How can we all create a diverse tech industry?

Serena Chana
Nov 28, 2018 · 5 min read
Image from Tech Inclusion London

Right now, innovation isn’t at its best.

Why?

Because the tech industry is seriously lacking a diverse workforce. This means that there is a real effect on the products and services which are being built. They are not for everyone.

A couple of examples of this include Apple not including period trackers in their Healthkit, and Snapchat releasing a “yellowface” filter.

We believe that when our workforce represents our society, we will have innovation that serves us all.

The question is — how do we achieve this?

On Monday, we went to Tech Inclusion London which provided us with some answers and thoughtful insights. Below, we’ve rounded up our top five takeaway actions:

1. Be an ally for everyone

Melinda kicking off Tech Inclusion!

“White men are not the only allies, we all need to be an ally. It’s on ALL of us to make this change happen and create diversity.”

Melinda Briana Epler, co-founder of Tech Inclusion.

We need to change the mindset that diversity and inclusion is just a ‘department’ and anything remotely diversity-related is handled through this specific team. With this way of thinking, we’ll be waiting a long time for anything to get done.

Melinda suggests that, instead, we should all see ourselves as allies who together can create change. There are lots of ways we can all actively be allies. You can be an ally by asking the person who keeps getting ignored in a meeting to share their opinion. You can be an ally by ensuring your event’s venue is accessible. You can be an ally by amplifying someone’s idea if it’s been overlooked. You can be an ally by taking an interest in each other and empathising with one another. Watch Melinda’s TED talk here to learn more about this.

2. Start having those awkward conversations

Pamela Hutchinson during her passionate talk.

“You lose my value by morphing me to fit in. It’s time to cut through the nonsense. It’s time to have those awkward conversations. That’s where the change begins.”

Pamela Hutchinson, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Bloomberg.

Right now it seems like everyone is speaking about diversity and inclusion, but what is actually being done about it? Rather than just being a buzzword/s, companies need to have real and, at times, uncomfortable, talks and commit to practical actions that drive positive change.

Pamela shared that at Bloomberg, when having awkward chats about inclusion, everyone has to agree to come to the meeting with a positive mindset and good intentions to create a safe environment. Creating a safe space for these discussions are paramount to their success in driving change.

3. The room should reflect everyone

Hawra (4th person) and Alex (1st person) on stage during their panel discussion.

“Are we allowing parents to come to tech events at times that suit them? What about people with anxiety, who when they hear the word ‘networking’ instantly want to run away?”

Hawra Milani, Founder of Code 2 Serve.

When you happen to be in the majority, it can be very easy to forget about, and not even consider, the minorities whose culture and lifestyle is not the same as yours.

For example, imagine you’re running a tech panel event in a room packed full of people with a Q and A at the end. It can be intimidating for some people to stand up and ask a question. Instead, you could provide attendees with the option to write their question on a note, or use an app like Slido. This is then read by the speaker/organiser/host.

The same theory applies to the workplace. Alex Fafegha, the founder of Comuzi Lab, shared the example of driverless cars now being built with no wing mirrors as they’re no longer needed… for the majority. However, individuals who are visually impaired use wing mirrors to help orientate themselves, so by removing them you’ve just marginalised a whole community. By working with people from all different backgrounds and experiences would help ensure your product is accessible and prevent problems like this.

4. Redefine what success looks like

Nafisa (2nd person) ready to share her tech knowledge.

“Start-up culture is not inclusive. What does success look like? It looks like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. It doesn’t look like me.”

Nafisa Bakkar, Co-founder of Amaliah.

When you think of successful tech entrepreneurs, people often think of white men, such as the ones Nafisa mentioned. This lack of representation creates the narrative that only people who look like this can be successful. This means that funding is given to people who mirror these success stories. This is not to undermine them, but to say we need diverse success stories and role models to change the narrative.

It has been proven that having role models who you can relate to plays an important role in believing in yourself and seeing yourself succeed. The next time you share an article on your LinkedIn or Twitter make it about someone from an under-represented background doing something incredible. Think about all your previous speakers and mentors you’ve used at work- do they look like Mark Zuckerberg? If you answered yes, change this.

5. Use your money as a vote

Anisah being a superstar on stage.

“Where we spend our money can be the most powerful way of changing the world around us.”

Anisah Osman Britton, Founder of 23 Code Street and Director of Backstage Capital.

Where we spend our money is a vote for what we accept and what we want to see more of. It’s a vote for power too. Be an ally to people working in factories across the world- at home and abroad. Do the companies you shop with have a modern slavery policy? Are they transparent about where their products are made and to they pay and treat their staff fairly? Some of the examples Anisah gave about what your money could mean as a vote included:

Shopping with an ethical fashion company is a vote for sustainable fashion. Buying local is a vote for more investment in local commerce and talent. Taking a reusable coffee cup to a cafe is a vote for less one use plastic and cleaner oceans. We can create diversity by using our money as a signal of what we will accept.

To find out more about Tech Inclusion click here.

23 Code Street

We are a coding school for women.