Last week, we dove into creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.

What have you seen be most effective or least effective solutions to creating and diverse and/or inclusive workplace in your world?

It could be anecdotal, research-based or just your opinion.

Responses

 

Focus on homogeny

The most effective ways to create diversity/inclusion: During selection, focus on what the person offers, how their particular skills can benefit your team, not whether they are male or female, physical appearance, colour, age etc.

The least effective ways to create diversity/inclusion: Groupthink, and having a selection committee made up of clones of each other. There’s a mistaken belief that the whole team has to be homogeneous to be able to work together.

– Sonya, Engineer/Manager, Industrial Automation

Analyze your channels

I find that the best way to diversify my team is to specifically hire from various different schools. For instance, I hire many people out of The New York Institute of Technology because it is a very international school and has people with all sorts of races and religions. When I’m looking for people from NYU, it is disproportionately white men who apply. When I’m looking for people at Pace University, I tend to get more women applying.

– Lauren Keyson, Disruptive Technologists (check out her Meetup in NYC)

Leadership matters

In my experience, the creation of a diverse and inclusive workplace has come from having an inclusive leader (who was a woman, in both of the best cases I’m thinking of) who hired smart, diverse, cooperative people.

There tended to be more women in the work groups I’m thinking of (technical field), and to me the group overall felt more inclusive and it was diverse.

Inclusiveness has a lot to do with leadership style though (man or woman) – an inclusive leader will bring out more cooperation and inclusiveness in the group members.

– Anonymous, from Central NY

What does “employable” mean?

“I left the full time tech world in the mid 2000s to complete a Masters in order to teach in the community colleges and I also earned a state of California credential for teaching adults pursuing job training or entrepreneurial goals. From what I see – and I’m in touch with hiring managers as part of my job teaching stuff like coding, UX, et al – employers routinely dismiss applicants who present as significantly different than themselves (whether that’s age, color, race etc.) but they often do not realize they are doing so.

When they are compelled to do the uncomfortable thing such as hire the 40 year old or Tawanda who has 2.5 years of Javascript vs. the 3 they are asking for, they will instead just revert to the comfortable path of hiring someone who looks and talks like themselves and has exactly the number of years, etc. they have idealized as their perfect candidate.

In order to diversify the workforce, hiring managers are going to have to be more realistic to compromise on their “they have to have at least 3 years of xyz”. They need to really examine their assumptions re: that and to, sorry – gotta just say it – GROW UP and stop looking for perfection. A woman with 2 years of Javascript, for example, likely will be able to pick up other languages and then some pretty quickly. Show me how 2.5 or 3.5 years makes that huge of a difference between some idea of employable. Mature managers know better but who is usually hiring is themselves not very experienced in business and hiring.

The other issue is in education.

I see tons of money going to K-12 re tech. Lots of time, money, and cute and clever advertising and marketing is aimed at making STEM more attractive to women. And that’s nice but what really needs to happen is that STEM needs to become STEAM. In other words, integrate coding and engineering INTO AN ARTS and creative curriculum. THAT is where women are. And I’m not the only one who is seeing this. The California Arts Commission already sort of ordained this and got buy in by the California dept. of edu but as a teacher trying to push this in my curriculum, I get tremendous push back.

It’s ridiculous – trying to change how women ‘feel’ instead of taking what women often DO gravitate towards (as the San Francisco School board recognizes) which is the ARTS and INTEGRATE engineering into that curriculum. I mean do we just want a bunch of monkeys who will soon be replaced by AI anyway or do we want CREATIVES dreaming up stuff and building the stuff?

The model of ‘someone else designs’ and then ‘someone else builds it’ is old world and holding back diversity. I beg of you and anybody reading this to please open your minds re this. When I went to work for Apple as an ENGINEER years ago, they did not want to look at finished products and they did not care whether I was fluent in Unix et al. They wanted to see my sketchbooks.

My team members IN THE ENGINEERING group I was in were painters, psychologists, and artists all of whom had some background in technology including programming. A few of us were women but Apple did get this right. This would go a LONG LONG way to pushing open the doors and diversifying technology and engineering – integrate it INTO the arts.

But it will take buy-in from folks like you as well as the major players. At an interview I was at recently to teach art at a high school, I was actually asked point blank: “…can you set aside your coding focus and ‘just teach art’?…” I was speechless. And I resoundingly said ‘no’ and told them I was interested in ‘integrating’ engineering INTO the art curriculum. Guess who did NOT get hired… me. At the teaching demo, students were visibly excited by my demo. One girl asked me: “…what app is that you’re using and does it do xyz…” My answer to her who made the app and re the 2nd part of that question, I told her “…no – we have to make that app… how about we work towards that…” Technology in that classroom was still seen as something someone else makes that they have to use to document their work vs. something really cool that does something even cooler. Until STEM becomes STEAM and the wall between math and science and art is burned down, diversity is going to be slow going.

Finally, something else re education: adults who have been outsourced and simply need like 2 years of intense concentration on updating skills (which is what I do in our public job training programs)are completely dismissed and ignored. This population is filled with single moms who need to be working and nobody seems to give a sh about them. All the resources are going to k-12 but this population (being too young for social security and routinely rejected by employers for – let’s just call it what it is – age) needs some of those tech edu resources. They cannot wait for years until someone deems them employable. They gotta get going right away – which is why I have concentrated on teaching this population and I have seen my students get jobs, release apps, etc.

Thank you for giving me a chance to state what has been my experience in the industry – both as a teacher and having over 25 years in engineering. I hope it’s helpful but more importantly, I hope someone takes it seriously.

– Anonymous

 

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