Enabling a Pro-Diversity Culture
16 April, 2018
Most tech organizations that I've been a part of do not have people from as many diverse backgrounds as I'd like to see, and thus we lose our on opportunities to see things from different perspectives, and this ultimately restricts our eligible hiring pool as well as gives us myopia with respect to how we build and develop our products. That said, it can be a bit of a "catch-22" -- if you don't have diversity, how can you recruit for it?
A large body of research suggests that culture in organizations is most frequently created and maintained top-down. As such, to ensure a pro-diversity culture, it's important that the executive team be vocal and open about a pro-diversity stance. In my situation, this required me "bringing my whole self to work" and be both open and tactful about the ways in which my background was unique. In my case, this meant being open about being gay and, when people were having "watercooler chat" about their spouse and children, I was equally open about my partner who happened to be my same gender. Beyond this, our attitude to trainings is critical -- as leaders, we can choose to see them as "necessary annoyances" or critical tools to enlighten employees from backgrounds that may have never been exposed to different backgrounds, whether they be racial, cultural, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic, political, or otherwise. As such, we embraced vocally the importance of educating about "unconscious bias" -- that two resumes with all things identical but the name on the resume are treated differently, and that it's not enough to just "not be racist" to counteract these things -- we have to be actively "anti-racist" by consciously counteracting these implicit biases. In my case, this means spending more time on resumes that I recognize I'm likely to have an unconscious bias around, for example. Similarly, no matter how people feel about the word "microaggression", we acknowledge and embrace that some members of our organization face these "mosquito bites" at a significantly higher rate than others, and we have to be proactively aware that this occurs so that we ensure a safe, non-hostile environment for employees that could be affected.
Not everyone can understand or appreciate the value of having a diverse team, but by practicing empathy and doing our best to imagine what a day in the life would be like for underrepresented groups at our organization, we're likely to identify holes and gaps in how our organization addresses issues of diversity. The more seriously we take these issues, the more likely our organization will be at recruiting a diverse pool of candidates to join our organization.
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