IT leaders are facilitating multi-pronged efforts to hire employees from underrepresented groups, though cultivating belonging remains a difficult — and often unfulfilled — task.

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Lety Nettles believes she has a formula for building strong, diverse product teams. Soon she’ll get to put her approach to the test.

Nettles, the CIO of innovation and busines products at financial technology firm LPL Financial, is forming “mentoring circles,” in which leaders coach up employees from underrepresented groups in the company’s Austin, Texas-based innovation lab.

Lety Nettles, CIO of innovation and busines products, LPL Financial LPL Financial

Lety Nettles, CIO of innovation and busines products, LPL Financial

Nettles is still working out the mechanics, but she expects to start with women, who will apply different techniques and tools when collaborating in their product teams and come back to the mentoring circle to share their stories. This may help mitigate issues that arise when female employees struggle to contribute in product teams. Often, it’s not that the employees can’t do the work but that they feel as though they don’t have a voice on a team in which they feel like an outsider, Nettles says. It’s incumbent on the mentors to unpack causality and help underrepresented employees be seen by the rest of the group.

“People of color and women want to be listened to and be safe,” says Nettles, a Hispanic woman of Mexican heritage, who credits her former boss Karenann Terrell with mentoring her when the two worked in IT leadership roles at Walmart.