The online meetings we attend, the smartphones we use, the emails we send—all the technological wonders that enable us to connect with each other across the world are powered by data centers. As such, we, as data center operators, are not just designing, building and operating facilities; we are literally bringing people closer together.
That was particularly evident during the past year and a half when the pandemic closed offices, quarantined entire families and made one-to-one connections more difficult. But something else happened over the past year, too. Society reached an inflection point in the long-running discussion over diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workforce. This discussion has, of course, been percolating for years. But recent events, including the #MeToo movement, emergence of Black Lives Matter, animosity toward people of Asian backgrounds in the wake of COVID-19, and other developments made it more important than ever for organizations to make workplace diversity a priority.
The data center industry has a unique opportunity to take the lead in this discussion, followed by action. After all, we are an industry built on forging connections between everyone regardless of race, gender, veteran status, sexual orientation, disability or other characteristics that fall under the diversity umbrella. Plus, the industry has always prided itself on building partnerships in the local communities we serve. We work with government agencies to ensure data centers meet their local sustainability requirements, and partner with utility companies and industry groups to reduce the carbon footprint of data centers. We know how to build bridges.
The question is, how do we apply that knowledge to meet our current cultural moment and lead the way toward more diverse and inclusive workplaces rather than follow?
Create actionable programs
For starters, we need to put into action specific programs that directly, measurably and meaningfully impact the diversity of our data center workforces.
There are several steps Vantage has taken to further our own D&I efforts. One I’m particularly proud of is called the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity) Council, which was developed by our employees with the full support of our senior leadership team. The JEDI Council is an open forum for employees to engage with each other and discuss D&I. It has become a foundational aspect of our culture in a short period of time, which tells you how important the issue is among our global team. With the JEDI Council, people can share their ideas, concerns, anxieties and personal experiences. They can be themselves without fear of judgement.
We routinely measure the impact that our historical D&I efforts and the newer JEDI Council have had on our organization. We look at our employee metrics and employee satisfaction levels and examine how those have changed over time. This allows us to be accountable for the success of our D&I efforts and shows where we must make further improvements.
The JEDI Council exemplifies how a culture devoted to D&I starts at the top and works its way through an entire organization. D&I initiatives cannot only exist within the executive suite, or HR department or in a specific region of the world. They must become part of the cultural fabric of a company, embraced and extolled by all employees. That’s why we created N+HUMANKIND, a blueprint for disseminating and supporting the values and goals of the council, complete with KPIs and accountability across the globe.