Mar 28 2024

Creating More Diverse Ed Tech Teams

Experts at last year’s CITE conference discussed their experiences and shared tips for improving diversity within school IT departments.

Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are fairly common in today’s workplaces, with 52 percent of companies hosting trainings or meetings on DEI at work, according to the Pew Research Center. However, while women are more likely than men to say that these initiatives are a good development, men are twice as likely as women to disagree.

This research comes at a time when, despite making up more than half the workforce, women remain underrepresented in technology positions. Women hold 25 percent of computing jobs, with Black and Hispanic tech employees accounting for single-digit percentages in the sector.

Panelists sat down at California IT in Education’s 2023 CITE conference in November to discuss how K–12 schools can step up to help diversify the tech workforce.

Moderated by CDW Education’s professional development manager, Ari Flewelling, the panelists discussed their own experiences hiring, training and retaining a diverse range of talent.

Click the banner to build an educational technology plan that fits your team.


3 DEI Keys for Hiring and Retaining Employees

The session “The Three I’s of Building Diverse Teams” focused on educational technology roles, but speakers offered advice that could transcend industries. Panelists Bryana Holcomb, the DEI advancement manager at CDW, Jamie Lewsadder, associate supervisor of technology services at California’s La Cañada Unified School District, and Touda Bentatou, CITE’s director of member experience, shared insights on inclusivity, identity affirmation and iteration.


The panelists noted that building a diverse team starts with having the right hiring process, and that means being purposeful when writing job descriptions. “However, it may be really hard to make adjustments to your job description, so look at the letter that goes out with a job description,” Lewsadder said. “You can include welcoming and inclusive language there.”

The speakers also recommended not having the HR department screen applicants. “Why would an HR person be the person screening for technical roles? How are they going to know what you need?” asked Bentatou.

“Pay attention to gaps in employment,” Lewsadder added. “You might inadvertently be screening out women who have had pauses for raising their children.”

MORE ON EDTECH: How can women in K–12 IT make it to the top?

She said that the spaces schools use to conduct interviews is also important when it comes to being inclusive. “In tech positions, we tend to be pretty nerdy, and that could exclude somebody that doesn't really see themselves in the tech role,” she said. “I feel totally guilty with how much Star Wars stuff is in my office right now.”

Identity Affirmation

Inclusivity is key during the hiring process, but the panelists shared how identity affirmation comes into play for onboarding and retention.

“We’ve seen so much turnover recently, and part of the reason why a lot of folks are experiencing that is not necessarily because of the work but because of how their workplace makes them feel,” Flewelling said. She added that identity-affirming practices contribute to retention and that companies should be mindful of cultural differences within their teams.


The percentage of companies that have meetings or trainings on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace

Source:, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace,” May 17, 2023

“The more we see people that look like us and the more we receive content in the way that we learn, the more we feel like we can show up authentically in those spaces,” Holcomb said. “The things that we can do that are free are showing up authentically ourselves and creating authentic relationships.”


“Iteration is unavoidable in K–12,” Flewelling said. “It seems like we’re iterating every single day. It’s not just a cycle that happens whenever the calendar resets.”

She urged conference attendees to think about change and iteration and ensure that it is “human-centered, not process- or technology-centered.”

“That’s another way to affirm and recognize the identities of not just your people on your teams but the folks that you are serving,” she said.

Lewsadder noted that members of the IT staff in her district often miss trainings because they’re busy keeping everyone online. She said she’ll often try to bring the key points of the trainings back to her team or set up a recording so that her team can receive the trainings asynchronously. “I try to be as transparent with my team as possible on what our objectives are and what our goals are,” she said. “Whatever the initiatives are in the district, we’re also part of as a team.”

Holcomb stressed the importance of networking and getting to know team members in other departments. “Whenever I start a project, I look at what departments need to be involved for the sake of the different mindsets and different perspectives that I’ll be able to get,” she said.

“Inevitably, you are the advocates,” Holcomb added. “DEI is not always a very sexy topic, and the people who come to the DEI sessions are the people who are doing the work. And oftentimes, the folks who we want to be in the room are not in the room, so we are the advocates.”

UP NEXT: Drive diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives through infrastructure modernization.

filadendron/Getty Images

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.