Our Flawed Tech Industry

The tech industry has a strong bias problem.

An article written in 2017 showed that diversity was still an ongoing problem.

Top companies were still employing mostly people identifying as male, and mostly those who identify as white. One statistic I’ve heard elsewhere is that tech is about 70% male and 80% white on average.

Unfortunately, things aren’t much better as of 2018.

Why the Fuss?

Diversity isn’t just about checking a box to make our companies “cooler”. It’s not about appeasing Social Justice.

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with some truly fabulous people from all walks of life, all gender expressions, different religious and political views. And even when we don’t agree about something on the news, we can still agree about getting our work done. Many of these people bring perspectives that I could never know. Experiences I could never have. Knowledge I could never gain.

Some of the best engineers I’ve worked with have been women and/or part of the LGTBQ+ community. I’ve built up enormous respect for so many people coming from different communities that have openly shared viewpoints and struggles and a rich background that has made our team more understanding and responsive to our end users.

The background and ideas they bring every day, the way they handle problem solving, is entirely different to this ol’ white guy who grew up in a very conservative home.

Interview Bias

Unfortunately, this bias leaks into the interview process. I’ve heard of people discarding resumes because they couldn’t pronounce someone’s name. Or a “Sam” turned out to be a “Samantha”, or they couldn’t easily determine if “Robin” was male or female.

Bias hits at many levels, though.

You could be selected out of interviewing at a company because of your name. Because of your location. Because of your education or lack thereof. Because of your gender expression. Because a hiring manager didn’t like something you posted on social media.

I’m far from perfect. But I’ve started phone calls without asking a person’s name, saying “Hi, this is Ian Douglas from (company name) and I received a resume from someone at this number. Could you please help me learn to pronounce your name? I prefer very much to call someone by their first name and want to be as accurate as I can.”

I’ve learned over the years that it doesn’t make a difference where you come from or what you believe or how you identify. Yes, perhaps I do now find myself biasing against the over-represented groups that crowd our industry today, because I believe that our industry sorely needs the perspectives of all people.

All any hiring manager should care about is this: do you have the skill to work here or not, and when can you start?