Why Many Diversity Employment Policies Are Completely Missing The Point.
Google and Facebook have released statements about the diversity of their work force. It shows a predominantly white male work force. Both companies have said that they will actively promote diversity in their respective companies.
This seems like a good initiative on the surface, but the real question is whether this initiative is trying to solve an “issue” that is merely a statistical fact that is the result of personal preferences of individuals who happen to be male and happen to be white. Or is there really a significant amount of institutional discrimination in the tech sector.
Actively promoting diversity in a company is a good thing if a company has purposely given specific groups a less than equal chance to join the company. Diversity can then help to give all applicants and employees, an equal chance to be considered for a position based on their merits.
However, if diversity is used as a measuring stick of how well the work force resembles society statistically we are only chasing politically correctness, by implementing a form of discrimination. If a company says they prefer to hire women and minorities they are also saying that they prefer not to hire individuals who happen to be white and male.
So why are technology companies predominantly white and male? Could it be the fact that it is the result of personal preferences of individuals who predominantly happen to be male and white? Why do kindergartens predominantly employ people who happen to be female. Could it be the fact that it is the result of personal preferences of individuals who happen to be female?
Let’s start with the premise that each individual within our society has a set of interests and preferences. Based on these interests and preferences each individual makes a certain set of decisions to persue a particular career. If you then look at the total population you can make an observation that certain subsets make similar choices. These choices end up painting a particular statistical picture: significantly more men than women are interested in technology and follow a tech-related study. This leads to more men that women being employed in technology.
Technology is a field that has organically grown into a male dominated world, not unlike the world of construction. This is not necessarily good or bad. It is what it is and I fully support initiatives aimed at girls to get more people interested in the world of technology. By providing extra exposure to girls technology may become a more popular field.
The main issue is that we are looking at statistics and we try to find causality where none exists. We see a field dominated by men and deduce that it is a problem. But why would a company need to mirror society by how it is comprised statistically? Does the fact that the population is roughly 50% men and 50% women mean that every company needs to employ 50 women for every 50 men? Why does a company like Facebook look at its workforce and think “Gee, let’s stop hiring men, we need to hire more female employees!”. Why? Because your company needs to reflect society somehow?
If you are interviewing a candidate, try to see them as a unique individual, not as a member of a specific subset (gender, ethnicity, culture, country). Hire them for their skill set, their merits and what you think they can add to your team. Hire them because you think their values match your company’s values. Hire them for who they are, not what they are.