Diversity Is The Ultimate Tech Red Herring
One of the more noble goals of our society is to give everyone an equal chance. The western world’s history has been one of inequality, from slavery and Apartheid to women not being able to vote and been kept proverbially and literally barefoot and pregnant, the West’s history is horrible. The last 50 years of history however have really put change to that, and we are as a people better off.
How much have we changed? We have gone from a society where Lucy and Ricky in I Love Lucy had to sleep on separate beds to gay men kissing on Daytime soaps and of course, the public transition of Bruce Jenner from man to man with boobs and a girl name – all played out in public and all over sites like TMZ. We have not only righted the wrongs, but in many cases added more right things where none were even really needed. Our politically correct universe has pinned the needle so far to the other side that we appears to be tripping over ourselves to embrace the most out there lifestyles, trying to treat them as the new normal.
With all of this wonderful acceptance, you would think that everyone would be happy with the wonderful supportive and pretty darn level playing field we are all on, right?
That’s just not the case for some people. The trigger for this post is an article / opinion piece from Megan Rose Dickey at Techcrunch. her bio says she is “a reporter at TechCrunch focused on diversity, inclusion, belonging and social impact in the tech industry.” her twitter shows her as a “woman of color” who identifies herself as queer. The article is called “Dear White People, You Suck At Diversity”, and as you can imagine, it’s pretty much an even tempered rant against all the bad that she thinks she sees because companies apparently suck at hiring the micro minorities she feels she is part of. She gets way down the road to “Women and trans people of color have intersectional identities as cisgender or transgender women, or as trans men and as people of color ” – and then complains that there are not enough of these people in tech.
Her main thrust is this: “The intersection of racism, sexism, transphobia and other oppressive institutions influence perceptions and experiences of people in the tech industry. It also serves as a potential barrier to those who want to enter tech but can’t because the industry isn’t built with intersectionality in mind. In fact, the tech industry seems to turn a blind eye to it. “.
What she sees is a barrier. What Megan misses is that she herself (and other intersecionals) are the one placing the barrier by making their race, and especially their sexual orientation the topic of discussion at hiring time, rather than the all important skill set. She quotes this ““In fact, we just hired a young woman from Stanford who’s every bit as good as her peers,” Sequoia Capital investor Mike Moritz said in an interview with Bloomberg, titled Sequoia’s Moritz: Looking for Women to Be Partners. “And if there are more like her, we’ll hire them. What we’re not prepared to do, is to lower our standards.”” and then goes on to mock the speaker as racist, sexist, and ignorant. Yet she missed the point entirely. Tech is genderless, sexless, and not related to sexual orientation. You know the expression “on the internet nobody knows your a dog” , it applies here very strongly. Without the #queer tag on her twitter profile I wouldn’t know that Megan is apparently a lesbian or perhaps a trans gendered gay man (who knows, right?). Moreover, I don’t really care – it’s not important until SHE tries to make it important.
If you want a great job in tech, be a great person at tech. Tech companies will hire anyone with the mad skillz, the desire, and the ability to go past the ordinary. Tech is about your abilities, your skills, and your ability to work insane hours with others equally committed to the concept. Tech is not about your sexual preference, the color of your skin, or what combination of reproductive organs you have chosen to haul around.
Put another way, if Bruce Jenner was a super coding wizard, he would be hired in an instant – and she would still be hired as Caitlyn. Tech cares about your abilities, not your skin tone.
However, and let’s make this clear: Companies do hire not only for skill but for fit. Tech generally is a high stress, high demand industry that requires your full attention and your full skill set, and requires you to be able to deal with difficult people and difficult situations. There is little or no tolerance for those who cannot get along, and who worry about making their own personal situations into a part of every situation. Tech doesn’t have time for friction, it has enough already and doesn’t have the desire to add more. Diversity for the sake of diversity is as wrong as the perceived racism and sexism that exists in the tech world today. Hiring candidates to make up some sort of perfect racial / sexual / gender / cross-indentfied group head count is to miss the point of the hiring process – which is to get someone who is the best at the job and a good fit with the workplace and other workers. When you hire first on the color of skin or sexual preference, you are failing to do the best for your business.
Blaming the white guys for being good at tech is missing the point – blame yourselves for not being as good and work on it instead.