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What Do People Really Think About Diversity in Tech? Here are 63 Anonymous Perspectives

11 min read
Courtney Seiter
Courtney Seiter Director of People @ Buffer
What Do People Really Think About Diversity in Tech? Here are 63 Anonymous Perspectives

First college graduate from my family.

Vegan.

Working mom.

Cherokee.

Mormon.

Queer.

There are so many beautiful forms of diversity, and we’ve had an amazing crash course.

In spring of 2015 we opened up Buffer’s Diversity Dashboard, a passion project for me and many other Buffer teammates focused on creating an inclusive team.

The dashboard shares real-time data on the demographic diversity of the Buffer team, as well as those who’ve expressed interest in joining our team.

We gather this information from candidates by asking them if they’d like to fill out a voluntary form after their application is submitted that asks questions about:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity

In addition, one of my brilliant teammates had the idea to add an open field that simply asks if there’s anything they’d like to share about diversity and inclusivity.

tell us about inclusivity

This little field has been the source of so much inspiration and learning for me. Again and again, I’m amazed and humbled by how much human beings will share with you if you only allow them to.

I’d love to share just a few of the hundreds of comments that kind and thoughtful people have written to us in this field. Some are observations about the Buffer team and our inclusivity efforts, and many more make larger points about the state of inclusivity in tech, inclusivity in America, inclusivity in the world.

Race and ethnicity: ‘I’ve never fit into a mold’

A theme of pride in identity and a lifetime of “feeling different” was clear in these comments.

“Being of both African and Caucasian-American decent, I feel like I’ve never fit into a mold, and in a good way. I believe my diversity has allowed me to adapt in many different places including geographically and socially.”

“I think everyone feels ‘different’ growing up, but I was visually different as a multi-racial child. I can see how it would lead people to feel isolated and misunderstood, but really it taught be how to embrace myself. I am different, and I like it.”

pablo (1)

“You guys seem diverse, it would be nice to see more women of color though. :-)”

“After reviewing the Buffer Team page, I think that Buffer would benefit from a more proactive approach to diversity. I don’t see any Black people.”

“I am a card carrying member of the Cherokee Tribe. I am also Mexican and Ute Indian. I get a great sense of who I am saying this.”

“My parents are Colombian, my grandfather is Chinese, I am first generation American born, living in Singapore.”

Age: ‘I was afraid old people do not apply’

Age diversity is a big challenge in tech, and often doesn’t get quite as many resources devoted to it as other types of underrepresented groups. These messages are great reminders to make progress in this area.

“I notice there doesn’t appear to be too much gray hair on your team. Come on! Some of us are pretty with it!”

“Age is often an unconscious barrier for tech companies whose founders and employees skew young. That’s why I’m filling out this demographic survey — to supply the information that there’s someone older than 55 applying to your no-office, no-managers, fast-moving company.”

pablo (2)

“I think people over 40 are not as valued in the internet economy but we have so much to offer, maturity to bring, and a sense of self that we have developed over our 40+ years.”

“Please don’t hold my age against me! I am a social media enthusiast, and challenge my husband on who has a higher Klout score. ”

“I was fearful of even applying because I see so many young faces on your website. I was afraid ‘old’ people do not apply.”

Religion: ‘We are ‘different’ even here

I have to admit that religion was not an area that I gave any thought to including in our survey and dashboard. It was a wonderful surprise to me to see that many of you wanted to share your faith.

“I’m a strong practicing Hindu, I love all aspects of religions and actively read and research into religious studies!”

“I’m a Mormon, which I know makes me a weirdo, but it also makes me a teeny bit diverse.”

“I am not sure if religion is a diverse topic at buffer but I am a Christian who believes in God. I don’t have any intentions of forcing my religion on anyone I just want to be able to spend time with God.”

“I find it both interesting and refreshing that you didn’t ask about religion. For the record, I am a muslim, a balanced one :)”

“I’m a seventh day Sabbath keeping Christian.”

