More than ever having diversity of thought as well as diversity of experience in your workforce is completely necessary to compete in not just tech but any industry.
Early on in my career I was pretty much your stereotypical cynical programmer. That meant any meeting or email I’d get that would discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion was met with a quick eye roll before being summarily dismissed to my trash folder. I believed, above all, that the tech space should be a meritocracy and if certain groups of people were underrepresented in tech all that meant was that they couldn’t hack and that was not my problem. Luckily over my, now more than a decade long, career I’ve come to see that light. More than ever having diversity of thought as well as diversity of experience in your workforce is completely necessary to compete in not just tech but any industry.
I think to understand the necessity for a diverse work place, we have to first understand the breadth of the problem. A survey done recently by Fortune on the best nine organizations in Silicon Valley indicates that women only comprise about a third of the population of employees. This gap between men and women increases even more in larger companies with the best organization, indicating women to be holding about twenty-nine percent of leadership jobs.
The common retort to these stats is that there just aren’t ENOUGH women to fill these jobs, which is a pretty clever way of shifting the blame to women. In a study done recently, they found the population breakdown of girls and boys in high school who take part in STEM activities was essentially 50/50 as was the breakdown of male to female CS students Stanford and Berkeley. However, as the U.S Census Bureau reports, and what can clearly be seen as you walk through and developer bullpen, the population of men working in STEM industries who had the same credentials as women were twice that of those women. This isn’t a problem limited to women either, African-Americans and Hispanic students graduating with a degree in computer science from top universities are a population rate that is twice at what they’re getting hired at. Let’s be clear, it’s not that there aren’t qualified applicants; it’s that we’re not hiring them.
So why should we as leaders in tech be going out of our way to make sure we have representation among our peers? Well the argument is pretty clear:
- A diverse workforce helps uncover our hidden biases - When all you've ever hired is white guys named Dave and Indian developers on H1-B visas you're missing out on the thoughts and experiences of 90% of the world. Not having those voices in the room will result in missed opportunities, create weaker products, and eventually cost you money.
- Your customers are diverse, you should be as well - Whether your clients are fortune 500 companies or every day consumers, you can't understand what they need and how to best help them without understanding first what their perspective is and that can't be accomplished without having someone with similar experiences on your team.
- You're missing out on serious talent - Does anyone really believe all the best talent out there is limited to a handful of demographics? By limiting who and how we hire we're missing out fishing in the deepest talent pool possible.
But don't take my work for it. The facts, as provided by McKinsey & Company, can speak for themselves:
- Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national medians.
- In the U.S., there is a linear relationship between diversity and better financial performance.
- The unequal performance of companies in the same industry and same country implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies.
It's pretty simple companies that are more diverse are better able to win top talent which improves their customer orientation, employee satisfaction and decision making which ultimately leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing profit.