Diversity is important to the tech industry. Need proof?
- Years ago, a team of all right-handed developers at YouTube designed a phone app that uploaded videos upside-down for roughly 5 to 10 percent of the population (the lefties).
- The first airbags installed in vehicles put women and children at risk because they were designed by and for the average male body.
Products intended for use across all demographics benefit when broader demographics are represented on the design team. Yet even after incidents such as these, the tech industry remains isolated from diversification. Here are just a few reasons this needs to change — and quickly.
1. Creativity stems from diversification.
If you want a powerful team of people working on a solution to a problem, diversification is your best bet. Studies have shown that bringing together people of different cultures, educational disciplines, backgrounds and worldviews results in more successful work products. People with varied experiences interpret and approach problems differently, too. As they collaborate, they naturally devise more innovative and creative solutions.
If this is the case, why aren’t tech companies making sure to include diversification in their employment models?
Justin Chan, editorial production associate at The New Yorker, believes employers are under the wrong impression about certain groups of minorities, and that false impression influences their hiring decisions.
“Minority millennials, especially those of African American and Hispanic descent, face discrimination in the tech industry even before they’re hired,” he said. “While African Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented in this industry, Asian Americans are overrepresented. The suggestion here is that somehow one racial group — particularly one that society oftentimes deems the ‘model minority’ — is more technically capable than the others. Employers are frequently under the impression that African American and Hispanic candidates are just not qualified. It’s a false narrative that needs to changed.”
2. Companies are losing out on great talent.
Companies that look to a select demographic when making hiring and investment decisions are leaving a lot of great talent on the table. Many tech companies pride themselves on always pursuing the best solutions. They create environments to encourage creativity and innovation, and they reward employees for great ideas. But what if the best idea isn’t even at the table? What happens if the best solution is held within the mind of someone who never was tapped to join the team?
The tech industry targets and helps develop future talent from a young age. Tech leaders invest in their people and ensure potential candidates are getting the best education and grooming. But if the best talent wasn’t ever scouted or interviewed based on demographic data, the best idea won’t ever be discovered. That could be detrimental to the industry and our country overall.
“Simply put, the tech industry needs to be more inclusive. This starts at a very early stage,” Chan said. “Companies should invest in schools that serve underprivileged communities, where children or teenagers may have limited access to the latest technology. Investing in minority youth goes a long way: It can steadily build a group of qualified candidates that these companies can hire down the road.”
3. It’s the right thing to do.
There are many rational and research-based arguments that support the need to diversify in the tech industry. But it also is simply the right thing to do. Social inequality is a thing of the past (or it should be). The United States has been known as the “melting pot” and a place of great opportunity for all, but not all industries embrace that idea equally. When we fail to involve representation from all communities, we lose out on the benefits of those members’ ideas.
America is becoming a minority majority nation. Helping and supporting minorities succeed will become increasingly important to our company’s economic well-being. Diversity across all industries — and especially in tech — quickly is becoming a hot-button topic as immigration policies come under scrutiny. It’s increasingly difficult for undocumented minority members to find jobs, even when they have the skills and education required.
Company leaders and business owners must take steps to make certain the tech industry welcomes and encourages diversity. It’s everyone’s responsibility to pursue, groom and employ the best talent so our nation continues to flourish well into the future.