We need to diversify how we think about diversity: different life experiences, backgrounds, ages, sexes, genders, ethnic, cultural norms. Too many people in a room can mean that you never arrive at a decision, but without a broad mix of opinion, a problem will never be solved in an innovative way.

We see this in cities

There are reports that show that cities, and not rural areas, are happier and healthier places to live. City dwellers are often more active and socially engaged than those in suburbia; innovation, creativity, exercise, and business growth happen in city centres. When people with different approaches come together they are forced to collide and spark ideas at water coolers. It’s no coincidence that coffee shops are at the heart of the creation of the Stock Exchange and the insurance market.

So why don’t we see this in STEM careers?

One of the challenges within science, maths, and engineering is that there are simply too many men. Men decided that STEM careers were cool and elbowed women out. The result is that early stage technology companies are often male biased and this leads to bigger problems than awkward conversations about inclusivity.

In a Harvard Business Review piece entitled ‘Too Much Testosterone on Wall Street?’ (the clue really is in the name), Sylvia Ann Hewlett demonstrated how a critical mass of male traders exacerbated the financial crisis of 2008. When stressed, men get more aggressive and take more risks, whereas women generally tend to collaborate more and talk a challenge through collectively.

Yes, these are broad gender stereotypes – but the numbers don’t lie.

How is YellowDog doing?

I would love a world where everyone feels that they have an equal chance to do whatever job, whatever role. At YellowDog, I’ll be honest with you: we are too white, too male, too 22-47.

We are spending some time as white, male 30-40-something managers thinking about this challenge. Spot the problem?

The first step is to accept that you have a problem – and the second is to want to do something about it because you recognise that it is important.

We have made the decision not to implement quotas, but we do insist that when we recruit, we always have a shortlist that is a positive mix of men and women. We’re more closely examining the language of our advertising so that we are gender neutral and appealing to as broad a group of people as possible when we recruit. We insist that our recruiters find us a mixture of people for us to talk to. If that takes longer to get a quality list, then so be it.

Is diversity right for the company? Is it best?

It’s hard to define this in a single approach: sometimes we have roles where flexible working just doesn’t work. Perhaps the need to travel to see clients or other reasons will naturally filter out some people; it could be argued this isn’t right but it is what is best for our business. ‘Best’ and ‘right’ are not mutually exclusive aspects of diversity and workforce identity.

We have started working with Diversily, to ensure that we have a structured and grounded plan for diversity and inclusion. We consistently talk to our teams about this which is essential to drive positive change within the business as we continue to scale.

Diversity shouldn’t be a choice

I don’t think diversity is important: it’s necessary if you want to survive and thrive. It’s a very competitive market out there for incredible talent. If you’re not inclusive and represented by a diverse workplace, then you won’t attract the best people, your growth will suffer and slow, and that could be the death knell for your business.

 

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