It’s remarkable in 2019 that something as fundamental as gender equality at work is still a thing. We need to work harder to be more inclusive. It’s good business to have diverse opinions and perspectives woven into the DNA of a company and the teams within. Yet, few of us really know how to practially do anything about this. The shift, like anything, begins with awareness of the issue. While few remain in the modern workplace that would argue we don’t need to consciously be more inclusive, its useful to take stock of progress so far. Consider the following depressing quote;
“The World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap – measured in health, education, economic opportunity and political empowerment – won’t close until 2186. That’s 167 years from now. In the same time span, humankind went from the steam engine to Cassini’s trip to Saturn, and from carrier pigeons to the Internet. I’d like to think that we could achieve universal gender equality much faster than that.” – Richard Brandson
Diversity sounds to some like a nice to have.
The vibe in our workplaces is often ‘Once we get this project done we can focus on nice shit like diversity and inclusion, but until then…’
In a technology driven creative field such as engineering, I firmly believe it’s a competitive BUSINESS advantage to have a diverse team of men and women.
Better yet, men and women from diverse backgrounds.
Better again, men and women from diverse backgrounds and a diverse age group.
Business and especially engineering is so boring when we make decisions because “that’s how we have always done it around here”. It’s also so much less effective. Leaders typically feel more comfortable surrounding themselves with people who think like them… That usually means people from the same background and gender. This is a basic human survival mechanism. People from the same background will think like you, talk like you, protect you as their own. From a leader’s perspective, it makes sense to have people to validate your opinion. It’s also easier in the short term to get everyone rowing in the same direction.
This might even be a good move for the individual leader in terms of their career longevity at the top.
However, it’s not typically going to be a good decision for the company or team as a whole in the long term.
What are we all supposed to do about it?
All we can do as individuals is try to reach out to colleagues and potential colleagues who are not like us. Next time you are waiting for that meeting to start, choose someone different to make small talk with. Make people feel more welcome.
(If you take away one thing from this post please make it this) Consciously consider who’s ideas you are listening to, and who’s you aren’t.
The biggest challenges need multiple perspectives.
I would argue that diverse teams are more likely to constantly reexamine facts and remain objective.
I would argue that diverse teams encourage greater scrutiny of each other’s actions.
I would argue that members of diverse teams are more aware of their own biases and their own entrenched ways of thinking.
I would argue that you will see better performance overall from teams that have a diverse member group.
Diversity is good for the engineering design process. Diversity is good business. Proceed accordingly!