Per the article Silicon Valley struggles to hack its diversity problem, there are several reason for the lack of diversity within both the Technology and Engineering industries. One possible reason, is the possible lack of talent coming from higher education. Another reason, mentioned might due to the hiring criteria of specific companies. Both reasons although valid are being challenged with the recent initiatives federal regulations and public pressure. There is also mathematical data proving that an increase in diversity can lead to an increase of productive and success. But why and how?
Per the article What is Code?.there are various not for and for profit organizations leading the change to make a noticeable dent in the diversity pipeline issue. For instance, Google representatives are working with Historically Black Colleges & Universities with their Google In Residence (GIR). Also Etsy was able to raise their number of female engineers by 500%. While, other groups like Girls Develop It, Black Girls Code and Girls who Code aim to help close the gender gap in technology. While companies, like Kano, Scratch, Lego Mindstorms and Cubetto, aim to expose kids of all ages to develop an interest in coding and engineering through games and other kid friendly tools.
So it seems based on the Silicon Valley article, the bigger issue might lie with the companies as a whole. Recent employee reports from the top technology firms, show huge gaps between white and asian male employees for tech and non tech positions versus their female and underrepresented minority counterparts. From Google to Facebook, the number of females and underrepresented minorities are below 10% to 5 % for each category. Let alone in positions of power.This disparity in hiring has been blamed on an unwillingness to lower the bar but per the article, this is no longer a valid excuse.
Adam Davidson, a cloumnist for the New York Times magazine provide another possibility. On a past Reply All podcast episode Raising the Bar,
Yes, diverse workforce, it’s a beautiful idea, and I’m all for it. But when it comes to Silicon Valley there are two big problems. First: we don’t have proof yet that it works because to prove it, you’d want to look at all of those diverse Silicon Valley companies. And, they don’t really exist.
So per Davidson, in order to show the value of diversity in the workforce, the workforce has to be diverse.
Although this is a simple point, it is hard to do because of some of the following somewhat faulty logic:
- Homogenus groups are able to communicate better
- Homogenus groups allow for upcoming startups to focus on raising revenue for investors
- Homogenus groups have been proven to be successful
These reasons and possible countless others, are why some companies are hesitant from making a huge commitment of being the first company with great levels of diversity.
Although this fear is shared by some higher-up in tech, researchers like Scott Page begs to differ. Scott Page a professor of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan, by using mathematical models, found groups that were more diverse to actually increase productivity within an organization.In his books”Diversity and Complexity” and ” The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies” he argues that diversity provides not only richer working environments but a strong foundation for any business.
Diversity can provide insurance, improve productivity, spur innovation, enhance robustness, produce collective knowledge,”
―Scott E. Page, Diversity and Complexity
“For each individual among the many has a share of excellence and practical wisdom, and when they meet together, just as they become in a manner one man, who has many feet, and hands, and senses, so too with regard to their character and thought. Hence the many are better judges than a single man of music and poetry, for some understand one part, and some another, and among them they understand the whole. (Aristotle, Politics, book 3, chapter 11)”
― Scott E. Page, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies
So how does diversity relate to where you store your ketchup? Well per Scott’s interview on Reply All’s Raising the Bar episode, it can lead to greater associations to solve hard problems.
GOLDMAN: Scott says that language, age, geography, personal hardship–they all inform how we solve problems in these crazy subtle ways. And he gave this example that I find totally mind-blowing. Where we keep our ketchup.
SCOTT: Now turns out if you’re British or if you’re African American from the South, not as a rule but generally speaking, you’re likely to keep your ketchup in the cupboard. If you’re not British and you’re not African American from the South, you tend to keep your ketchup in the fridge. And you could think “Vive le difference, who cares, right?” Well it actually does matter because suppose you run out of ketchup. If you’re out of ketchup and you’re a ketchup in the fridge person, what are you gonna use? Well you might use mayonnaise, you might use mustard because those are things you think of when what’s next to the ketchup. If, alternatively, you’re a ketchup in the cupboard person and you run out ketchup, what’s next to the ketchup in the cupboard? Well, malt vinegar.
GOLDMAN: So, the more diverse the backgrounds, the more associations you get, and the more paths towards solving a hard problem.
~Scott Page Interview with the Reply All cast for episode #52-Raising the Bar