But over the last several years, some in the industry have started to question whether diversity has any value at all and whether companies were foolish to pursue it. This sentiment was most prominently embraced by James Damore, the former Google employee who was fired from the company for circulating a memo criticizing Google’s efforts to increase diversity among its workforce, alleging, among other things, that women were inherently unfit to work in tech.
Unfortunately, Damore is not alone in his beliefs. A startling number of tech workers subscribe to his views, and many more support them silently. And all of them are wrong, not only ideologically, but also from a business standpoint. Striving for diversity is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good business.
The business world is increasingly global and inclusive. The internet continues to give more and more people access to the global marketplace, and the diverse customer demands that your business be equally diverse. By diversifying your team, you increase your chances of success in the global economy. If you avoid diversity, you run the risk of falling behind your competition.
Diversity can’t just be a talking point, though, which is why we’ve made it a priority at my company. That commitment is reflected in our leadership team. In an industry dominated by men, roughly 40% of our senior leadership positions are filled by women, while 50% of our executive leaders are people of color.
At UJET, we’ve seen the benefits of striking this balance between male and female, white and people of color in many ways. Through our representation of all voices and personalities, we can better ensure that all our customers and employees — not just one portion of them — are represented, communicated to and taken into consideration as we continue building and enhancing products and features.
Focus on soft skills
We often evaluate potential employees by how impressive their résumé is and whether their experience checks the right boxes. Did they go to a prestigious university? Do they have the requisite number of college internships? Have they worked for other notable companies? Do they have the “right” job title?
A piece of paper can never capture someone’s intangible skills, however, and that’s the true value of a diverse leadership team: It makes your organization more empathetic. And when you have empathy, you can better serve both your customers and employees.
Indeed, emotional intelligence (or emotional quotient) is more critical for business success than intellectual quotient or work experience. Prioritizing EQ naturally leads to hiring more women, as women routinely score higher in that category.
Find people who play nice with others
The problem with hiring for soft skills, such as empathy, is that you can’t quantify them; they can only be judged subjectively. One solution is to have potential candidates talk about how they’ve put these skills to use. Here are some questions to consider in an interview:
Can you describe a time when you had to use emotional intelligence in the workplace?
Have you ever had to work with a difficult colleague? How did you handle it?
Can you share an example from your last job of when you had to work collaboratively on a project? Were there any challenges? How did you succeed?
If the candidate has trouble providing examples or it feels like they’re giving a disingenuous answer, odds are they don’t have the attitude or emotional skills necessary to thrive in a diverse workplace. Diversity isn’t just about hiring people from diverse backgrounds; it’s about fostering an environment where those hires feel welcome and can thrive.
Look for high performers at small companies
Successful people tend to be successful no matter what their environment. So, a good way to find diverse talent is to find women and people of color who have performed exceptionally well at companies that most hiring managers would overlook. This is particularly true in tech, where working at a unicorn or a company that broadcasts flashy tech like artificial intelligence, virtual reality or cloud computing can be an attention-grabber.
The above strategies are great for identifying candidates who are women and people of color. But if you truly want to have a diverse team, you have to take the most important step of all, and that’s to actually hire people from diverse backgrounds.
This seems painfully obvious, but the data around diversity in tech (or the lack thereof, rather) is embarrassing. Nearly half of all startups in the U.S. have no women in executive positions, and only about a third have at least one woman on their board of directors. And black and Hispanic people are still woefully underrepresented across the industry.
The only way to solve this issue is to hire people from these backgrounds, and that requires a commitment beyond just words.