Why ‘diversity’ isn’t the biggest issue facing tech, or business

The breathless headline from social networking site LinkedIn’s article read: “The big problem tech is ignoring”.

That major issue: Cybersecurity? Digital transformation? The impact of robotics and artificial intelligence? None of the above.

Instead, LinkedIn believes the big problem that tech’s ignoring is that just 5 percent of investors rated diversity as their top concern.

While I personally don’t care to work in an environment where employees are allowed to be mistreated, particularly regarding anything as arbitrary as race, gender or sexual orientation, I also don’t want to throw in my lot with a company that isn’t focused on executing a well-conceived business plan.

A business that ultimately closes its doors because it fails to remain a viable concern does no one any favors – not its customers, not its shareholders and certainly not its employees, no matter how “diverse” its workforce might be.

What many social justice warriors seem unable to comprehend is that diversity is a neutral attribute.

One could recruit 100 individuals from, say, the jails of Los Angeles County and come up with an extremely diverse group of individuals. However, in terms of performance, they would almost certainly lag far behind a similar number of all-white, all-male graduates of Brigham Young University or a comparable number of all-black, all-female graduates of Xavier University.

In and of itself, diversity is neither a positive nor a negative.

The key to success lies in bringing in quality people, which is dependent on ability and character, not in filling artificially determined demographic requirements.

Companies that mistreat employees, whether it be through discrimination, tolerating hostile conditions or failing to create nurturing environments, will lose workers as personnel leave for workplaces that offer a more supportive – and productive – atmosphere.

Businesses unable or unwilling to embrace change could find themselves embroiled in legal action, facing bad press and eventually tarnished with an irreparable reputation as being home to an inhospitable workplace. They will reap what they have sown.

But the top goals of any private company should be ensuring, within legal and ethical means, profit and continuation. A business exists to provide products and/or services. A successful business does so while turning a profit.

Any business that prioritizes social experimentation over survival isn’t one to which I want to trust my career or my money.

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5 thoughts on “Why ‘diversity’ isn’t the biggest issue facing tech, or business

  1. Warning! This is not a thought out and organized comment.

    Given my rather advanced age, I’ve seen both sides of this issue in my workplaces. In the 1960’s and 1970’s it was typically “no women and no blacks.” Sometimes this was explicit and sometimes very subtle. In more recent years I’ve seen “any woman, any black, any Hispanic.” In neither case was competency, attitude (honesty, ability to work with others and understand and take direction/orders/criticism) a real consideration.

    I was always fairly low level and am admittedly rather simple-minded and could only shake my head at many decisions. For myself, I like a good work ethic, the ability to learn and remember, and an intense focus on accuracy as well as good character (no backstabbing, rumor mongering, troublemaking with coworkers) and I’m a happy supervisor/manager. These characteristics overwhelm whether the person is young, old, male, female, color, ethnicity, etc. Of course, I was also somewhat compulsively focused on rapid and accurate results and liked my work situation to match my mind – simple.

    As an aside, for the last 10-12 years of my working life, I saw an unapologetic rise in “ageism.” As in, don’t hire older people because they don’t understand and cannot be taught the new technology, i.e., computerized systems. Sheesh!

    • Jill, you raise interesting points. I didn’t join the workforce until the 1980s, so I didn’t see that which you did in the ’60s and ’70s. I have no reason to doubt you. And I have heard the same thing regarding older employees in recent years, as cutting older workers appears an easy way to chop more expensive salaries and benefits and replace them with the less-expensive ones of younger workers. Again, as with excluding someone because of race or gender, why a company would choose this strategy, instead of hiring and retaining the best people, is beyond me. It seems so shortsighted. I don’t care if you can hire two younger employees for every long-time veteran you lay off, you can replicate institutional knowledge. And I know plenty of long-time employees who are very tech-savvy.

      And you’re comment was very well organized and thought out. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I saw this post while i was away from home, but could not comment because my aged brain cannot cope with the keyboard on a tablet which has some sort of gremlin which insists on changing what I have just typed.

    I too prefer an organisation which hires people capable of doing the job and then treating them properly…my job involved dealing with the consequences of ignoring the latter.

    Clearly there should not be discrimination on grounds of age, sex or origin, but as customers of private institutions and clients of state run entities we are entitled to good service which means having competent employees to deal with.

    If there is a marked failure to employ a certain sector of the population it is for the state to sort this out, by making improvements in education standards, not for employers to put sticking plaster over the patch by making targets for employing a certain percentage of whichever group is seen to be under represented.

    I can remember this process from the practice of the London Boroughs in the early seventies to give priority in employment in the social services sector to people of West Indian or Asian origin or those of the same sex tendency in the interests of better representation of their populations…known to those in the field as the black lesbian whale hugging advertisements. I cannot say that any improvement in standards was achieved….

    And sacking older workers is a recipe for disaster…they know how to fix what goes wrong…..

    • Yes, it would seem to be a no-brainer to go with whomever is best suited to get the job done – provided the ultimate goal is getting the job done. Sometimes I think other motives, such as making a show of diversity, multiculturalism, et al, is the goal. Unfortunately, customers, employees and the company all suffer.

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