‘We need to be competitive, we need to attract the best’ is the clarion call of many of the leading tech organisations. In order to stay at the top of their game they need to pick the cream of the crop, the students with first class honours from the leading universities. I understand this yet it stacks the diversity problem in favour of the well connected, well heeled and well supported. These are more likely to be white, middle-class and male.
No matter how much we talk about diversity in the tech industry the system is stacked in favour of the status quo. It is hard to raise yourself above those who already start form an advantageous position. Those from disenfranchised, minority or poor backgrounds start a few laps behind.
My argument though is that the approach of the big employers, those who could make a real difference in helping to solve the diversity issue, whilst understandable is flawed.
They are picking their talent form a very narrow pool of candidates to make products that must appeal to a very wide range of diverse people. Sticking with middle class white men alienates the majority of the potential market for their products. It just doesn’t make long term economic sense.
The issue for me is that we see diversity in terms of physical manifestations such as ethnicity and gender when really diversity should be thought of in terms of experience and thought. Choosing people from a single channel, however talented they may be, restricts the range of experiences that your pipeline has enjoyed. Their thinking processes have been formed in the same way and they are more likely to see problems in a similar way.
If we want diversity in the workplace then we need a diversity of entry channels. We will never know that we have the best of talent unless we draw from all available and representative sources.
Diversity is not someone else’s problem.