3 critical points missing from the Google debate
Thursday, August 17, 2017
The debate about whether engineer James Damore should have been fired for his now-infamous Google manifesto misses three critical points:
- Diversity and inclusion are good for businesses
- Diversity and inclusion propel innovation
- Diversity and inclusion increase market share
Over the years, numerous articles have been published that prove the business benefits of diversity and inclusion. Research by The Center for Talent Innovation shows how diversity and inclusion lead to breakthrough innovation when managed correctly.
More diversity with inclusion is needed in the tech industry in order to meet the needs of a market that includes everyone — not just white men.
The fact that there is still debate at Google about whether more diversity is needed reflects a cultural issue that birthed the "Damore memo." The fact that people are debating whether diversity of thought is more important than bringing in more women, people of color and people who didn't go to "top colleges," demonstrates a narrow understanding of diversity of thought and where it comes from — namely, people from different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences.
The fact that people are giving any credibility to an argument that women are less qualified for biological reasons and therefore don't warrant resources being used to recruit and retain more women demonstrates a lack of understanding that women use technology, spend money and want to do business with companies that understand their needs. The fact that Damore and his memo were met with surprise, shock and outrage makes me wonder what Google was doing in practice regarding diversity and inclusion.
My work in the last 25 years as a diversity and inclusion strategist for organizations large and small, in various industries including tech, leads me to believe this is not the case of a single villain, a single aberration or a problem isolated to Google.
The discussion surrounding diversity and inclusion at Google and other tech companies has to go beyond numbers. Everyone in the organization needs to be in on the discussion, encouraged to share ideas and collaborate with people who are different.
Spending thousands of dollars on bias training isn't enough, especially when people have no idea how it will help them do their work better or be more successful.
What Google and other tech companies need to do:
- Change the diversity and inclusion conversation from social justice do-gooder to business, profit and innovation. Creating workplaces where everyone can do their best work, take risks and develop new systems, products and profits for larger markets is not a "liberal" agenda. It's a business success agenda.
- Bring in an outside consulting firm to conduct an organizational assessment that is confidential and allows people to share their views openly.
- Engage as many people as possible in open dialogue. Show all employees how everyone benefits. Include everyone. Diversity is not just the domain of women and people of color. White men need opportunities to fully participate, share their talents and be part of the conversation.
- Create a strong values statement and share the vision of what that means in practice.
- Build cross-functional innovation teams with people who are different. Break the silos, reduce wrong assumptions and prevent biased behavior.
- Review all systems and processes for bias, exclusion and loss of opportunities.
Allow for people who don't share those values to find work elsewhere.
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