Back in 2015 on International Women’s Day,
Former UN Director General Ban Ki Moon published a statement. “The world will
never realise 100% of its goals if 50% of its people cannot realise their full
potential,” he said. “When we unleash the power of women, we can secure a
future for all.”
Four years later, corporate diversity and
inclusion have no doubt improved – but women still face significant challenges
and inequalities at work. Setting aside the social, moral and political reasons
for championing an inclusive workplace, diversity is arguably the key to
creativity and the attraction and retention of commercial talent.
For the developer community, diversity of
perspective can also mean the difference between a product’s success and its
Developers’ problem-solving nous and endless
creativity can be leveraged into the most successful product growth. Yet when
this talent comes from the same kind of people with the same kind of
perspectives, time and time again, ideas that were once touted as ‘innovative’
quickly tire. That’s because a one-dimensional workforce ultimately kills
creativity, and McKinsey’s latest research proves it.
on gender diversity in 2019
McKinsey’s Delivering Through
Diversity report shows that gender diversity increases
a business’ profit more than previously thought. In 2015 analysis, companies in
the top 25th percentile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to outperform
their competitors. The latest data released in January 2019 shows that
likelihood has grown to 21%.
Increasing the number of women in the
workplace also boosts GDP in the OECD – an intergovernmental organisation
comprising 36 member countries – by US $6 trillion, according to PwC’s annual Women in Work report. Closing the gender pay gap could boost GDP by a further US $2
and ethnic diversity at work
But gender isn’t the only side of the story.
Companies with culturally and ethnically diverse employees were 33% more likely
to see better-than-average profits, according to McKinsey. At the board of
director level, that figure rose to 43%.
Socioeconomic background is often left out of
the diversity equation, and yet it cuts through all demographics, irrespective
of race, gender, age and sexuality. In fact, research by the Social Mobility Commission found that on average, those
from poorer families earn 7% less than their peers, equivalent to around £2,242
So while gender, ethnic, cultural and
socio-economic diversity clearly make more money, women, minorities and those
from lower household incomes remain largely underrepresented.
and inclusion in the developer community
make up just 11% of the developer workforce, according to data from the Pearson
Frank Java and PHP Salary Survey, yet
they’re 50% of any product’s potential customer base.
In developer teams, not only does diversity
encourage every member to challenge their thinking more often, it also
cultivates a broader range of ideas that better understand customer’s needs and
solve a broader range of their problems. That means more efficient product
development, in turn leading to higher revenues, profit and retention.
The authors of How Diversity Makes Us
Smarter, a report
published in Scientific American, sum
it up: “Members of a
homogeneous group rest somewhat assured that they will agree with one another;
that they will understand one another's perspectives and beliefs; that they
will be able to easily come to a consensus.
members of a group notice that they are socially different from one another,
they change their expectations. They anticipate differences of opinion and
perspective. They assume they will need to work harder to come to a consensus.
When disagreement comes from a socially different person, we are prompted to
work harder. Diversity jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity
simply does not.”
A North Carolina State University studyfound that increased creative and
product output goes hand-in-hand with companies in which diversity is
prevalent. The research saw 3,000 publicly traded companies measure nine
aspects of diversity, including factors like whether or not they promoted women
and people of colour, and showed those that ticked off all nine announced an
average of two extra products in every given year.
And while governments are responsible for
shaping a policy environment that supports gender equality and diversity in the
workplace, it’s ultimately up to organisations and employers to put this into
practice. So instead of simply talking about it, what can actually be done to
drive diversity in developer teams?
workplace: Change the hiring criteria
Getting a diverse pool of applicants is the
first step, and it begins with removing assumptions and unconscious bias.
According to a HackerRank report, hiring managers’ top priorities are the right skills and culture fit
(80.5%), followed by future performance (50.6%) and retention (37.8%).
But if hiring managers’ focus is on ‘culture
fit’, they’re more likely to interview with a predisposed culture in mind – a
cut-and-paste image based on either themselves or their team’s current members.
True inclusivity begins when managers eschew recruiting in their own image and
open up to unfamiliar narratives.
Evolving hiring practises is simply the start
point. Companies need to focus on mentoring, flex their working hours and
invest in developing talent – to name a few factors. Some of the
responsibility, however, does and should lie
with government leaders.
larger scale: invest in government initiatives
“If we want to maintain our position as a
world-leading digital economy, we need to work with industry, local authorities
and the voluntary sector to develop solutions so no-one is left behind,” said
Margaret James, Minister for Digital, after the UK government announced its £1
million Digital Skills Innovation Fund.
In a push to improve diversity in the digital
economy, of which the developer community is a significant part, the fund will
help equip people from underrepresented groups and disabled people with the
skills they need to thrive in tech.
authorities will bid for up to £500,000 of funding for training initiatives
aimed at women, disabled people and those from lower socioeconomic areas
seeking careers as software developers, data analysts, programmers, cyber
security specialists and more. An additional £400,000 will go towards helping
older and disabled people acquire life-changing digital skills.
With this kind
of government investment, a hiring process shake-up and a steadily increasing
awareness of intersectional bias in the workplace, we can inch ever closer to a
working world in which diversity of power is unleashed and shared. There’s
still, of course, a long way to go.