Co-Owners, Mia Levesque and Tracy Levesque were 2016 LGBT Business Leader Award winners, presented on November 10, 2016 by the Philadelphia Business Journal. YIKES was once again on the Top 25 LGBT-Owned Businesses in Greater Philadelphia.
Often when people think of diversity race and sex are the only things that come to mind. But diversity is much more varied than that (see what I did there?). Diversity also includes gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture, emotional intelligence, income and physical ability.
Here at YIKES, diversity is a very important part of the company. From sponsoring and participating in TechinColor and Girl Develop It events to making sure the websites we create are accessible; we strive for inclusivity in everything we do.
But there are some things that are an individual’s responsibility to learn so that they can thrive in a diverse environment. That is why I decided to attend a Disability Etiquette training presented by MossRehab. Disabilities are universal and not necessarily congenital. Someone that you meet who uses a wheelchair may have had to their entire life, or they may be the victim of a recent accident. Considering how quickly all of our physical states can change; I think understanding the best way to interact with a person that has a physical disability can help you become more empathetic towards everybody.
The session was really informative, and I would like to share with you what I felt were the most important takeaways.
- Don’t refer to people by their diagnosis. Instead of saying ‘Paul is Autistic’ say ‘Paul has Autism’.
- Always use person first language. Never refer to a person by their state.
- If a person is in a wheelchair; don’t touch their chair as it’s considered a part of their personal space. If they appear that they need help ask and wait for a response. An unexpected push could throw a person in a wheelchair off balance and out of their chair.
- When you encounter a person who is blind or has limited vision announce your arrival and departure so that they are aware of your presence. A simple ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ can clear up a lot of confusion to somebody who isn’t able to see their company.
- Aphasia is a general term for people who have difficulty speaking. If you’re speaking with a person who has aphasia be patient and let them finish what they are saying. Even if you think you know what they want to say, it’s just rude to interrupt or speak for someone who can speak for themselves.
- If you meet somebody with a prosthetic limb (say a right hand for example); follow their lead. Maybe a left-hand handshake or a fist bump is more appropriate. But that’s for them to decide.
- Do not distract or pet service animals. I know they look so sweet and docile, but they are working very hard to help somebody get through their day. Would you like it if somebody stopped you from getting your work done?
And please remember that Disability Etiquette is not just about finger wagging and watching your tongue. Technology is changing everyday making more people who were considered ‘disabled’ able. At the top of this post are the old vs new international accessibility signs. The new sign embodies ability and progress. I think that is something we should all try to embody.
Last week I spoke at PressNomics, a conference for businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers and other folks who work in the WordPress ecosystem. My presentation, called Diversity Works, was about the lack of diversity problem in the tech industry.
My talk covered why we should be concerned, why we have a lack of diversity, and what we can do about it. One concept I touched on was:
Diversity ≠ Low Quality | Homogeneity = Less Quality
I want to to elaborate on a key point I was unable to squeeze into my 30 minute talk. In an interview with Bloomberg, Sequoia Capital Chairman Michael Morit was questioned about the lack of women VCs at Sequoia. he said:
In fact, we just hired a young woman from Stanford who’s every bit as good as her peers. And if there are more like her, we’ll hire them. What we’re not prepared to do, is to lower our standards.-Michael Moritz
Jessica Nordell wrote an excellent piece on what is wrong with his statement.
Now, no one had asked, “Are you willing to lower your standards?” No: that was the question he heard when asked about hiring women. That was the association he made. Here, then, is a map of his synaptic firings: women → lower standards.-Jessica Nordell
This connection – pursuing diversity means a lowering of standards – needs to end because it is wrong.
We need to get over this mental hurdle in order to solve the tech industry’s problem of lack of diversity. There is nothing inherent about being a member of a marginalized community that makes you unqualified. I would hope that would be obvious.
When pushed to make your company or conference more diverse, it is not a lowering of standards but a leveling-up in overall quality.
Diversity Makes your Company / Organization / Conference Better
Research has proven there are benefits to diversity.
- Diverse groups of people are better problems solvers and diversity fosters innovation
- Diverse team members give an entire team a better understanding of more end-users.
- There is measured financial gain from having a diverse leadership and workforce.
An organization of qualified, diverse people is better than one comprised of qualified homogeneous people.
When you have a choice between two equally qualified candidates, the person who brings more diversity to your team brings more value.
When we have to choose among equally qualified candidates, we choose the candidate that will best maintain our culture of diversity.
As business owners we are all looking for ways to make our companies better. Having diversity in our organizations is a proven way we can do that.