Diversity & Inclusion ≠ Gender Equality Only

It is awesome to see the progress in the last 12–24 months women are starting to make to stand up and have their voices heard and acted upon in tech.

It is encouraging to see success stories from the US such as Vanity Fair’s showcase of 26 Women of Color Diversifying Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley.

These are compelling stories of empowerment, encouragement, and identity. Everyone wants to see others they can identify with reach positions of success they too can aspire towards.

We hear all the time that hard work can deliver results. However, self-doubt can creep in when you don’t see people you identify with reaching positions of prominence you aspire to reach someday.

In tech, it has become an increasingly global issue that there is a distinct lack of gender diversity regarding the makeup of investors, successful startup founders and employees. However, outside of gender equality, we are not all one single-minded homogeneous group.

I believe that when our workforce represents our society we will have innovation that serves us all. — Anisah Osman Britton

By definition, Diversity is about inviting people from different backgrounds to the table and Inclusion is about having their voices heard and acted on.

By over-indexing on just gender, I fear that tech-at-large will feel as if they have solved their diversity crises when this is far from accurate. The aim should be to minimize exclusiveness and maximize inclusiveness.

Gender should serve as a gateway for us to explore our connected inequalities. — Fearless Futures

The experience of black women differs from that of white women. The experience of someone with disabilities differs from someone with mental health issues. The experience of a 20-year-old employee differs from that of a 57-year-old. The experience of LGBTQIA differs from that of a veteran.

It is a failure if we merely move from a workplace filled with white middle-aged males to an environment filled with white middle-aged males and females. We will ultimately just end up with a ‘mirrortocracy’ rather than a meritocracy. This encourages a sub-culture of people always agreeing, with no room for constructive disagreement. You end up lacking innovation and the ability to unearth radical ideas from different backgrounds and perspectives. Ultimately companies and the market lose out on a diversity of thought.

Hold leaders accountable. Ask investors for data on the diversity of their portfolio or startups for the diversity data of their leadership team.

We need to start taking action to address the issues staring us in the face related to inequality, power, privilege, race, and identity. We need to create pathways into tech so that our workplaces are ‘normaised’ to reflect the world we live in. We need to stop using lazy recruitment tactics and put the time, effort and money towards looking in unconventional places and tap into the massive untapped opportunity.

We can take action today by investing and hiring underestimated people from marginalised communities.

If we each think a little less about financial margins and a lot more about our impact at the margins, we can collectively change the workplace to represent wider society.

Image: Pete Souza/The White House


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Michael Berhane, Founder of POCIT
Andy Ayim
Andy Ayim

Andy is Managing Director of Backstage Capital London. Previously a Product Manager who has traveled and worked in over 40 countries in the last five years. He is passionate about telling stories about founders & investors from diverse backgrounds and improving Tech Inclusion.

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