Slack Engineer Gives a Simple Answer to Why Tech Diversity Is a Matter of Business

Kerry Flynn, International Business Times, June 16, 2016

Is diversity good for business in the tech industry? According to Erica Baker, an engineer for Slack, the best way to answer that question is with another question.

“How many people here know everything there is in the world?” Baker asked an audience Thursday at the Wired Business Conference in New York.

Baker, a senior engineer at the fastest growing business startup in the world and a black woman, is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. She has led several efforts to move the conversation, including starting a spreadsheet of employee salaries when she was working at Google and launching the hashtag campaign #RealDiversityNumbers. Most recently, she joined Project Include, a group of women in Silicon Valley dedicated to collecting and sharing data on diversity.

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In 2015, Twitter’s report revealed only a 4 percentage point gain in women, a 1 percentage point gain in Hispanics and a 2 percentage point drop (to 0 percent) for African-American representation. Amazon had gains in minorities for warehouse roles but diversity numbers improved very little for office positions.

A solution to improving numbers? Look at what your current network looks like, such as monitoring who you follow on Twitter and on LinkedIn, Baker said. Encourage hiring managers to find diverse employees by filtering searches for candidates from traditionally black colleges or in black fraternities–a suggestion that Baker said she is bringing to Slack.

A solution to keeping those numbers? “Increasing empathy,” Baker said. “Empathy is the first step toward understanding how people are feeling in your company. Second is get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

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