Why Diversity Matters
Diversity isn’t simply a matter of opening our companies and communities to those from different backgrounds to ourselves; it’s about listening to their voices, their ideas. And while being a Diverse community is a worthwhile goal in itself, it is also something that will benefit the community or business, as well as ourselves as individuals.
As individuals, we learn a lot from people who have different experiences, beliefs and perspectives on things to ourselves. Being surrounded by a group of peers who are all similar to ourselves stifles our growth as developers, because it limits our exposure to new ideas. But the knowledge that we share within a Diverse community helps our own growth as individual developers. Working with a wider group of peers from a broader range of backgrounds and lifestyles introduces us to new technologies, methodologies, approaches or solutions to the problems that we encounter, increasing our own breadth of learning in the process. Diversity broadens our group of peers, exposing us to new tools and technologies, to different ways of thinking about problems, and different ways of working. And everybody has something that they can teach us, no matter how much we think we know, as long as we are ready and willing to listen to what they have to say.
And that applies not only in the workplace, but when we attend conferences or meetups as well. More Diversity of speakers, more Diversity of attendees, widens our exposure to principles and practises that we may never otherwise have been aware of.
Many businesses complain about a skills shortage; yet companies that embrace Diversity rarely suffer from this problem, and are often more successful 1 .
For a business or a community, a culture of Diversity is more valuable than simply a business culture that provides beanbags and air hockey tables in the office, a large screen TV for watching the football World Cup, and beer on a Friday afternoon (unless you recognise that some people might prefer soft drinks as an alternative): that type of culture tends to attract people with similar backgrounds and mindsets.
A Diverse organisation is one that values the differences in people. It is a business culture which recognises that people with different backgrounds, skills, attitudes and experiences bring fresh ideas and perceptions to the business. Diverse organisations encourage and harness these differences to make their services and products more relevant and usable; and more appealing to a Diverse customer base, increasing their potential market. Diverse organisations draw upon the widest possible range of views and experiences so they can listen to and meet the changing needs of their users and customers. So the encouragement of Diversity benefits that organisation.
So Diversity and Inclusivity benefit us all. And by raising awareness of Diversity Issues, making ourselves more aware of how we might be perceived by minority groups, then we are better able to take steps toward making our businesses and communities more open and inclusive, where everybody’s voice is heard and every opinion matters.