Jacky Akbari is director of employer services for the Nashville Career Advancement Center.

In 2014, Silicon Valley leaders admitted that diversity in their conference rooms looked more like a rotary dial than the latest smartphone.

Now, the tech industry is working to build diversity solutions with lasting business implications. Here are four lessons from the tech industry’s diversity push that Nashville companies can use for developing their own efforts to create a diverse workforce:

  1. Transparency is important.
    To their credit, the tech industry acknowledged that diversity could be improved, and companies released data to help underscore that fact. The Silicon Valley workforce was predominantly white and male, particularly in the upper ranks. Transparency in this area has helped with company recruitment and retention strategies.
  2. Leaders must be willing to lead on diversity.
    Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” discusses the need for diverse leadership, and Nashville is lucky to have leaders who champion diversity like Mayor Megan Barry, Joey Hatch (Skanska USA) and Don Abel (Fifth Third Bank). Nashville can work toward bringing representation from our communities into board and leadership positions in manufacturing, construction and commercial real estate.
  3. Get out of your comfort zone.
    Shake up your recruitment strategies and create programs that measure success. Create incentives, such as linking performance to pay, to attract different employee leads. was recognized for designing meaningful diversity and inclusion solutions for tech companies. Another resource is, a Nashville-based organization which launched a “Diversity Nashville Bus Tour” and Workforce Seminar Series to help companies understand workforce needs. More than 200 business and community leaders signed on for the tour and learned more about Nashville’s changing workforce.
  4. Define success.
    A goal is a dream with a deadline and specific measurement criteria. Setting realistic timelines and expectations can help address diversity deficiencies. Initiatives that drive specific outcomes will make the difference in industries that traditionally have not had diverse workforces. Licensing, recruiting, hiring and advancing employees will have a cascading impact in Nashville’s welcoming and inclusive community.(Article originally posted in the Nashville Business Journal – May 20, 2016)

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