afraid of getting shot down. After all, that one idea may spark another idea – and that can have a direct and tangible impact on customer outcomes.
It’s a culture that our employees experience whether in the field, in the office, or at home – they are never an island and are always included. Our Consultant Care program, for example, pairs our consultants with an executive member of our corporate team who acts as a dedicated advocate. This program provides an open channel for support, motivation, and ideating new and creative ideas (many of which are acted upon).
Using inclusive business practices – to survive and thrive – during a pandemic
We’ve always been an inclusive company; but with a sudden shift to remote work, creating and sustaining the same synergies that have defined our values has forced us to go a step further. Like many companies, we’ve embraced collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. But we do more than work through Teams, we use it to create a sense of belonging. Bingo nights, celebrations, parties, and other opportunities to gather virtually have been key to helping our employees build the relationships they need that are so critical to problem solving and creativity. We also send out goodie bags and individualized gifts to employees on special occasions and holidays.
This approach together with our solid workplace policies have been pivotal in our ability to overcome the challenges of 2020 and create an even stronger culture of inclusiveness and enablement.
Because of these efforts, I’m proud to say that we continue to receive positive feedback from our clients on our performance. We also grew our business in 2020 – a victory considering what we were up against. For the third consecutive year, Macro Solutions was also recognized as one of The Washington Post’s Top Places to Work in 2020 and we continue to boast a 94% employee retention rate – a sure validation of our workplace policies. I can say as much as I want about our standout culture, but when our employees say it, I know we’ve done our job.
Affecting change for our clients and the community
Looking ahead to 2021, we will continue to serve our federal government customers as they seek to deliver continuous value to their own customers and stakeholders – while staying true to our values of equal opportunity and building communities. A key enabler of this is a new and innovative program that allows federal IT leaders to quickly and cost-effectively stand up teams for application and development tasks – all from a CONUS-based, off-site team – known as Rapid Application Development (RAD).
The seeds for RAD were planted prior to the pandemic, but, ironically, the concept of the remote delivery of services came to fruition this year. RAD is predicated on the understanding that modern development teams do not need to be housed in the same location to be effective. Based out of our cleared facility in Slidell, Louisiana, the Macro RAD team has attracted an exceptionally talented development team from the New Orleans metropolitan area and surrounding region. The program has yielded strong results thus far, helping to create one of the nation’s fastest-growing tech hubs and creating well-paying jobs for a region that has historically lagged the rest of the country socio-economically.
We will also maintain our philanthropic endeavors, such as my own work with Bridges USA – a Memphis-based non-profit that works to break down the barriers that segregate young Memphians and give them opportunities to be powerful agents of change. Bridges has shown me that diverse individuals can become confident and courageous leaders committed to transformation in their communities.
Through inclusion we can push out prejudice
This year, people of all genders, colors, and socio-economic backgrounds spoke up about what’s important to them – the fundamental American values of diversity and inclusion. This came at a time when society’s expectations of business organizations and their leadership is also changing. It’s no longer enough to leave it up to government to tackle social change. As a business owner, I firmly believe that only when we welcome, acknowledge, and nurture the equal contributions of every individual will we push out institutional prejudices and bias – and get the best results.
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