Focussing only on demographic diversity engenders fatigue

The just-released report from Atlassian, ‘State of Diversity and Inclusion in U.S Tech’, provides some sobering reading about efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the technology industries.

And while tech and STEM have proved particularly resistant to efforts to promote the representation and advancement of women and other diverse groups, it is also true there may be lessons to be learned for other industries generally.

For a second year in a row, Atlassian commissioned a report to understand the attitudes and behaviours of tech workers. They worked with Market Cube in January 2018 to survey 1,500 the workers in the United States, and 400 tech workers in Silicon Valley on  the impact of recent news around sexual harassment, politics, perceptions on  D&I and progress that has been made among individuals, companies, and the industry.

 

Overview of the results

Results show that while respondents continue to say diversity and inclusion are important, action has declined across the board, so it’s no wonder that progress on D&I has stalled. People are tired of talking about D&I, frustrated by the lack of results, and overwhelmed by the number of issues to be addressed.

The report concludes that misunderstandings about diversity are widespread in the industry. Many people continue to believe they don’t see colour, or that they hire and promote based on skills alone. This belief is a key driver in the response that their company needs no improvement.

“We don’t care about colour, gender, national identity, or race. We worry more about your job and contributions than all the other stuff.”

“They don’t care about race, ethnicity, or anything else, they just care about skills. You are always included based on merit, and merit only.”

“Diversity isn’t really that large of an issue. We hire based on qualification, not ethnicity.”

 

The Takeaways

Symmetra is not surprised at these findings and the diversity fatigue being described. The problem is that whilst the diversity agenda is not inclusive in and of itself and focuses on demographic diversity alone as an end, not a means to an end, namely to leverage diversity of thought to optimise organisational performance, diversity initiatives are unlikely to succeed and likely to engender indifference or a backlash.

Symmetra’s data, gathered across the globe on measuring inclusive leadership capability (released just last week) show that the competency in which thousands of  leaders score the poorest is Valuing diversity. If leaders do not value diversity, why would they and their direct reports champion it?

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