I have wanted to write about diversity in the tech space for quite some time. A few things have stopped me, I suppose. The first block that comes to mind is the fact that I am not personally representative of the concept. No one needs to tell me that we don’t need another white straight man who writes code and attends conferences, yet here I am.
I do firmly believe that our field would be better served by a wider variety of folks from different backgrounds. I’ve learned as much from the working mothers in my office who work in design and marketing as I have from my male developer colleagues, and I know my employers have as well. It’s amazing how much folks like me can overlook the simplest of challenges they face when we make decisions without seeking out those perspectives.
(I suspect that the same would be true of colleagues of different nationalities and racial backgrounds if I had any. We can definitely do a lot better here.)
While I’m not currently in a position to hire folks myself, I do often get looped in during the interview process, and I personally see resumes that are submitted through the company’s online form. I have confirmed that what I hear so often from tech executives — applicants are overwhelmingly homogeneous — does carry some truth. And when you need a person with a senior-level of expertise, that pool becomes even less diverse. Not surprising given that we paid even less attention to diversity 10+ years ago than we do today, starting very early with the bias that is built into our educational system.
So it makes hiring harder, sure. But does that mean we’re off the hook? For folks who are in a position to make change, shouldn’t we have to work a little harder to make this shift in our own companies? And if we were being completely selfish, wouldn’t we consider the numerous case studies that tell us that diversity is better for our own financial growth and sustainability? (here, here, also here).
Should we be ashamed when only 1-in-10 of our tech team are women if 1-in-20 of our applicants are? I can’t say for sure. I also can’t say that I believe you should turn down white men for roles if they are highly qualified and a good cultural fit (although, I have a lot more to say about company culture adjacent to this topic — for a later post).
I truly don’t know if there is an easy solution at all. But I do know for certain that there are things we can do to make a positive impact — whether we are making hiring decisions or not.