Women in Tech: Real Leadership in the Workplace. How Inclusive Is Your Company?

Feb 01 • Case Studies

Iterators Employees at CIC

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) is one of the most important and timely topics companies are addressing today. HR departments are actively recruiting diverse talent, and companies are hiring DE&I leaders, as well as training managers to build inclusive teams. Iterators LLC has recognized DE&I since its inception and were founded on the principle that people with diverse backgrounds enhance and strengthen software testing outcomes.

Since then, we have received two federal awards from the Library of Congress and completed software testing for mobile apps, too many to count, on iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire platforms. Along with our regular testing, we work with API teams to flesh out bugs causing user issues. We created the user manuals for the mobile apps and remediated any PDFs that live on the website so that they are compliant and able to be read with a screen reader for the visually impaired. We also produce the HTML output.

All our employees have a disability and complete valuable work for our clients. Employees may have a speech and language disorder crossing their lifespan or be on the autism spectrum, two very different issues, while some employees have ADHD and dyslexia. Others have a visual impairment and complete user testing for us. Regardless of the disability, our employees have been trained in software testing techniques, certified in ISTQB, and are Accessibility testers, WCAG 2.2, Sec 508 by the Department of Homeland Security. Many do not pick up social cues as quickly as others, and we provide feedback. Our employees are dependable and hardworking.

Great Picture Of Cic Office

With this success, we added a few seats in a shared space and were confident it would work out. The worksite would be closer for our employees—something to think about with winter coming in Boston—and we've had no issues at Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) since moving there almost five years ago. I was hopeful, so it was a surprise that we received an email the first day after reviewing the Community Standards: "Just a reminder to clean up your workstations when you move locations or leave at the end of the day. You left some garbage and a dirty snack dish behind, but I've taken care of that for today."

I learned more about this when I spoke to our employee: An individual in the shared space walked around and placed candy packets at every seat location. Our employee was not at the desk when the candy was left, and neither felt the item was his nor that he should touch it. Therefore, the article remained untouched where it was placed. The email went on: "We need a way to give feedback productively and act on breaches of Community Standards. Without that open line of communication, membership does not work. Community Standards are how our team can facilitate a large and diverse group-sharing space."

In another instance, our employee introduced himself to another community member. Later that day, we received an email stating that "solicitation for work is against Community Standards" and suggested using the "Community Slack channel" to introduce ourselves. We were reminded again that we must adhere to the Community Standards, or our membership may need to be canceled.

I understand the importance of community and its mores, but I also often think of leadership and am reminded that it only takes one visionary to make substantial changes

Jill Willcox

I understand the importance of community and its mores, but I also often think of leadership and am reminded that it only takes one visionary to make substantial changes. In the 2016 Fortune article "The AIDS Activist and the Banker," Patricia Sellers speaks with two brothers, Peter and Jes Staley. As Jes rapidly climbed the ranks at J.P. Morgan during a traditionally homophobic era on Wall Street, Peter insisted that LGBT candidates be included in the interview process. Jes said his brother “enabled him to see ‘firsthand the greatest human courage that I've personally ever witnessed’ and to understand the importance of diversity in the workplace.”1 He witnessed his brother stay closeted by day, so he could keep his job while working as an AIDS activist. Jes concluded, "I don't think any social issue is static." 1 This is just as true today as it was 30 years ago. With a focus on DE&I, I think an open-minded, compassionate approach to Iterators’ employees would ease our transition into the new workspace.

Leadership and DE&I is essential in the public sector as well, affecting millions of people’s lives. Peter Staley’s article in The New York Times this past December, “Anthony Fauci Quietly Shocked Us All,” enlightened readers on Dr. Fauci’s contributions to the AIDS crisis as a then researcher at the National Institutes of Health. He recalls, “I couldn’t shake the feeling that as the head of our government’s AIDS research efforts, Dr. Fauci had my life in his hands.”2 And Dr. Fauci did not disappoint. Showing leadership within the organization, he focused on what was ethically right for a population “branded radical homosexuals,”2 working to get them access to experimental drugs and advancing the issue of diversity and inclusion.

So, with that in mind, and as the leader of Iterators, I decided to continue enabling our employees’ success and move back permanently to CIC. We love CIC and how welcomed we've always been. We wanted to see real inclusion at work, not separated by disability status, housed separately, or separated from what is commonly called neurotypicals. We tried to make it easier on our employees during the winter and let others witness how hard we work daily. As the Australian author John Atwood has said in many talks (but paraphrased here), he's not worried about the neurodiverse but about the neurotypicals.

  1. https://fortune.com/longform/barclays-jes-staley-global-500/
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/31/opinion/anthony-fauci-hiv-aids-act-up.html

About the Author

Jill Willcox has worked on accessibility issues for most of her professional career. Iterators is an inclusive women-owned small business (WOSB) certified by the Small Business Administration and WBENC. We provide software testing services for websites, mobile apps, enterprise software, and PDF remediation services, rendering PDFs ADA compliant.

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