What is EDI?
Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is about creating an even playing field for everyone. Some may think of it as a zero-sum game, meaning that there are not enough resources to go around. In reality, EDI is about examining the challenges faced by specific groups and designing environments, products and services that work better for everyone. Take the example of The Curb-Cut Effect in which people in the disability-rights movement, specifically those who use wheelchairs, advocated for cities to build curb cuts into sidewalk infrastructure. Today, curb cuts are common and benefit many groups - people using strollers, delivering goods, riding bicycles, pulling luggage, and more. This is an example of a solution that initially worked better for one group, but in reality, serves everyone better.
EDI at OIT
All OIT employees play an important role in making sure EDI practices are part of how we work together, whether they are an analyst, developer, project manager or work in any other area. This ultimately impacts how we serve all Coloradans. When it comes to technology, EDI isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s strategic. It helps us understand how to best serve all Coloradans equitably and how to provide the most engaging experiences for our workforce.
EDI work is not a one-time decision or act. Like planting a garden, you don’t just plant seeds in hopes that they will bear fruit. It requires preparation and care for the soil. You have to water, weed, check on things over time, and this is the approach OIT takes with our EDI initiatives.
EDI Tenets: The North Star for OIT’s EDI Work
- Systemic Change
- Lifelong Learning
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Why is Responsible AI important in IT?
Responsible AI, in simple terms, means using artificial intelligence (AI) thoughtfully and fairly. It involves making sure that AI systems are ethical, safe and trustworthy. Just as we want people to make fair decisions, responsible AI ensures that machines also make choices without causing harm. As this Harvard Business Review article explains, “AI cannot be a force for good if it serves to exacerbate existing inequalities in the workplace and society more broadly.” Examples of how biased AI can negatively impact individuals include unjust loan rejections or inaccurate healthcare diagnoses.
Currently, trustworthy AI standards are up to the discretion of the data scientists and software developers who write and deploy an organization's AI models. Steps required to prevent discrimination and ensure transparency vary among organizations. However, best practices for responsible AI governance include the following:
- Embedding Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) into the design of AI systems.
- Incorporating EDI into any AI-related upskilling programs.
- Implementing machine learning best practices.
- Building a culture that welcomes diverse lived experiences.
- Promoting transparency.
- Identifying metrics for training and monitoring.
- Continually learning from the implementation process.
As an IT organization, we must be diligent and challenge all AI frameworks. Check out NIST's Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework and the White House’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights for more information and best practices.
What we’re doing
We’re on a learning journey at OIT and know that we have a long way to go. Here are some of the exciting things we’re working on now:
- An annual EDI plan that centers on reducing burnout and increasing accountability, psychological safety and belonging for all employees.
- A Wildly Important Goal (WIG) focused on employee engagement that features EDI as a core component.
- We’re scaling up the training and coaching offered to all OIT employees and managers. We’re also setting up employee resource groups to create a sense of belonging for our employees living with marginalized social identities.
- Group coaching is offered to managers every quarter so they can meaningfully contribute to achieving our employee engagement WIG and follow through on performance goals related to inclusive leadership.
- We use data to objectively monitor progress, such as through EDI organizational assessments and demographic analysis of employee engagement data.
EDI Action Alliance
We have a robust group of employees who are passionate about taking steps to institutionalize EDI work at OIT. The group includes subcommittees focused on internal workplace culture and training. Among many projects, they are responsible for analyzing employee engagement data by demographics to understand how employee experiences differ, and hosting quarterly webinars on a variety of EDI topics. Check out the team charter.
Employee Resource Groups
Promote an environment where BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) employees feel empowered, included and valued by providing resources, support and opportunities for growth and development.
We foster and promote an inclusive place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual OIT employees by honoring each individual’s values, beliefs, principles and lived experiences.
We empower OIT's veterans to expand their personal and professional development by communicating, networking, volunteering and providing training opportunities.
Accessibility & EDI: Two sides of the same coin
Accessibility and EDI work go hand in hand. Accessibility is a commitment to providing equitable access to services and is the responsibility of each state employee and not a single person, team or agency. In 2021, legislation (HB21-1110) was passed that strengthens protections against discrimination on the basis of disability. Among other things, it requires state agencies and local governmental entities to meet web accessibility standards and establishes OIT as the authoritative body to help agencies put those in place. Check out OIT's Guide to Accessible Web Services and Accessibility Law for Colorado State and Local Government to learn more.
- While still in the early stages, we’re crafting EDI guidelines that affect the technology solutions we build at OIT and make decisions about how our technology impacts those we are serving.