You’ve heard that math is universal, right? You probably assume that the same goes for technology, where numbers and code and specific design choices reign supreme. Or that no matter where you go to work in or learn tech, it’ll all be the same. And while that may be true if you’ve only worked in a few places, for the most part, the tech field is full of diverse experiences–and workers.
But this isn’t unique to the tech industry! In fact, cultural diversity in the workplace is present in absolutely every sector. Before we dive into cultural diversity in tech specifically, let’s discuss five of the most common cultural differences that you’ll find in practically any workplace:
Religion: lots of people’s values and thought systems are shaped by their religion and even more have grown up surrounded by people who practice the same faith. When confronted with people who have different ethical principles or lifestyles, religious differences can cause tension in the workplace.
Ethnicity: different cultures have different ways of greeting people, communicating, or expressing needs and when multiple ethnicities come together, it’s quite easy for misunderstandings to take place.
Sexual orientation and gender identity: LGBTQ+ folks are commonly subjected to biased jokes, invasive questions, or even harassment at work, due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Education: both people’s educational experiences and where they went to university can lead to assumptions about their intelligence level; different teaching methods can also lead to contrasting opinions in the workplace.
Generation: each generation has a specific way of working, combined with values that they’ve cultivated over time. When teams are made up of people from different generations, it can be tough to reach an agreement.
Handling cultural differences in the workplace
The five aforementioned cultural differences can cause quite the stir in the workplace if not properly addressed. Luckily, professionals have developed some tips that can help you handle any unfortunate situations:
Create effective communication channels: the best way to avoid issues is to clearly communicate company policies and practices before any problems arise. Having team meetings where everyone expresses how they want to communicate and what their expectations are, as well as providing any new or visiting team members with a quick outline of company culture, can go a long way.
Have reporting procedures: in the case of an issue, it’s crucial that your team feels safe reporting said problem to higher management or HR; plainly and clearly explain your company’s zero tolerance policy for any sort of discrimination or harassment and ensure that everyone is familiar with reporting procedures.
Take the time to educate your employees: the vast majority of cultural difference problems arise from misunderstandings or a lack of understanding; if you give workers the space to explain their backgrounds and their customs, you may avoid future issues altogether.
Sensitivity training: it may not sound super important, but sensitivity training helps workers understand how their co-workers think and act, taking into consideration their specific background and experience.
Diversity and inclusion training: lots of diversity and inclusion problems come from a lack of education; training employees on cultural differences and how to deal with them can help avoid problems. If issues have already arisen, these training sessions can be a great place to address them.
Cultural Diversity in Tech
Just like in any industry, cultural diversity in tech is absolutely key. Why? Well, diverse people bring diverse experiences to the table and in an industry like tech, where innovations that help people are so key, diverse teams are absolutely crucial. Not totally convinced? Let’s check out some of the main reasons why cultural diversity in tech is essential:
Companies with diverse employees can better understand the needs of diverse customers, therefore creating superior products and services that reach a larger audience.
Diverse employees bring new ways of thinking and designing to the table, opening the team up to new possibilities.
Companies that seek out diverse talent widen their applicant pool significantly, choosing from the best of the best, regardless of any cultural factors.
While people are capable, of course, of creating products and services for folks outside of their race, gender, or religion, providing equal opportunities to all will allow for never before seen levels of innovation, creativity, and inclusion that will propel the business forward.
Promoting tech diversity in the workplace
If you’re convinced that improving your corporate cultural diversity is just what your company needs, we’re thrilled to hear it! To take that next step towards equality, here are some things you can do:
Increase corporate flexibility: following the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work skyrocketed and many benefitted from working from home or from another location altogether. Not only will increased flexibility help you reach a larger candidate pool, but you’ll also reach more workers who might otherwise be unable to be in the office from 9-5 due to childcare responsibilities, family duties, or long commutes. As childcare duties fall mainly on the mother in many cultures, this could help broaden women’s access to tech.
Take company culture seriously: writing a plan for diversity and inclusion in the workplace is great, but there needs to be guidelines in place for handling any issues that arise; consider also scheduling periodic check-ins with employees to work on any areas for improvement.
Nurture diverse talent: women and minorities are historically underrepresented and underpaid in tech (and most workplaces!) and change begins with us. Take the time to foster diverse growth and ensure that all employees have equal access to raises, promotions, and other opportunities.
Create diverse recruiting strategies: the aforementioned points will be useless if you don’t actually hire diverse professionals! If you’re seeing that your applicant pools are almost entirely white and male, it may be time to rethink your hiring processes. Try reaching out to organizations that focus on diverse sectors, like Lesbians Who Tech or Black Girls Who Code and really make an effort to include diverse candidates in your hiring process.
Have we convinced you of the need for cultural diversity in tech? We hope so; the change starts with each and every one of us. With a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, we’ll be well on our way to a better and stronger tech sector. Are you ready to join? Check out one of our bootcamps today.