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December 11, 2023 - 6 minutes

Cultural Diversity in Tech: Amplifying Underrepresented Voices

Welcoming diverse voices to the tech table has never been more important. 

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If there’s one thing that’s clear in tech, it’s that diversity in all its forms is an incredible benefit. After all, diversity allows new voices to be heard and in a sector where it’s all ultimately about the user, like tech, this leads to products that will work better for the user. There are lots of forms of diversity, but today we’re going to focus on cultural diversity, which brings a unique perspective to the tech table–and one form of diversity that’s commonly overlooked. 

Before we head into the value of cultural diversity in tech, however, let’s review the principles of diversity and the different forms diversity can take.

What is Diversity?

You’ve probably heard the words diversity and inclusion thrown around in recent years; they’re used so commonly these days that you may not fully understand what they mean. Diversity is the practice of including and involving people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences at the table, giving them the equal chance to be heard and share their ideas. Typically associated just with race, diversity is actually much broader, however, and includes the following: 

  • Cultural diversity: related to a person’s ethnicity, this diversity specifically refers to the set of customs and traditions a person was raised with and what they’ve learned from their families. 

  • Racial diversity: racial diversity refers to physical differences between different groups of people, typically focusing on the color of someone’s skin. 

  • Religious diversity: including both religious beliefs and a lack thereof, religious diversity is the difference between what a person believes spiritually–and the traditions and customs that come with that. 

  • Socio-economic diversity: removing barriers to entry, such as expensive college degrees or geographic requirements allows people from different socio-economic statuses access to the table.  

  • Age diversity: age diversity doesn’t just mean people of different ages; it also includes the generational differences that different groups of people have. 

  • Gender diversity: as there are many different genders and ways to identify, gender diversity doesn’t just mean men/women; it refers to the entire spectrum of gender.

  • Disability diversity: disability diversity doesn’t just seek to include those with physical disabilities; it also encapsulates all forms of disability, such as mental, emotional, or educational. 

Yes, that’s a lot–but the truth is that as our world becomes more and more diverse and an increasing number of diverse people sit at the table and have their voices heard, our outcomes will improve. Don’t understand why? Here are some of the reasons why diversity is so important in the workplace: 

  • It’s good for business: companies are always looking to expand their clientele to include new groups of people and if you are creating products or services that are designed with more diverse groups of people in mind, your business will grow.

  • It helps you think outside the box: a group of people with identical backgrounds and experiences trying to come up with an idea that will work for another group of people (or more) will result in unoriginal ideas that may not be practical. When you bring diverse voices to the table, creativity is practically limitless.

  • It leads to superior employee experiences: it’s a known fact that inclusive and diverse workplaces are more welcoming and inviting for employees, where they feel respected and valued. 

  • You’ll have more skills in-house: the more talent you have within your office means you’ll have more people ready to take on new tasks and offer new perspectives, expanding what you can offer clients. 

And in case that’s not enough, let’s share some stunning statistics that help drive our point home. Workplaces that embrace cultural diversity:

  • See a 56% increase in job performance 

  • Witness a 50% decrease in employee turnover 

  • See employees take 75% less sick days

We could go on and on–the benefits of having an inclusive workplace are numerous and more and more companies are moving towards prioritizing inclusivity and diversity in the office. And for many, that starts with cultural diversity. 

What is Cultural Diversity? 

We quickly defined it above, but we’d like to dive deeper into cultural diversity and, more specifically, what it offers in the workplace. As you know already, cultural diversity is the differences that people have, based on how they were raised and their experiences. Although we listed other forms of diversity above, the other forms do also fall into cultural diversity; for example, someone’s religion has shaped how they act and the treatment they received due to their race has molded how they interact with others. 

Every single person has a unique outlook based on their personal experiences, but the more differences that exist between groups of people, the more outlooks will be present in a meeting. 

What happens if a workplace doesn’t value cultural diversity?

Above we mentioned the benefits of diversity and we’re sure you can see how beneficial they would be to a company; to really drive home the importance, however, let’s cover some of the risks that companies face if they don’t prioritize cultural diversity

  • Promoting misinformation: ignorance and stereotypes come from a place of not understanding someone else’s culture or simply not being exposed to people of different cultures, leading to continued false perceptions. 

  • Encouraging discrimination: discrimination isn’t always an active step taken against a certain group of people and can be simply not including diverse groups of people; when this continues over time, this passive discrimination becomes the norm. 

  • Internalizing bias: just like misinformation, bias typically comes from ignorance and when people aren’t included at the table and certain stereotypes or beliefs are perpetuated, this bias will become deeply ingrained in a person and can be quite difficult to reverse.

  • Limiting opportunities: everyone should have a fair shot at reaching success, but when people are removed from the candidate pool simply because of their background or appearance, their opportunities at reaching success will be cut down. 

Both respecting and fostering cultural diversity in the workplace is an absolute necessity for any modern workplace that’s looking to both deliver better business results and work towards complete diversity and inclusion. 

It’s not easy, however, and requires dedication on behalf of both the management team and employees; you will face uncomfortable situations but in the end, it’ll be worth it. 

Amplifying Underrepresented Voices in the Workplace

When it comes to making a change in your workplace, there’s one crucial aspect to understand: real changes in diversity and inclusion come from actions, not just words. Your employees may initially feel seen and valued if you tell them how important they are, but ultimately will need to see actionable steps taken to both prevent any problems from arising and dealing with problems when they do come up. 

To truly work towards a diverse workplace, take the time to read through this section and see what would be possible in your office. 

Don’t single out diverse voices

If you want to understand how your diverse employees feel, just ask them, right? Or, even better, ask them to explain to other employees how microaggressions make them feel. This is not the way to encourage diversity in your company and will actually lead to these employees feeling tokenized–remember, it is not the responsibility of your employees to educate you or other employees on diversity and inclusion. 

Your employees are not diversity professionals and do not need to share their personal experiences with you in order to be treated with respect. Hire a Diversity and Inclusion Professional to lead workshops or handle conflict; do not task your diverse employees with this. 

Update your brand language 

We’re evolving rapidly in terms of inclusion and that’s incredible–but it may also mean that your company brand voice or documents are outdated. There’s nothing wrong with this and is happening across the board in many companies; times have changed and now we’re more aware of how harmful language can be. 

Take the initiative to change your brand voice and internal documents to promote the use of personalized pronouns, inclusive language, and creating an updated company culture. 

Mandate diversity and inclusion training 

A lot of biases and stereotypes come from a simple lack of education; as we continue to learn more about the importance of diversity and inclusion in tech and across the board, we will reap the benefits. But this starts with education and ensuring your employees truly understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

All workplaces should have mandated training both in their onboarding and periodic training throughout the year so that any new topics are covered, questions are answered, and it’s treated as a necessary element of the company culture. 

The journey towards a culturally diverse workplace and one where underrepresented voices are lifted up is long and does require serious commitment, but it’s one that is definitely worth it in the long run. At Ironhack, we know that bootcamps help remove some of the barriers to entry in tech, allowing entirely new groups of people the opportunity to get into the tech field thanks to our short, affordable, and flexible bootcamps. 

If you’re interested in contributing to the ever-evolving tech industry and making sure underrepresented groups have a voice at the tech table, you’re in the right place. 

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