The Dividends of Diversity
Words by James Nash | Photography by Laurence Elizabeth
Innovation is a valuable commodity in the tech industry. Stemming from unique perspectives and individual processes of ideation, it’s the lifeblood of lauded places like Silicon Valley. Yet, despite the undeniable fact that innovation is a product of a diverse set of minds working on the same set of problems, women and people of colour are notoriously underrepresented in the tech industry. This disparity is doubly absurd when you take into account that there exists no major tech company whose product is solely marketed to white men. So the question becomes, why are we hiring only one group of people to make products for everyone? Furthermore, how can we expect these people to understand problems that might not apply to their own lives?
Studies show that women make up 26% of software engineers and only 18% of Computer Science graduates. Yet another recent study conducted among 1,700 businesses in eight countries found that companies with above-average diversity produce 45% more revenue from innovation than those without a diverse workforce. This kind of information is even more troubling when one takes into account the pitiful “average” the tech industry lauds. Leadership roles are especially dominated by the “brogrammer” culture and are in special need of redress. This overall lack of representation accounts for the often-stagnant environments in which many work, and the often uninspired work that is produced as a result.
What can be done to remedy this? In fact, solutions are already underway. Computer Science is among the fastest-growing fields in the world and this is especially prevalent among the youth, regardless of gender. The industry is desperately trying to catch up, and the amount of women pursuing a career in tech is growing exponentially, it’s still far too minuscule to have the kind of impact that half of the world’s population should have on any given industry.
Non-traditional education presents our best solution to the problem of representation. As you might’ve noticed, there are statistically more women working in software engineering positions than studying Computer Science. Tech giants like Google and Facebook are moving towards a more even split between CS graduates and self-taught, or otherwise-educated, programmers. Within this, the tech industry’s opportunity to redress the grave imbalance at its very core presents itself.
By hiring more diverse teams, especially those who come from a background of non-traditional education, a company places itself in a position to better serve a diverse customer base. A myriad of perspectives will inevitably lead to a multitude of solutions, new insights and a deeper understanding of how a product or service is used – ultimately resulting in a more forward-thinking, innovative workforce. By fostering independence and diversity, the tech industry can not only lead the charge for a more just working world but also help themselves understand their own faults, and find the path forward to a brighter for all. In the end, isn’t that what technology’s about?