What is the importance of diversity and inclusivity in tech? What is the importance...

What is the importance of diversity and inclusivity in tech?


14 Oct, 2020
Fintech team relaxing on chairs and beanbags in in lunch room

People are messy and complicated.

South Africa has that dial turned all the way up to 11. We’re a wonderfully complex melting pot of origins, ancestries, languages, and cultures. The one thing that binds us together is our history. We cannot escape it, and it has shaped us for better or for worse.

How do we ensure that our teams have the right makeup? And how do we ensure that all of them are empowered when we’re at odds with each other during the best of times?

Make no mistake, hiring for diversity is tough. Hiring for diversity while practising inclusivity in the South African context is almost impossible. Almost.

It’s been a surreal year for me. This is the first time in my 16 year career that I feel like I belong. I’m not just a diversity hire. My voice counts. Every day I get to interact with people who look like me, talk like me, and have shared life experiences. And, honestly, that’s a first.

Read more: What is psychological safety in the workplace and why does it matter?

This is, of course, my lived experience. We haven’t solved for diversity for everyone, but it is something we’re actively working towards. Our Engineering Team has undergone something of a rebirth:

Bar graph infographic showing diversity in the work place

But it’s also very clear that we’re not quite there yet. We’ve made good strides in terms of racial diversity, but we haven’t closed the gender gap. It is something we’re conscious of, and it is an integral part of our hiring strategy going forward.

Having broached the subject on social media recently, it seems like there is still much confusion around the difference between inclusivity and diversity. Put simply: inclusivity is the how, and diversity is the what. An inclusive culture is one that engages and empowers your people. Diversity refers to the composition of your workforce, be it gender, race, age, or sexual orientation.

Diverse fintech office team meeting at a multicolour boardroom table

At this point you might be wondering: sure, your team is more diverse, but is it better?

I can unequivocally say, yes, it is. The team is more effective and efficient than before, and I would surmise that this is because of our diverse experiences. Every team member has walked a very different path to get to SnapScan. This, in turn, has made for more robust, egoless conversations regarding everything from the whys and whats of our roadmap, to the architecture and implementation thereof. Once your opinion matters, you become more invested in the outcome of your work. 

Read more: Behind the scenes of SnapScan’s hack week

We cannot champion diversity without first having an inclusive culture. If we hire for diversity without first having solved the inclusivity piece, we will not be able to retain that diversity. When we make a new hire, that individual needs to trust that their contributions will be valued, and that their voice will be listened to – not just heard.

This is easier said than done, of course.

We must be deliberate about establishing and growing our culture. Things won’t just magically fall into place. If you’re a leader in your organisation, it is incumbent upon you to make the first move.

Ensure that your hiring managers and leaders are trained to identify and avoid unconscious biases. Update your marketing and hiring material to reflect a more diverse culture. Create a safe space for employees to voice their grievances, and take decisive action on it.

The key here is to take that first step. This is a journey, and we need to take all of our people, new and old, with us.

To paraphrase Pat Wadors (a ServiceNow board member): when we listen to and celebrate our differences and commonalities we become a wiser and more effective company.

Here at SnapScan, we live those words. Everyone who has joined our family has done so not only because they raise our bar, but because they add unique voices and life experiences to our melting pot.

Given our achievements this year, we’ll have more of the same please.

Written by

Kurt is a CTO, and once thought he'd be a sportsman. Turns out he can't sports.

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