After my recent ramblings about the lack of diversity of thought within the tech industry, co-incidentally my former Microsoft colleague Ben Nunney is just in the process of launching a new campaigning body called ethicalco.de.
The, particularly internetty, world of tech is a bit of a dichotomous mess. On the one hand you have Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing actions leading to Tim Berners-Lee calling for an internet bill of rights. On the other hand you have booth babes, and a games industry caught up in a whole number of worlds of -isms.
From my perspective and experience, the tech industry has strong biases towards male, middle-class, white, straight values. One of my earliest “interesting” experiences at Microsoft was being sent on a mandatory diversity course. I had recently finished at another company, leading a team of 15 where we had an admirable mix of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and nationality. I became increasingly irritated at being lectured when I had inherited (from my new employer) a team where the only diversity was in having someone who was Scottish. An unfair, anecdotal example, maybe, but a reflection on a broader issue nonetheless.
I don’t believe in diversity because of a need to check boxes for legislative reasons (another problem for US-based companies in particular from my experience where diversity is gender and race).
I don’t believe in diversity because it’s inherently the “right” thing (it is, but…). The reason why diversity of thought, of people, is so important in the tech industry is because otherwise we end up with products and services that only represent a tiny cross-section of society’s needs, views and wishes. And that’s bad in the long term for all of us.