Don't Become the 8-Track

Tara Long, CIO, MassMutual’s Institutional Solutions business unit and Chair of MassMutual’s Technology Diversity and Inclusion Committee
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Tara Long, CIO, MassMutual’s Institutional Solutions business unit and Chair of MassMutual’s Technology Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Tara Long, CIO, MassMutual’s Institutional Solutions business unit and Chair of MassMutual’s Technology Diversity and Inclusion Committee

When I was young, I can vividly remember sitting in my parents’ pastel green 1979 Buick Park Avenue, listening to the “Flashdance” soundtrack over and over on an 8-track tape. Fast-forward that 8-track a few decades, and now we have smart devices that will instantly play any music we want by voice command. And the current technology will most likely change. Very soon.

In this time of exponential digital disruption and growth, attracting and retaining the best talent is an absolute strategic imperative. With this increasing demand for innovation, talent and the shrinking technical labor market, diversity and inclusion is business paramount.

Workforce diversity embodies many factors. Differences based on ethnicity, gender, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, business experience—as well as an infinite range of other unique characteristics—can create a diverse workforce. We all bring unique perspectives to our roles – our own experiences, backgrounds and views. To capture the value of this diversity, it’s critical to foster an inclusive workplace. Creating an inclusive culture and environment where our distinct perspectives are embraced, valued and celebrated, not only enables us to develop new and innovative solutions, but helps us attract the best talent, better understand our customers’ needs, make better decisions, approach challenges differently and drive more creative thinking. This ultimately leads to a more engaged and productive team. To be truly successful, we need both a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment in which we can all thrive, foster collaboration and continuously innovate.

While it is extremely important to have a focus on diversity and inclusion at the most senior levels, setting the tone at the top, it is also equally important for each individual employee to own and embrace diversity and inclusion. For instance, when it comes to MassMutual’s Technology organization, diversity and inclusion is one of our key strategic initiatives. Within our organization, we have established a Diversity and Inclusion committee, comprised of one committee member representing each area of the organization. The committee assists with developing, monitoring and executing strategies and tactics designed to achieve our diversity and inclusion mission. Further, in our charter, we also established the expectation that all our employees will contribute to achieving our mission by incorporating specific actions related to diversity and inclusion in every employee’s performance objectives.

The mission of the committee, which can—and should —be implemented by any discipline within any company, is to enable a dynamic, innovative diverse and inclusive organization by attracting, educating, recruiting, developing, retaining and promoting diverse talent.

  The true recipe for success is to harness the power of a highly effective, empowered, engaged, diverse and inclusive technology workforce aligned to business objectives and outcomes​  

It is critical to the success of any organization that each individual owns and embraces diversity and inclusion and be held accountable to do so. This ensures that its leadership and employees will take action to generate positive change and be able to harness the collective pool of knowledge, perspectives and experiences to create more innovative and flexible solutions.

MassMutual’s commitment to diversity in leadership roles is visible in the demographics and composition of the senior leadership of our technology team, whereby half of the team is women and 20 percent are people of color. The fact that there are too few women and minorities that pursue STEM degrees and careers can make it even more challenging for technology organizations to attract diverse talent. When the composition of the senior leadership team reflects the organizations’ commitment to diversity and inclusion, it creates a competitive advantage by attracting and retaining a broader and larger range of talent – including diverse talent. I was mentoring a young woman in technology recently and she said to me, “If I can see it, then I can be it.”

For me personally, I am passionate about sponsoring and mentoring the next generation of leaders in technology. I have received so much guidance and support from my mentors and sponsors throughout my career, it is so important to me that I give that same level of support to others to help them succeed. Additionally, it is critically important that we are not just mentoring and sponsoring folks that “look like us.” And when we are having the one on one conversations, we need to ask for feedback on what we can personally do better and/or how we can help – and then really listen when that feedback is provided, and take action. I get a significant amount of joy and fulfillment when I am helping others develop, grow and achieve their personal and professional career goals. And in turn, I am also growing and learning as a leader. It’s truly a win-win.

Technology is often described as an enabler of innovation and change. Diversity and inclusion is also an equally important facilitator of innovation and change. The true recipe for success is to harness the power of a highly effective, empowered, engaged, diverse and inclusive technology workforce aligned to business objectives and outcomes – that is the real game-changer in driving innovation towards creating business opportunities and a sustainable competitive advantage. Organizations who do not make diversity and inclusion a top priority and a critical business imperative will one day wake up to find that their competition has outpaced them in the marketplace, their customers and the world have moved on, and they will have gone the way of the 8-track!

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