“I am a born Muslim (not practicing) my wife is Catholic from her mother’s side and Orthodox from her father’s side, and we are ‘different’ even here in Sarajevo :)”

Gender: ‘I now know that this would be welcomed at Buffer’

Our gender option is probably the survey question we took the most time and care wording, and it has already gone through a few revisions. We wanted to make sure to welcome as many gender identities and explorations as possible.

gender

“It’s so good to see companies that understand the importance of truly respecting all people and differentiating between biological sex and gender!”

“I’ve recently begun exploring what it means for me to be gender neutral, and I now know that this would be welcomed at Buffer.”

“I like how you said “Identify” for gender and race. Glad to see a company respecting who people really are.”

“Glad you guys offer such gender diverse options!”

Sexuality: ‘It adds a different perspective to any conversation’

It is so inspiring to see how many people felt vulnerable enough to share this important aspect of their identity with us. We’ve been reflecting on whether to add sexuality to our dashboard and metrics. Keen to hear more perspectives on this!

“I am open about my homosexuality and think it adds a different perspective to any conversation!”

“I identify as gay, and I have been fortunate enough to always work in an environment where differences are not only accepted, but celebrated!”

“I’m bisexual, which isn’t really covered under gender identification”

“I’m LGBT – just married my same gender spouse!”

pablo (4)

“I’m a lesbian, married to my wife with a daughter.”

“I’m a gay married dad.”

Women: ‘I’m proof that we’re equally as capable’

Gender disparity—particularly in technical roles—is an area that Buffer, along with many other tech companies, struggles with. Reading these comments helped us recommit to this important mission.

“I would love to see more women in my age range being recognized for their adaptability and forward thinking.”

“I’m a woman of European Jewish descent (Russian, German), childhood sexual abuse survivor and advocate, entrepreneur, single mom of two, published author, business owner, book imprint director, and proof that women are equally as capable as men and can work well together, too!”

“I would love to see more women employed in creative positions within the global industry.”

“I noticed the overwhelming number of men on the “team” page and at first it was concerning, but them I dove into the page further and saw the diversity dashboard.”

“I am actually really excited about the current initiative of some employers to close the gender gap between men and women in the area of programming. Because of this, I took it upon myself to begin to learn how to code at home. Hopefully this will open some doors for me in the future!”

pablo (5)

Mothers: ‘Moms are the center of many communities’

It was awesome to see moms and working mothers identifying themselves so strongly—yet another unique perspective.

“Having more moms in the workplace and acknowledging that WE ARE MOMS is beneficial to companies/employers as moms are the center of many communities.”

“i’m a working mom in allied medical field.”

“I’m a long-time advocate for women, and in particular mothers who work outside the home. I strongly believe that “working mothers” who are provided the opportunity to thrive in a flexible work environment are among the smartest, most loyal and hard working employees.”

Intersectionality: ‘I can identify with those who lack a voice’

What is intersectionality? It means that there’s more than one way to “be diverse”—in fact, there are countless ways. These comments help us consider the whole person, and understand that elements of someone’s identity cannot be examined separately from one another.

“I’m a female member of the LGBTQA community and am a chronic pain sufferer, so diversity and inclusion are incredibly important to me.”

“I’m polyamorous, panromantic, grey-asexual, transgender, and a multilingual immigrant to the United States.”

“It makes me extremely happy as an openly identified pansexual black woman that what I identify as doesn’t define the type of person that I am.”

“As a Hispanic man and legal US citizen in a large Mexican family, I can identify with those who lack a voice and who are here for a better and brighter future for their families. As a Gay American man I can identify with those who struggle to be accepted for who they are.”

“Home is a difficult question to answer for ‘Third Culture Kids’“. I hope that Buffer can be a home to those with a Third Culture Kid or a nomadic upbringing.”

Veterans: ‘Thank you for caring about this stuff’

It was inspiring to hear stories of so many military veterans. This is another element we hadn’t considered previously that was a wonderful discovery from our community.

“I am a formerly houseless veteran and mother who has experienced the full effect of the income gap, so thank you for caring about this stuff.”

