What does diversity mean? What does it look like?

by Logan Henderson

The question surrounding what diversity "means" and "looks like" is indicative of a lack of something I can’t put my finger on but seems to infantilize those who its being asked. It’s curious to ask such a basic question while I see many who stumble between the semblance of what diversity means and what its implication in the technology industry would be.

It seems in myriad conversations around methods and qualifications of change, questions always surround the foundation, or what particular words or concepts mean to get the audience to understand rather than asking more challenging and ultimately more impactful questions. Of course, audiences shouldn’t be alienated because they don’t comprehend the conversation, but they (likely) aren’t children and (probably) know how to use the internet to ask questions.

The meaning of diversity is asked in so many variations that I feel diversity is no longer an accurate word because simply talking about it has become the solution. This is an illusion. That is what I have learned in the short interactions I have had.If it’s an illusion, then what? I don’t know. Hire people who don’t think like you. Or hire people who aren’t you (your experiences, your background). Hire people who challenge you to be better and do better.

Similarly, folks in leadership positions must spend time with these people and not just have them working under them. This can be challenging because 1) folks rarely move away from their established friend and peer groups if they are already comfortable where there are, and 2) folks with the potential to harm us, shouldn’t effectively invade our spaces just to get to know us.

With both of these obstacles almost unmovable, radically-motivated literature is also a great place to start as well. Though I don’t believe this is a thing, and it would be great if it were, industry leads can pay “diverse” people to teach them about diversity. And as a conclusion of the program, they have to hire a certain number of “diverse” people.    

It may look something like:

  • Meetings over coffee/tea/juice to get to know each other or to simply outline the process of the program

  • Which then escalates to meetings over meals, where you can get more in depth clients are only allowed to listen unless given permission to speak

  • The diversity teacher may rotate to teach about different experiences of folks and provide a variety of perspectives and solutions.

This is a very simplified model, but I imagine it may have a more meaningful impact, than throwing someone who performs "diversity" in a company and expecting them to stay to improve the company image despite the harmful behaviors and experiences in the environment that drives diverse talent back out rather than let it thrive.

This idea is beneficial in the long run--especially for the individual but for the company too. Though most helpful of all would be to hire diverse folks who have experienced adversity in those positions in the first place.