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Debunking Diversity Myths

Debunking Diversity Myths

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In part one of this series, we demonstrated that myths about diversity in the workplace don’t stand up to even a cursory examination. Tangelo is proof of the strength diversity brings to the business world. Our breakout success as a venture studio and innovation lab grew organically from the rich mixture of talents that we’ve brought together from across many walks of life.

Tangelo business model validated the conclusions from a recent study by Boston Consulting Group, which found that “the secret of making diversity work appears to be to apply the concept at multiple levels — to address diverse dimensions of diversity, and to be open to diverse routes to achieving success.”

We offered evidence of how a community of diverse minds underlies true innovation. Incorporating original thought patterns opens up possibilities that don’t exist inside a homogeneous group. Diversity in the workplace represents the world as it is outside corporate walls. Only the broadest spectrum of human experience can speak with authority to a diverse public starved for new ideas.

A Diverse Workforce Is Better at Understanding the World

In the words of SAP’s Alex Atzberger, “We know that an inclusive workplace creates value for organizations. An inclusive workplace creates 39 percent more customer satisfaction — why? Because you connect with the customer better, you match the customer… It’s not just about gender diversity. It’s also about racial diversity, sexual orientation, or differences in age or generations; it’s about how we think about embracing diversity.”

The struggle to be heard and treated with basic human respect has been far more than an abstract concept. It has been a sometimes brutal fight with real consequences for myself and my family. I have been fortunate enough to overcome domestic abuse, institutional prejudice, and more with the support of a strong, diverse community of survivors, and I am proud to now work on a team that knows first-hand the scope of the challenges we still face.

Our co-founder Antonio Altamirano has inspired us all in how he built a new life for himself despite enduring a life filled with injustice under successive corrupt military regimes in Ecuador.

Uniting a Chorus of Voices: The WalkWoke App

Beyond funding and nurturing the growth of disruptive business models, one of our recent initiatives brought next-gen tech to the people who need it most. In creating the WalkWoke app, we’ve concentrated all our backgrounds to help unify activists of all kinds around the world and amplify their messages, broaden their reach, and deepen their impact.

As Tangelo’s co-founder, Rebecca Altamirano wrote, “WalkWoke’s ethos square with our solemn duty to develop future leaders with a rock-solid ethical core. In the end, we must teach our children the imperative of righteous resistance so that they will have the needed muscle memory to act when they witness injustice.”

Diversity Drives Financial Performance and Market Value

The central message we want Silicon Valley to hear is that diversity translates into financial performance and measurable market value. By incorporating differences and amplifying the voices of the under-represented, we have gained a longer runway, shattered closed-minded assumptions, and ramped up our access to capital to fuel the growth of like-minded and disruptive mid-sized firms wherever we find them.

At a time when so much is at stake, and shocking inequalities filter into newsfeeds daily, it has been frustrating to come up against the tech industry’s curious ambivalence on diversity. Too often, what tech firms promote as a diversity-first mindset ends up being little more than “virtue signaling” or lip service, mere gestures toward acknowledging one or two facets of diversity.

The reality is far more complex, as echoed by Michael Hyter, the managing partner at talent search firm Korn Ferry. “Representation of women and people of color in the C-suite is embarrassingly low. No executive gets a pass on race and gender diversity in favor of abstract ideas of diversity, such as cognitive or personality differences. We can’t let core definitions of diversity become collateral roadkill in pursuing truly diverse business cultures.”

Hyter cited research establishing the value of diversity, such as the fact that women in leadership positions are positively correlated with higher returns; that a combination of racial, gender, and other types of diversity in the workforce matters much more than the selection of one diversity factor alone; that stretching our minds by being around different kinds of people improves our cognitive reasoning.

Tech’s Overall Diversity Grade: C+

If we’re grading on the curve here, diversity in tech remains sorely lacking. Tech leaders have been aware of this situation for a long time, yet very little has been done to correct these fundamental breakdowns in hiring practices.

Tech scores a passing grade instead of a straight-out “F” because there is hope. In our experience, many bright lights are on the horizon for the next wave of tech leaders to disrupt the prevailing culture and set a new standard of excellence.

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Exhibit A

Ascend Foundation found that representation by black and Hispanic workers in Silicon Valley has declined recently, even as the gender pay gap has closed a bit. Part of the reason for the advance on the gender equality front is that many headlines have concentrated around issues like Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination lawsuit, disputes over a widespread sexist culture at Uber and a federal investigation into pay discrepancies at Google. While some inequalities are being addressed, anything that has slipped out of the spotlight tends to be neglected.

Exhibit B

Despite many investments like Intel’s $300 million to improve diversity in the tech sector, statistically, nothing has changed recently. 2017 was an extremely difficult year for women and minorities, even though, as CNET reported, “Study after study has shown that more diverse teams are more creative and innovative. Companies with diverse leadership are more profitable.”

A sobering infographic by Information is Beautiful lays out precisely what is wrong at 23 of the largest tech firms, which do not resemble the diversity of the US population. Knowing their lack of diversity, large tech companies showed minimal diversity changes in the 12 months before the infographic figures. The ratio of women increased by 1% at Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and eBay, and Google, Apple, and eBay had a 1% increase in the ratio of non-white employees. Take a peek at the interactive version of Information is Beautiful’s graphic to see the minimal changes between 2014, 2015, and 2016. However, these specific firms don’t deserve to be singled out because they are only representative of the larger issue.

Diversity in Tech.original
Source: Business Insider

Exhibit C

Even those who recognize a disconnect between what tech companies say and do about seeking diversity in hiring practices don’t always see it as a problem. Apple’s VP of diversity famously sparked a wildfire of debate by saying, “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room, and they’re going to be diverse, too, because they will bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

Although she clarified her comments and said she regretted her choice of words, her statement and ones like it have been deployed to justify exclusion and related unethical behaviors. Like the scandal that erupted over a Google employee’s complaints about discrimination against white males, the idea of “cognitive diversity” has derailed initiatives on racial, gender and many other types of diversity that has been too long ignored by the tech sector.

The Most Important Fight of All

There’s no question this is a long fight with an uncertain future, but this may be the most important fight for society’s soul. Tangelo has fearlessly beaten the odds by prioritizing multi-faceted diversity as a core company value in creating the kind of world we want to live in. Our success as a new venture studio serves as living proof that diversity delivers financial and ethical value.

Tangelo is smashing down whatever barriers we come up against by standing up for inclusiveness, looking at the issue of diversity holistically (including the eight most common facets of diversity) and thriving as an uncommon collective in the center of Silicon Valley. We have stayed true to our roots as a tech firm founded and built by immigrants and women. We know we are on the right side of history and look forward to working with partners who share our commitment, regardless of where they come from or what challenges they face today.

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