Updated: Feb 7
“I believe that technology is the great leveler. Technology permits anybody to play. And in some ways, I think technology — it’s not only a great tool for democratization, but it’s a great tool for eliminating prejudice.”- Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
The need for diversity
Diversity comes in different forms; gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, age, culture, social-economic background, among others. Today, the world is geared towards creating global citizens who have exposure to people, culture, traditions, and practices that are unlike the majority. This is to bridge the gap between tolerance and acceptance in society. The presence of diversity in public spaces contributes to a unique experience of the world, and a progressive industry like technology must practice this in its truest form.
Diversity versus Tokenism
The words ‘Diversity’ and ‘Inclusion ‘are often used interchangeably, but there is a wall of difference in a real sense. Where diversity ensures the presence of variety, inclusion covers the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully and have equal access to opportunities and resources, and contribute fully to the organization’s success.
Flowing from this, it is safe to say that diversity covers the what, that is, it is focused on the makeup of your workforce, and Inclusion is about the how – the creation of a work environment and culture that enables all employees to participate and thrive. The absence of this is what is known as tokenism, which is diversity without inclusion.
Significance of Inclusion
Now, tokenism gives an organization the optics of having diversity. However, the advantages of diversity can only be achieved through inclusion. This means inclusion in all its forms as gender, among other forms of diversity, is important to making inclusion come true. One of these advantages is productivity, and it is found in how it exposes the team to certain perspectives that may not have been considered. This is also because individual experiences shape people’s way of viewing a problem.
A factor that is specific to the tech industry is that there are lots of good-paying tech jobs that don’t require a college or graduate degree. The advantage here is that it leads to upward mobility and reduces inequality. Usually, companies are known to organize internship programs and module-styled boot camps, but without the social networks and technical skills that institutions like colleges provide, students can’t connect fully with tech opportunities, including those made possible by the deep-pocketed investors who sponsor tech startups, which currently offer the fastest pathway to individual wealth. Hence, there have to be more long-term inclusive programs.
Achieving Inclusion in Tech Spaces
This can be achieved by redefining recruiting practices to driving mentorship and building a culture of inclusion initiatives with a diverse tech workforce that is best equipped to serve diverse customers and achieve business outcomes. It also helps to start accepting more candidates from non-traditional educational institutions and backgrounds, or better yet, begin considering candidates who are self-taught. This is an investment in building products with less bias and building a culture that is prone to grow well.
One might say that in companies that need to be quick moving, it’s best to hire people you know and trust, but the power that technology has over society and the possibilities of trumping organizational bias are more advantageous in the long run. An illustration here is how many of the founders and leadership among Paypal after eBay bought it became millionaires and even billionaires who founded and funded: YouTube, LinkedIn, Tesla, SpaceX, Facebook, Yelp, and more large-scale tech companies. The influence of this small network of very similar people has affected billions of lives. The same power and influence can exist among diverse groups of people in a system that offers more inclusion than diversity.
So tell me, how can we expect diversity to make any difference if none of us can commit to staying inclusive?