In this post, I’ll discuss why diversity is important to every business. In particular, how important diversity is to building great products.
Is diversity in the workplace just a cool statistic we talk about or a critical part of your company?
Let’s forget for a moment diversity in general is just the right thing to do as a society.
Let’s forget that no matter your race or gender, equality and inclusion should never be an issue.
Let’s say with all the recent events you’re still not on board with diversity.
Let’s forget for a moment diversity in an organization could be the most important strategic advantage your company could ever deploy.
Wait! Let’s not forget that one.
You are running a business and the business has been created to make profits.
“When it comes to building a product, diverse thinking helps organizations appeal to a larger customer set by incorporating different voices. After all you can’t sell to people whose perspectives you can’t understand.” - Hackernoon
Still don’t believe it?
Advancing Gender Inequality
California recently became the first state to require a woman on a corporate board. In a rare message included in the bill, Gov. Jerry Brown said, “I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation. Nevertheless, recent events in Washington, D.C. — and beyond — make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”
Government agencies are forcing the issue of diversity because people are not getting the message. This is truly sad we have to resort to political force.
It is to our strategic advantage as a company to maximize shareholder value and diversity does just that.
The one reason to convince you diversity is important is the company will build better products with a more diverse workforce and diverse thinking.
You will make more money!
This also includes diversity from different ethnic backgrounds and races.
McKinsey & Company reported that companies in the top quartile of racial diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than the national median in their industry.
Product Development and Diversity
Let’s focus on the product side for a moment.
In our podcast episode “Machine learning and data bias”, we discuss actually how unsettling a lack of diversity can be for a company. For example, many claimed Pokemon Go discriminates against predominantly minority neighborhoods. Whether this is true or not is one thing, the main issue here is we should be using technology to break down these barriers, not put more up.
IoT and Self-Driving cars
I am particularly interested in Internet of Things (IoT) and autonomous cars. I have heard from friends some smart assistant devices have a hard time understanding women. Interesting. I am also curious who is building all this self-driving technology? Are they all males? Are these companies considering how different people drive and their product experience?
Without a proper understanding of the user base, the user experience could suffer. Resulting in lost revenue and a tarnished reputation. Afterall, over half the population are women. Probably a good idea to include different perspectives.
Don’t blame the algorithms either. Chris Stoll, software engineer at Skiplist wrote a fascinating piece on machine learning and data biases. In the article, he discusses that data isn’t just data. It is really the people who build these algorithms have their own intentional and unintentional biases baked in.
We must account for these biases and diversity is one way to address it.
However, an issue companies face is there are just not enough minorities and women in tech. The limited pipeline of good talent is already a challenge. Tech companies in particular are very competitive when it comes to software talent.
While we can’t speak for other companies on fostering a more diverse workplace, especially in the software industry; we observe and learn. We work on projects that span a number of different industries, and because of this, we prioritize a diverse staff. It’s quite interesting to see the different perspectives from tech-leading companies to more traditional ones that are transitioning to more of an emphasis on tech. The value of a diverse staff and varying backgrounds and perspectives becomes quite obvious. We have the unique opportunity to see what works for different types of companies when it comes to diversity, and to witness the challenges.
This perspective allows for us at Skiplist to continue improving and growing, ourselves. Without a doubt we see that more diverse teams tend to produce better results. Our own teams come from various non-traditional software backgrounds as Scott Stahl, software engineer at Skiplist discussed in his article, Does diversity matter for success?
We’ve also seen that diversity of thought matters to our team, and not just for software. Our marketing coordinator, Samantha Wolfe reviews and edits our content. As someone who previously worked in the public health and non-profit field, her perspective is equally important to align what we say to the world, especially because she does not have a technical background.
We know that Skiplist has room to grow in terms of diversity and we look forward to that challenge. We can and we will continue to do better. And in that same arena, we will continue to seek out partnerships with like-minded companies that hold the same values.