Diversity — does it really make a difference?

Photo credits: thebrandmanual.com

What difference would it really make?

I got to find out for myself at the Tech Inclusion Melbourne Conference organised by Change Catalyst few weeks ago- thanks to complimentary tickets from Launch Vic.

As with all hype around buzz words tech, inclusion and diversity, I had approached the conference with much scepticism.

Diversity, women in tech, inclusion, equal pay …

Scratching the surface in my view.

What does it all mean? Sounds like it is a means to an end and what is the end?

This conference has seeded a slightly different perspective on the agenda behind diversity and so …. here are the breadcrumbs.

1. Diversity is not just about women in tech

For bizarre reasons, diversity always reminded me about putting more women in tech and lobbying for equal pay and opportunity. This impression probably stems from marketing campaign that seeks to right the wrongs that women in the past faced. Therefore that forms a renewed charge towards getting more women in tech and giving equal opportunity.

But ..NO

Diversity is not just about having more women in tech.

Diversity may also points to the challenges of the new and few for example migrants, those with no social capital. Diversity may also point to giving opportunity to talented people with disabilities to shine.

Okay but so what? Does it matter?

Well.. Nicola Hazell, Shestarts Director of Diversity & Impact, BlueChilli Group pretty much sums it up

“The way we look at diversity is to dip into diverse ideas “
Matter of perspective, always. Photo credits: briansolis.com

Exactly that.

Ideas that are not isolated to one or your perspective. Ideas that involve dipping into the minds of the many and the differences to solve a problem.

Diverse ideas that would collide and result in a shift in mindset. And eventually culminate into a force that could channel a greater good for the community.

It is worthwhile knowing that whether we have a business or working in one, we are building a product that serve the general public in the end.

We can’t marginalise them.

Like what Tim Noonan, a pioneer in making innovative technologies accessible to the community said …

“Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people. “

2. Diversity makes a difference — or does it really?

Does differences really make a difference?

Indeed it does.

Before we start dismissing the impact of embracing diversity in our society (particularly in a migrant country like Australia), it would be worthwhile noting that one third of the small-medium businesses here are started by migrants (figures mentioned by Arie Moses, Thrive Refugee Finance).

These businesses are the ones that give you or the future generation a job , a means to contribute to your family and to the society.

Diversity concentrates the adversity that individuals face to create a wealth of great ideas.

Silicon Valley inventor and investor Susan Wu mentioned, “ What drives me in survival”

Survival is the strive for excellence.

That grit to push the envelope, that leap to make the change that no one in their comfort zone would do.

That breaks barriers; barriers that used to hold us hostage.

Barriers that would have prevented us from easily calling our family overseas or working with talent anywhere and anytime.

Think your iPhone, your skype call, your ride on demand, your future ride into space….

That would not be possible if we don’t embrace diverse ideas.

3. What is the price of diversity…?

Diversity is great.

We hear all the buzz about having equal gender representation on board or cases of men boycotting a board that does not meet that criteria.

Really? Is this a good way of introducing diverse ideas?

Or..wait a minute

Are we falling back on our very own bias?

Well.. you are either on and out of the bus. Photo credits: Linkedin

A similar question was posed in the conference.

Does diversity on board perform better?

Didier Elzinga , Co-Founder at Culture Amp mentioned that research have shown that diversity at board level don’t necessarily equate to better results.

There is an inherent bias of wanting to be on the bandwagon and supporting a heavily marketed agenda that everyone would applaud.

Diversity and mediocrity — how does it meet? Or .. has the diversity agenda gone to too far?

Not forgetting how we have became rather unforgiving towards people who does not support the agenda such in the case of the fired Googler, James Damore who criticised Google’s diversity efforts.

He suggested that the under-representation of women at Google was a result of women’s lesser interest in software engineering — rather than discrimination within the technology sector.

Seem a fair enough opinion on the surface.

Would that warrant a termination of employment? Have we become less tolerant in diverse views?

At the end of the day, it is worth knowing that diversity is about embracing and debating different ideas and even ideas that may seem jarring from the norm of today.

Even ideas that challenge diversity itself.

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