Diversity in Tech is a Problem. Rewarding Diversity Hires Feels like the Wrong Solution.

Leadership

2021-09-17T18:24:52.475Z

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There’s a new leak from Microsoft’s internal communications channels that indicates that even within their company, the idea that women are biologically different from men in some way that makes them worse at tech has flourished.

Here’s a relevant excerpt:

“Many women simply aren’t cut out for the corporate rat race, so to speak, and that’s not because of ‘the patriarchy,’ it’s because men and women aren’t identical, and women are much more inclined to gain fulfillment elsewhere.”

What’s even more alarming, it’s a woman who made these claims. It’s eerily reminiscent of a similar leak from a Google memo in 2017 wherein an employee argued that women were biologically indisposed to becoming adept in tech roles.

It seems like this sort of belief needs to rear its ugly head every few years in a high-profile way to challenge the industry’s beliefs about the value of diversity and the capabilities of women. Most companies continue to advance the idea that diversity in hiring and culture provides benefits to the company as a whole, but some percentage of people working in tech don’t buy it, convinced that men (and white men, specifically) have some kind of inherent, natural affinity for tech and programming that women and other minorities don’t.

Let me start by saying that I find that opinion, that minorities are somehow inferior to white male programmers based on their race or gender, to be absolutely false. Women and minorities can and do make superb software engineers when they’re given the chance, and that’s the problem–due to social pressures and biases, such as the lack of girls in STEM education and the social tendency to compliment boys for their brains but girls for their looks, they simply don’t get that chance as often as white men do.

In the case of this recent Microsoft leak, the employee’s concern seems to be regarding an internal policy whereby senior managers are rewarded in some way for making diversity hires and promotions. Though her opinion is founded in the distasteful idea that women or minorities aren’t as deserving as white men for jobs and/or promotions, which again is inarguably inaccurate, the very idea of rewarding the hiring and promoting of minority candidates is a bit of a different animal.

Ultimately, for any software development team, you have to seek out the best software engineers you can find, whomever they are.

At Devetry, we don’t make or reward “diversity hires,” though we do give our diverse team members a voice when we’re interviewing, discussing, and comparing new candidates. Acceptance is a huge part of our culture–we simply wouldn’t hire someone who had a problem working alongside or under women or minorities–so it’s baked into our hiring process. Creating an inclusive culture builds a foundation that paves the way for women and minorities to feel comfortable working here, which in turn helps them stick around and perform at their best to earn promotions.

That being said, while we’re proud to have a diverse team at Devetry, we recognize that it could certainly be even more diverse. About 20% of our employees are women — that’s higher than the national average in tech, but still nowhere near the 50% that would be most equitable. Of course, we’ll continue to hire the best developers we can find, regardless of their race or gender, because the success of our business depends on it, and we hope/plan/expect to see our team grow more equal over time.

While I don’t ever see us implementing rewards for the hiring or promoting of diverse employees, a part of me can understand why a behemoth company like Microsoft might think it needs to. If your hiring and advancement channels aren’t producing a diverse workforce, you’re probably dealing with some prejudice along the line that needs to be counteracted.

If you find it challenging to find women better-qualified for promotions than the men on your team, it isn’t because women aren’t smart, good, or talented enough to become exceptional programmers and earn those promotions; it’s because societal biases and pressures make it more difficult for them to get the opportunity. The solution isn’t to hire or promote less-qualified candidates in the name of diversity; it’s to find ways to support the growth of women and minorities in technology.


Author: Brett, CEO and Co-Founder

Devetry partners with clients to identify critical needs and build custom software. Understanding client needs comes first. Choosing the right technology comes second. Learn more.