The Big Lie: Tech Companies and Diversity Hiring
Dare Obasanjo
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Dare,

Thank you so much for sharing such a detailed analysis and perspective on this issue. I’m in the process of launching my own career mentoring startup in D.C. and this topic hangs on my mind all the time. I subscribe to the theory that workforce diversity is a major strength when you have a diverse user base and that you will create the best product when those two align in their characteristics, that when the team building the product looks like the group that will be using it, you will have the most success (do you know if anyone has done studies about this?).

The “lowering the bar” argument is very ironic (and unfortunate) to me because a) like you said there is little empirical evidence to indicate that that is actually happening when diversity is taken into account for hiring and b) all the research that Google has done on team science has shown that no individual hire is an island (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html). Sadly, team science is still in its infancy, but, to me, seems like the most important aspect of building, well, a team. The hiring process seems to put so much focus on the individual, but is anyone approaching hiring from a team building standpoint? If so, then isn’t it the characteristics of the team that should more important than the individual resume? And, if so, then isn’t the diversity of viewpoints in the group one very important metric of a strong team?

J. J. Abrams infamously strove to make the new Star Wars film look like America by intentionally hiring a diverse cast in the same proportions of American ethnic diversity (lets set aside any judgement about whether or not he was successful on that front in terms of screen time for now). I’m not a huge J. J. Abrams fan artistically, but I couldn’t help and pause and reflect on the beautiful logic behind that intention. He was making an inclusive product for all Americans (and others, but, lets just keep it simple for now) so he made it look like America. That just makes so much business sense to me and, obviously, worked for him (or, at least, didn’t hurt the already massive franchise).

I see startups as our generation’s form of civil disobedience. The “too-big-to-fails” in the corporate world set the standard of how things are done, but I’m working on my own company because I don’t accept those standards. In my opinion, corporate culture in this country, even more so than government, needs to evolve and I think the easiest way to do that is from the ground up. So I’ll end with a few questions to you:

How would you like to see new startups framing the subject matter of diversity in their workforce in the context of their company culture? What do we do when the road is entirely in front of us, rather than behind, that is going to benefit all of us and steer us away from the same pitfalls that we’ve collectively made over and over? What do we do now to make sure that we are resilient in the future in case we hit bumps in this road?

Thanks again for the article and I look forward to your response.

P.S. — If you know any MEAN developers, UX designers, customer success peeps, and other startup fanatics in D.C. who would be interested in working in an online career mentoring startup that prioritizes this conversation internally and externally, send them my way ;)