Near and present diversity

01/13/2017

On the topic of “diversity and inclusion” in tech, many companies are understandably intimidated by the challenges presented and would prefer to hire a few “underrepresented minorities” (see? we’re diverse!), and put the topic behind them.

Not so fast my dear Diversity Councils.

In speeding past the uncomfortable conversations, we in fact do our colleagues and organizations a great disservice. As much as we want to sprint ahead to embodying a “post-racial” society, the paradoxical path for many companies is to slow down and have a long overdue conversation with existing employees about what the organization actually stands for and how diversity slogans translate into action.

The benefit of embracing the existing diversity (of thought, age, politics, management style…) is that the humanity of the folks already present isn’t overlooked. Few companies feel comfortable admitting the fact that the demographic feeling a lot of guilt, anxiety, stress, pressure, and confusion around diversity dialogue is white males.

The irony of someone who holds a historically marginalized identity advocating for white males is not lost on me, but I’d like to invite us all to consider that cultivating allies in—and understanding the perspective of—white males is precisely what’s needed in order to drive the issue forward.

This is one of the reasons that Silicon Valley is still functionally segregated. Many of the gatekeepers are subverting the system because they’re not on board with this “diversity” business. Top-down directives rankle employees of all stripes, and no one likes feeling coerced into action. This is especially true regarding complex topics like race and identity in America, which few workplaces are prepared to discuss.