Why does a tech media site have a focus on diversity?

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright March 27, 2016
Summary:
We believe the topic of diversity is relevant to the emerging digital enterprise because it reflects how technology is changing the way people work and live

Rainbow colors surging out of laptop © Sergey Nivens - Fotolia.com
Last week, we added two new topics to the taxonomy we use to group content on diginomica. One of the new topics is exactly what you'd expect a tech media site to cover — it defines a category of enterprise software. The other is, from one point of view, nothing to do with technology — it's about how people treat other people. But we believe the topic of diversity is just as relevant to the emerging digital enterprise as the more conventional subject matter of HR admin and payroll. Here's why.

When we founded diginomica three years ago to write about the enterprise impact of today's digital technologies, we knew that we wanted to focus on business outcomes. That emphasis on outcomes gives us a much stronger focus on real-world business use cases than most other tech media — one that we find our readers value too.

It also allows us to take an empirical approach to defining our coverage. We don't chase buzzwords or trends. We look beyond the press releases vendors send us, to ask what's actually happening on the ground. Rather than delving into the detail of how the technology works, we're more interested in its impact on how people and organizations work. We can only find that out by listening to their stories, and that informs the content we publish.

So when we reorganized our content earlier this year, we didn't arbitrarily impose a structure. We mapped to the various topics that have emerged from our coverage in the near three years since we started publishing — a total of 49 topics, sorted into 18 separate sections and grouped under the three broad headings you see in our navigation bar at the top of the page (the fourth links to our partners' content).

Reflecting workplace trends

A few weeks after the new taxonomy went live, we realized our coverage was surfacing two further topics that also merited recognition in their own right. Both form part of HCM and the digital future of work, the section we created for the HR domain and workplace trends.

While other enterprise functions seem either born to it or eager to achieve it, HR tends to have technology innovation thrust upon it. Almost unwittingly, the HR department has been the first adopter of just about every significant step in the history of computing, from the earliest data processing, to the latest in social, mobile, analytics and cloud.

The wider impact of technology on the workplace also falls within HR's domain. It is HR's role to ensure people have the skills they need to perform at their best, to nurture their talent and — as the CHRO of one of our partners wrote last month — to foster a culture that keeps them engaged.

Our two new topics reflect that breadth of responsibility, from the mundane but vital administrative role of ensuring that people get paid accurately and on time, to the lofty pursuit of a workplace culture that embraces diversity and nurtures talent without discrimination.

Why we cover diversity

There are a number of reasons why diversity keeps on recurring in our coverage. In part, it reflects the technology industry's faltering attempts to rectify its lamentable record on gender imbalance and the shocking sexism that still prevails in many quarters of the industry.

A recent factor has been the increasingly vocal stance the technology industry has taken in opposing state bigotry targeting non-heterosexuals — people who are LBGTI (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transsexual, intersex). After the successful campaign against Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year, attempts are now ongoing to stall a similar bill in Georgia and to reverse North Carolina's newly introduced law allowing such discrimination.

Less often raised in tech circles but also on our radar is the institutional discrimination that often disadvantages people on grounds of race and ethnicity. If the rhetoric of the current US presidential campaign is a guide, that issue's not going away any time soon.

We're also finding diversity is a recurring ethical issue when considering the increasingly important topic of machine learning and artificial intelligence. As Microsoft's Tay chatbot has just reminded us, machines have no innate moral compass and they're prone to unwittingly reflect the unspoken prejudices of their creators' culture. There's enough institutional discrimination in the world already without building it into our machines as well.

Why diversity matters

Diversity isn't merely a tech industry fad. It's a crucial attribute for every enterprise in an increasingly interconnected digital world. Conformity is bad for competitive survival. When technology is rapidly breaking down the barriers that used to prevent people interacting with each other, diversity broadens your talent pool, boosts innovation and equips you to engage with the broadest market.

As Alex Schultz, Facebook’s VP of growth, marketing, analytics and internationalization, told a recent conference on LGBTI inclusion:

It’s just incredibly clear that from a recruiting perspective if you want to get the best talent, you want to recruit from all pools.

Also if you want to recruit the best people in the millennial generation, it’s really important to that generation that you are a workplace that values diversity. Even if they themselves are not from a diverse background.

People with experiences outside the conventional mainstream can contribute a unique perspective, he adds:

People from diverse backgrounds bring a lot to the table because of struggles they have gone through and that makes things better.

Having recruited that talent, you only get the best out of people if they're not forced to suppress some aspect of their lives. Steven Cox, Fujitsu’s head of public sector, spent 16 years at the company before deciding to be open about his sexuality three years ago. He says the effort of self-censorship affects performance:

There is so much filtering that goes on. For example, you go in and people ask you what you did at the weekend — if I went away with a group of gay friends, I can’t say that, so what can I say instead? What can I say that’s not a lie but not telling the whole truth? All of that filtering goes on and it takes away your energy and it stops you being as effective at work. I’m absolutely convinced about that, it’s made a big difference to me to not have to care — in a good way.

All of these factors make a logical business case for diversity. But don't get me wrong here, we're not covering the topic merely because it empirically reflects the interests of our readers. diginomica is unashamedly committed to diversity, and while we have further to go we are working hard to achieve a diverse mix in our own team of contributors.

Image credit - Feature image - Rainbow colors surging out of laptop © Sergey Nivens - Fotolia.com

Disclosure - Salesforce and Workday are diginomica premier partners at the time of writing.