AWS for Industries
How Morningstar and AWS are delivering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) outcomes through partnership
In a previous post titled “Engineering for DEI: Tapping IT Creativity and Technique to Address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” authors Wesley Story and Mark Schwartz recommend rethinking organizational approaches to delivering DEI outcomes. They challenge readers to approach DEI like core engineering projects.
Shifting from monolithic develop-then-test approaches to a more iterative mindset creates the space for engineers to enhance minimum viable products with the aim of identifying and correcting deficiencies.
“If your company has been unsuccessful in meeting its DEI objectives, consider that a defect. As with any defect, you have to use your problem-solving skills to fix it, then redeploy. Create an acceptance test for meeting your diversity goals. Keep working until the test passes.”
As with delivering successful engineering projects, driving actionable outcomes on DEI initiatives can be challenging, and making real change is often an extensive process. Executive sponsorship coupled with a culture that is receptive to change increases the likelihood of success for these programs. Some guiding principles that organizations should consider as they begin designing their DEI plans include:
- Reflect internally—identify what’s not working and act on it – Understand your organization’s DEI practices today and the ways in which traditional practices can be revisited. Approach these challenges with an agile methodology by planning initiatives in phases, such as enacting organizational change is a long-term activity requiring an iterative approach. Strive toward small but sustainable and meaningful wins planned at each phase, building toward large organizational goals. With the evolving nature of DEI, make sure to maintain sufficient agility to change plans based on feedback and outcomes. Cultivate DEI centers of excellence throughout this process. Empower internal DEI champions, affinity groups, and talent teams to ideate on current challenges and fund potential solutions that can be implemented.
- Executive sponsorship – Leadership support adds motivation for colleagues to pursue and develop DEI. Having leadership tie performance goals to DEI outcomes sends an affirming message to the broader organizations and bolsters on-going initiatives. A case of this in action is James Rhodes, Morningstar Chief Technology Officer (CTO), who has dedicated 5% of his team’s time to DEI projects.
- Collaborate with external partners – Challenges with DEI initiatives oftentimes aren’t unique. A differentiator is how far organizations have come in their DEI journeys, as well as how they’re working toward solving the problems. Discussing common problems—in conjunction with actionable solutions—will help scale initiatives beyond the scope of a single organization.
In this post, we’ll discuss how Morningstar and AWS collaborated to design a DEI strategy, as well as which outcomes each respective organization was able to drive.
AWS’s perspective on the partnership
Over the last year parts of our DEI teams met to share knowledge, extend our respective cultures of innovation, and promote the development of new DEI initiatives. The following is a summary of our experiences doing this work together, providing tangible examples of the methods and best practices outlined above.
We kicked off the conversation by learning about our DEI workstreams, and we identified two priorities for our organizations:
- Creating a diverse talent pipeline and community engagement.
- Improving inclusive language in technology.
To deliver on these outcomes, Subject Matter Experts from both organizations were brought to the table for collaborative deep dives.
AWS and Morningstar worked with cross organization recruiting and talent acquisition teams to create diverse talent pipelines by rethinking how job postings were designed and marketed. Examples of solutions shared include removing gendered or targeted language in job descriptions, improving access to the posting itself by sharing it across multiple non-traditional channels, and analyzing how each organization conducts interviews to remove potential bias in the application process. The result of this work allowed AWS to create a new partner offering in conjunction with TEK systems to help create new talent pipelines within local communities. This ultimately helped customers improve access to diverse talent.
Our next objective was to improve inclusive language in technology. We collaborated with the AWS Documentation group, where we discussed how natural language-based APIs were created to help automate detection and redaction of non-inclusive terms in AWS technical documentation. Machine learning (ML) specialists from both organizations were brought in to discuss the potential of inclusive artificial intelligence (AI). Solutions ranged from using ML to improve name pronunciation, internal support mechanisms in multiple languages, and identifying and remediating the built-in bias in model development.
At AWS, we understand that we have a lot of work to do to scale and improve our internal DEI practices. Being able to partner with Morningstar has given us the opportunity to see what our customers are doing with DEI, and how we can help drive these outcomes across the range of people, processes, and technology. Future directions of our collaboration include developing strategies to bolster the retention of applicants from diverse backgrounds and strengthening the accessibility of our workplace for all.
Morningstar’s perspective on the partnership
Morningstar CEO, Kunal Kapoor, once said, “DEI is not a separate initiative.” This means that there are opportunities in every part of our work, internally and externally, to deliver on our commitment to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive world. Morningstar’s mission to empower investor success is well suited to DEI because Morningstar research, services, and products aim to make investing accessible for everyone. Morningstar has been building on its already inclusive organizational practices, while also contributing to research on the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts in the broader financial world.
Morningstar’s outward-facing lens was what made the opportunity to partner with AWS most interesting to us.
We were pleased to discover that this was an opportunity to both provide and receive insight. Morningstar had significant insights to share regarding the AWS Talent & Culture Team’s structured interviewing practices, as well as our Technology Team’s work on removing noninclusive terms from our code stack. In other conversations, particularly regarding bias in ML/AI and in community engagement work, AWS had a more mature model and could provide suggestions to enhance Morningstar’s foundational work. In all of our different streams, it was most valuable to understand the diverse approaches to our mutual end goal that allowed both parties to reimagine smarter solutions to DEI together.
DEI initiatives are becoming increasingly pertinent as companies scale their work in recruiting and retaining diverse global talent. Adoption is still in its infancy, and organizations that get ahead of these challenges will not only create a corporate culture of safety and inclusion for employees and customers, but also see business benefits with improved employee satisfaction and engagement, which directly powers creativity and innovation.
If your organization would like to partner with AWS on DEI initiatives, contact your AWS Account Team or submit a request on our “contact us” page.
If you would like to learn more about Morningstar or partner on DEI initiatives, reach out at Morningstar Global Contact.