The Future of Work

On Monday, I moderated a panel on ‘diversity’ here at SXSW.

“Diversity” is a tough subject to bring up, even in Silicon Valley. A bunch of friends that work in recruitment at tech companies have told me that if they mention bringing in more minority talent, people accuse them of trying to “lower the bar.” And that’s just one of the hurdles that they have to deal with, daily.

The day after the panel, I wrote about it, for the Los Angeles Times:

But I wanted people to hear from the experts themselves. I asked each of the panelists to tell me something that they hoped the audience would take home from our panel.

We had a lot of conversations, but here are some bits that stood out to me:

Karla L. Monterroso at Code2040:

When we need an software problem solved, we bring in engineers, because computer engineering is a competency. Diversity is also a competency, but we rarely bring in the kind of expertise needed to solve those problem.

You may or may not have a team of dedicated people working on diversity in your organization. So if you’re trying to get things started at your workplace, or if you’re wanting to join in existing efforts but don’t know where to start, you can do some reading on bias. Here are a few books and articles I’ve recommended to friends:

  1. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do
  2. How Changing One Word in Job Descriptions Can Lead to More Diverse Candidates
  3. CODE2040 Research Paper

Once you’ve got those in mind, you can have conversations about bias and its impact on the workforce, and what implications those things have in your office. What operations could currently be impacted by bias?

Sarah Wagener at Pandora:

I often get asked, why are you so invested in diversity (being a white woman) — how do you know what it is like to be underrepresented?

I think it is troubling that we have a society where you can only legitimately care about diversity if you are a minority, which is the place I go to when I hear this question.

Increasing representational diversity benefits everyone and a critical pathway to doing so is through the formation of allies and sponsors — of all phenotypes. When I started in this work over a decade ago, it came from a place of curiosity and empathy — largely driven from my background and upbringing. I do not claim to know what it is like to be underrepresented, but I do maintain an insatiable curiosity about those experiences and a desire to initiate change in how companies think about attracting, acquiring and retaining diverse talent.

Jamie Talbot, at Medium:

If you’re a developer, there’s almost certainly been a time when you’ve been so excited about a new technology that you spent all weekend hacking on some project, digging into documentation and reading source code. And you’re telling me you can’t go find resources to learn about the issues that people like you don’t face? No. It’s because you’re not motivated to.

Here’s something you can do right now, to get started.

Follow Marco Rogers’ steps to understanding people:

Briefly:

  1. expose yourself to people on Twitter that you wouldn’t normally follow,
  2. follow them for at least 30 days,
  3. read them, listen to them, don’t talk.

…So what are you doing?

If you attended the panel, (or if you didn’t!), we’d love to hear what kinds of conversations you’re having with coworkers or friends about diversity in the workplace.

Do you feel like it’s a priority where you work? What kind of successes (or difficulties) have you had in making your workplace a more diverse place?

Write a response below and let’s keep the conversation going.