This is why I personally care about diversity: it’s the canary in the coal mine for meritocracy. When we see extremely skewed demographics, we have very good reason to suspect that something is wrong with our selection process, that it’s not actually as meritocratic as it could be. And I believe that is exactly what is happening in Silicon Valley.
There’s plenty of good research on the subject of team performance that shows that diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams on many different kinds of tasks. The problem is that this research doesn’t argue for demographic diversity, but rather for a diversity of perspectives. So, again, racial or gender diversity is not an end in itself. But we have to ask ourselves: if teams are consistently being put together with homogeneous demographics, what are the odds that they also will contain a diversity of perspectives? Shouldn’t we be worried that the same selection process that produces homogenous results in one area might be accidentally doing the same in the area that we care about (but that is harder to measure)?
Read the whole thing – great arguments laying out how more diversity in tech actually builds a truer meritocracy, told by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries, who tested himself one day by deciding to have all the name/gender/place of origin/age details on resumes blanked out before looking at them:
This simple change shocked me, because I found myself interviewing different-looking candidates – even though I was 100% convinced that I was not being biased in my resume selection process. If you’re screening resumes, or evaluating applicants to a startup school, I challenge you to adopt this procedure immediately, and report on the results…”
Ries summarises and and links to readings on implicit and systemic biases, stereotype threat and the ‘pipeline problem’, and if you don’t know those terms, this is a great article to introduce you to them.
Image credit: Daviniodus