If you work for a tech company, when you get to work today, look around your office and observe how many women are around you. Then, take a second look and observe how many racial minorities (e.g. blacks and Hispanics) are tapping those keyboards. Finally, take one last look and notice how many white men there are.
The we-need-more-diversity movement arose from the realization that, yes, women and racial minorities are competent and skilled, and no, we don't have enough of them in our offices. Then came the idea that hiring a few women, blacks, and Hispanics would prove that your company's culture is, indeed, diverse and modern. However, what tech companies don't realize is that it's not just about having a diverse workforce. It's not about checking off boxes. It's not about cherry picking your women and your black people to hit a quota. It's about inclusion. It’s about envisioning a culture where women and racial minorities aren’t just present; they’re heard, they matter, and they’re important for your brand story and company growth. Diversity acknowledges people, inclusion values them.
But why aren't there enough women and racial minorities in tech? Could it be because companies aren't focusing on hiring them? That's part of it. The other part is the fact that companies are looking in the wrong places and spotting the wrong issues. Back in October 2015, I covered a few Advertising Week sessions. One session I covered discussed the diversity problem in digital. B. Bonin Bough, Chief Media & eCommerce Officer of Mondelez International, was a panel member and hit the nail on its head when he said the following, "One of the biggest challenges that we have is early education. Education is probably the biggest determinant of how we’re going to change the divide.” Why is no one realizing that education is the problem? Furthermore, how have we overlooked the broken education and career pipeline that exists in underrepresented communities? Why have we turned our backs to the toxic work cultures that suppress women and their contributions?
If you’re a tech company that claims to be committed to diversity, it’s time to look deeper into the core issue. The issue isn't the lack of blacks or Hispanics at your main recruiting grounds (e.g. Stanford, Harvard, MIT). The issue is not that there aren’t enough women who know how to code, want to learn how to code, or know how to lead. The issue is that we haven’t created an environment in which opportunities are available to these people. Tackling diversity will take more than a hiring effort. It’ll take a societal change that we, as tech people, can greatly influence. It’s time to think about what we can do rather than what we have failed to do.
I’ll end with a conclusion I wrote for my coverage of that digital diversity session at Advertising Week. In it, I state,
"If you look around at any Fortune 500 company or top startup, the majority of the top executives are white guys, old and young. The pipeline for women and minorities in digital and STEM fields has been inadequate for a long time. Important dialogues surrounding science and tech aren’t happening in key underrepresented communities. The lack of outreach and strategic engagement with women and other minority groups will slow down the industry effort to foster a completely diverse workforce.
It takes a diverse team to create a diverse product, and companies are at risk of losing touch with a diverse generation that makes up most of their customer base."