Culture is Key: A Personal Take
L Michelle Smith

Tech should focus on diversity, and great company culture will follow

I wholeheartedly agree that without inclusion as a foundation, diversity cannot happen. Diverse and minority groups need a seat at the table; however, I think that culture is a manifestation of community (and therefore impacted critically by diversity) rather than its DNA— at least, in a tech context, as the term is sometimes used a little differently.

As a result, the tech industry continues to undermine itself in its efforts to improve diversity— they’re trying to do it in the wrong way, by focusing on creating “company cultures” which attracts diverse applicants before actually hiring them. They don’t understand what that culture would look like (because its current state is a reflection of the values of the cis white male), but think that the first step is creating it— instead of building an inclusive, diverse team and allowing that culture to build itself. Worse still, the failure to hire minority candidates is excused with subtle implications or assumptions that they wouldn’t fit into the company culture.

“Culture,” when used in tech, most often refers to the values which underpin the work environment, and have little to do with real culture. They think that culture is the ping-pong table and lunch delivery on Fridays; it’s not. I wish more people understood and used it in the way you’re referring to here, which is its true definition: a way of life, the customs and beliefs of a group of people. It just so happens that tech companies’ group of people is often not diverse enough for its culture to be multi-faceted, interesting, or unique.