The problem with “diversity and inclusion” roles

September 8, 2015

The world’s largest tech companies continue to produce dismal results as they try to diversify their ranks–particularly representation of blacks, latinos and indigenous people. This has prompted a new wave of companies bringing on board “diversity and inclusion” officers to tackle this problem, most recently AirBNB and Dropbox.

These roles look like good faith efforts and practical investments by seemingly well-intentioned companies who want to face this issue head on. It makes sense to install someone who is responsible for delivering results.

However, taking a look at Facebook, which has had a Global Head of Diversity since 2013, shows virtually no movement of the needle. Their head count of black employees has increased by 7, while they’ve shown an increase of 695 white employees in the same period. Google, who’s had a diversity program manager since 2011, has shown no significant progress.

This is not an indictment of those currently occupying diversity and inclusion roles. Anyone charged with catalyzing significant change within a culture that is often characterized as less than welcoming has an enormous task at hand.  And, while not completely resigning to the idea that this is a “pipeline” problem, sourcing candidates is a factor.  

This is a nut many companies are trying to crack with less than stellar results. The idea isn’t that we should be at parity but that we should at least see some semblance of progress.

Which leads to a larger question: why, in such a metric driven product building industry, does the approach to diversity initiatives look so different from how products are made–how problems are solved Continue…