The Importance of Diversity Groups in Tech

In the wake of the election results, I’ve seen a lot of hurt, anger, fear and many other feelings. I’m unhappy with the results and scared for our future especially with respect to immigrants, Muslims, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, women and any other group that has felt marginalized with regards to the results. I’m also terrified by the hatred towards these groups that has already materialized. Through all of that however, I’m also filled with a sense of hope. I’ve seen friend after friend talk about coming together to support these people with a passion I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen people not only donate to causes that help these marginalized groups but encourage others to do the same. I’ve seen people mobilize support that was lacking before.

All of these feelings raised by the election also come at a time when my own company and the tech industry as a whole has been doing a large diversity and inclusion push. Recently tech companies have been trying to figure out how to improve their diversity numbers, they’ve been looking at how to attract and retain more women and underrepresented minorities because statistics show that diverse teams perform better. A lot of smart people have been putting large amounts of research and thought into these questions, but the numbers are at best not moving.

All of these are complex problems without a simple solution, but in the past two weeks I’ve seen how some of the pieces in place have had positive impacts. At Box, we have a number of diversity and inclusion groups including our Women in Tech group and LGBTQ group. I’ve seen many of these groups come together in support of one another — both through official meetings but also unofficial meetings. These groups met to help support each other as their members work to come to terms with the results of the election. I’ve seen people rely on the connections and friendships they’d already built through these groups and work with the community to move forward together.

While these groups alone are not going to solve our diversity problems, this experience has highlighted to me the importance of building community. Often as a member of a minority group, I don’t always feel like I fully fit into the main engineering community. I don’t always feel like I connect on a personal level and some of the issues and concerns that affect me may not affect many of the others I work with. I once worked with a group where I didn’t connect with a single lunchroom conversation and I felt incredibly alienated. This is part of what makes me valuable in creating diversity — I’m different. At the same time though, without some way to connect or feel like I’m a part of a community, it’s easy to lose me. It’s difficult to face challenges alone, but just knowing there’s someone else out there like me or someone I can talk to or someone cheering for me makes it all a little bit easier.

There are different ways to build community, but for me at Box, a lot of this has been through our Women in Tech group. The group has given me the opportunity to form deep friendships, have meaningful conversations about tech, diversity and a number of other topics and has helped connect me to mentors and role models. The group also enables me to come together with others to solve problems and tackle challenges that I wouldn’t be able to do alone. We hosted a coding camp for girls, started a diversity scholarship, participated in the WEST mentorship program and much more. I’m so thankful to have this amazing group of women there to support me and that has never been more evident to me than in the past two weeks.

The election results have mobilized people on diversity topics and brought more attention to the related issues. I hope that we can harness that energy, not only to accomplish the big things, but also to do smaller things that support the people in our immediate communities. We should support people trying to build diversity groups. We should look for ways to be an ally. We should tell people that we care.

We have a long road ahead of us both in terms of diversity in tech as well as eliminating discrimination and hatred toward our marginalized groups in this country. I don’t think any of it will be easy and there’s a lot to worry about — we can’t return to complacency. At the same time though, there is hope and we should celebrate the small victories as we continue to strive to move forward together.