Diversity means products for all …

A month ago I listened to a great Screen Testing podcast on Hidden Figures with Ash Coleman and Angie Jones.

In it they made an interesting observation about the need for diversity in IT — it wasn’t just for reasons of fairness, but also for reasons of business. To tap into wider markets, you needed software teams who could tap into diversity, not those who represented a niche of “white males”.

Then last week, I found myself riding a plane to Europe aboard Etihad Airways, and I found myself revisiting this commentary.

The Etihad Airways plane had standard flight planner, which tells you where in the world you are, how far until the your destination, and even choose various cameras on the outside of the plane.

It also had something I’d never seen before — a compass showing the direction of Mecca, relative to the airplane and when the next call to prayer was.

It was something I could see the immediate value of — at school I’d had Muslim friends who’d told me how they needed to pray facing toward Mecca. Back on a project ten years ago, we had a server room which would be used at set times by a couple of our team as a prayer room.

But despite knowing all this, the feature of a Mecca compass isn’t something I’d have ever thought about myself — simply because it’s not something I need myself being non-Muslim. And yet, I knew it had value to a whole load of people … although quite where they can go in economy to pray does baffle me.

Back home in New Zealand, I decided to look through Google Play, and sure enough, Mecca compasses are a very popular application …

Okay … so if I’d never think to have created that as a feature, what else is there I would miss?

Thinking about women’s issues, I’m very aware that my wife likes to record her periods in her diary, as it allows her to plan when her next is due. Especially as she sometimes has difficult periods. Sure enough, it’s a popular application type as well …

Ideally, technology should be the benefit of all, not exclusively for a niche. If you’re developing for a diverse market, like Angie and Ash are saying, it makes business sense. Why would you want to go after the white, male market along with every other tech company?

To do that, you need tech teams which represent more than just a niche of the market. It reminds me of the keynote on diversity from Ash Coleman and Keith Klain, where they said if you are a white male who wants to be supportive, don’t claim to speak for diversities using your stage, instead give them your stage to send out their own message.

Food for thought.

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