LET’S TALK BUSINESS. That’s not the usual opener for conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), but maybe it should be. Research has shown DEI improves experiences for groups and individuals, and there’s plenty of evidence that prioritizing DEI around gender, race, age, background, ability, and other often-marginalized attributes is just good business.
When it comes to making the case for diversity, channel pros and data nerds are finding real-world business impacts on competence, innovation, and revenue. Let’s take a look at each.
Competence: Get It Done
A diverse organization is becoming essential in today’s complex technology and business landscape.
Chloé Messdaghi, co-founder and president of Women of Security (WoSEC) and vice president of strategy at cyber training, recruitment, and retention firm Point3 Security, says DEI helps maintain a basic level of competency. “In the cybersecurity industry, having a diverse team from different walks of life, with different backgrounds, upbringings, education, and skill sets—these diverse eyes all working together will generally catch something better than a scanner can,” Messdaghi says. Think too about the racial bias discovered in facial recognition technologies that several major vendors have paused or abandoned, she continues, arguing that a “striking lack of diversity” in the teams that developed them was largely responsible.
Greater diversity also improves the person-to-person connections that are a cornerstone of employee recruitment, says Randolph Carnegie, managing director at Ken-Kor Consulting, an IT solutions firm in the Chicago area. He points out that good referrals are valuable currency in the competitive tech and IT job market, and a diverse staff can widen your network of contacts.
DEI-friendly policies can help you keep the good employees you’ve managed to find in a tight talent market too. A 2018 CompTIA report on tech industry sentiment showed that pay inequity, age discrimination, lack of inclusive culture, and lack of support for diversity by senior execs were among the reasons people would leave a job.
Innovation: Do It Better
Diversity, or lack thereof, can have serious implications for product development. Messdaghi points to a women-only social network app, Giggle, whose AI gender-screening technology excluded transgender women and those with stereotypically masculine features. Its data and security policies also presented safety risks that are often top-of-mind with trans women, who were not represented on the product team.
“During the technology development process, all kinds of questions are asked and brought up by the team,” says Messdaghi. “When you don’t have representation of those who are underrepresented, the questions and concerns are only coming from one group of people, rather than presented from all backgrounds.”