Diversity is a Benefit

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.

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.

To quote my friend Marc Coleman, founder of The Tactile Group:

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.

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