Thursday, May 27, 2010

Diversity Is Required

For a while I've been helping the Sarah and Sarah with their Open Workshop Project, which to date has focused mostly on introducing women to Ruby on Rails. It's no secret that women are underrepresented in information technology, and encouraging a reversal of that trend feels like a good use of my time. As I dude I'll never fully appreciate what it's like to be a woman technologist working in a sea of male colleagues, but I'm learning about her challenges.

I think I really began to understand diversity this week, and I learned about it from a white guy. He'd been interviewing with a technology company, but the process hadn't been a positive experience for him. He mentioned that he thought he'd never get into the company because the all-male staff didn't include a single white man. I know for a fact that Mr. White Guy could get a job if he wanted at the all-guys-who-aren't-white company, but the fact that he thought it wouldn't work took me by surprise. Mr. White Guy's experience seems similar to comments I've heard from women that they avoid joining companies where they're aren't enough women.

People like working with those share similar backgrounds or experiences. If your company becomes too homogeneous, such all one nationality or gender, you'll push away people who don't feel like they'd fit in with your monoculture. Once you build a culture that limits the number of good people you can hire, you're pretty much screwed. Since good people are the lifeblood of any organization, and since a lack of diversity can turn people off, I've concluded that diversity is required to retain a competitive advantage.

Now all I have to do is master diversity recruiting...

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