On the 17th of May 1990, the WHO removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases. That date was chosen to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Last Monday we reminded ourselves of the injustice suffered by the LGBTIQ+ community.
It was a celebration of love and identities in their pluralities.
While the diversity and inclusion movement has made some gains in the past years, the facts are unflattering (to say the least) for the tech community: women make up only about 25% of technology workers, with even fewer Black (9%) and Latin (7%) workers holding tech jobs. On top of that, a higher percentage of women than men leave tech roles before they reach leadership ranks.
The unfortunate fact is that the tech industry is a reflection of our society, its biases and injustices. But this does not mean it cannot be a driving force for change. So, let’s have a look at the central questions behind diversity and inclusion in the tech world.
Why is it important?
There are various reasons why diversity and inclusion are important in tech.
First and foremost, many see it as a social, political and philosophical responsibility. If expanding on this point would require an entire conversation, it is important to acknowledge that this is a value we at Revive resonate with.
Then, because diverse workforces contribute to creativity and innovation thanks to diverse perspectives and experiences. Reports and research point towards the plurality of perspectives as a factor of flexibility and productivity. A diverse workplace means different views, skills, visions, experiences - all needed to carry to fruition the most exciting projects.
Finally, because there is a rather well documented skill shortage all across the tech industry. For instance, the number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE has dropped 40% since 2015, whereas the demand for AI, cloud and robotics skills is soaring: robotics job ad listings are up 115% in Liverpool, 253% in Leeds and up to 450% in Newcastle. Increasing the talent pool in the tech community is not only important, it’s essential.
But the matter of diversity and inclusion is not simply a question of why, but also a question of how.
The illusion of diversity & inclusion
Intuitively, ensuring diversity and inclusion means two things:
a) a diverse company directly reflects a geographical diversity (understood in terms of identity: age, gender, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, …).
b) an inclusive company has all its employees, regardless of their background, feel like they genuinely belong.
However, these definitions can hide two rather insidious issues.
First, because diversity doesn’t imply fair treatment and equity. The concept of diversity alone does not entail any notion of understanding, recognition or value. It is at risk of becoming a superficial ‘representational diversity’, without any regards for the actual experience of diversity.
Second, because inclusion still refers to marginalised groups. Today, the idea of inclusion is normative: there is what is inside the norm, and what is outside. Concretely, the norm is white and male, and marginalised identities have to adopt that norm. We believe that true inclusion should address that very problem: the norm must be deconstructed.
Cultivating a truly inclusive and diverse work environment
What follows is an issue of both mentality and structure. If these problems are deeply rooted within society, we believe tech companies do have a say in the matter: mentality shapes structure, and vice versa.
In terms of mentality, this means that diversity and inclusion should exist within the company’s ethos. This is not a PR or HR issue; it should be integrated within the very fabric of the company. Through practices and structures, the experience of difference must be acknowledged, recognised, valued.
Within the company, this can translate in having role models, mentors or other supportive figures. Similar arguments have been made for different groups - women, ethnic minorities, etc. An active, engaged peer connection is a factor for success.
Outside the company, this means companies must look for talent with a different mindset, as opportunities are not equally distributed. For instance, finding different pathways (e.g. partnerships), training professionals from non-traditional backgrounds (e.g. prisons) are ways for diversity and inclusion to be promoted.
The matter of diversity and inclusion is a complex one, one which requires to go beyond a superficial understanding. It is a matter of language, mentality, structure. It is about the recognition of difference, and understanding that the consequences are far reaching. And if integrated, tech companies have the opportunity to truly become a factor for change. This is Revive’s ethos, the message we will always carry within us.