“I am also protected veteran status.”

“I am a United States Marine Veteran and grew up in the cornfields of Kansas. :)”

“Coast Guard Veteran.”

“Prior Military, raised in the South Bronx when it wasn’t this nice, and I made it out!”

“During my time in the US Navy, I had the privilege of working not only with a great and diverse group on my ship but also visiting amazing places and interacting with many different groups and cultures. One of my core beliefs is that diversity stops singularity of thinking, leading to creativity.”

Ability: ‘Disabled but fully capable’

We heard from many passionate people who have asked us to make ability an element of our dashboard, and we plan to! We’ve been learning a lot from the folks behind axschat about the importance of accessibility for all.

“I am moderately deaf and wear hearing aids. It’s helped me become a much better listener ;)”

“I’m disabled but fully capable of fulfilling the requirements of the job for which I’m applying.”

“I’m sure you guys are doing a great job already, but do consider all who apply – there are some extremely talented people out there who are often overlooked because of some issues.
For example, I have a physical disability and Asperger’s and it can be hard for me to communicate socially and travel long distances.”

pablo (3)

“I do face challenges because of chronic illness, but working remotely allows me to lead a full and productive life.”

“I have one hand! :) For diversity purposes, I’d be considered disabled (but I’m totally not).”

“I had an employer fire me when I mentioned I was seeking some treatment for a mental health condition, I’d hate to see any company do that to anyone, ever again.”

Is all this necessary? ‘Being diverse shouldn’t require data’

Some of you shared that you believed our efforts might be better served elsewhere, positing that hiring the best person for the job is all that matters.

“I do not support ‘diversity’ for the sake of diversity. I believe that you attract and hire the best possible candidate for the job, expect and enable them to knock it out of the park.”

“Diversity is really a close-minded idea from years past; I’m glad that today’s society is far ahead of where we were in recent decades. I’m hoping that as we move forward, people will become less and less closed minded and more in tune with what it means to be human.”

“I agree there must be a balance to a companies employees. I also believe that the best person for a job must get the job :)”

“I’ve always sort of felt that the places with the best sort of diversity and inclusiveness are those that don’t try too hard but just encourage openness among coworkers.”

“Being diverse shouldn’t require data, one should hire the best available for the job.”

‘Hiring a diverse team does not mean lowering the bar’

Others shared great information about the structural and societal inequities that make it such a challenge to hire the best person without making a concerted effort in the area of inclusivity.

“A lot of people say “hire the best candidate,” and I agree with that—but if you’re going to do so, you need to make sure that the people you’re interviewing come from as diverse a group as possible.”

pablo (6)

“Hiring a diverse team does not mean lowering the bar!”

“Many people think that giving attention to diversity issues actually increases the divide. I believe that focusing on diversity is like anything in life where if you don’t make a conscious effort you will easily forget it.”

“Inclusivity and diversity is seen to some as a stretch. A stretch to include those who wouldn’t normally fit the bill. I see it as a leap. A leap towards a greater understanding of the world and its vast swaths of colorful minds.”

“Internally, having diversity of culture, ethnicity, demography, experiences, skills and more leads to a far more satisfying and interesting workplace. Externally, that very same diversity and inclusion leads to products and customer experiences that are representative of the global customer base that most companies now have.”

“Diversity debt is a so much more than correcting hiring practices in startups or posting up a few Black or Latino faces in corporate marketing. We need to look at the structural and historical laws that have created this digital divide and the debt in how companies look. So much can be gained from learning from other of different backgrounds.”

What’s next for inclusivity at Buffer?

“In my view ‘diversity’ is a still higher bar that might include many other variables.”

Diversity isn’t just one thing—it’s so many things. We could never begin to measure all of the elements that make each person we come into contact with so unique.

But we would like to keep asking questions and learning in this area. Future questions on our survey and dashboard might include things like:

  • home country
  • language spoken
  • religion
  • ability
  • sexuality
  • military/veteran status
  • societal and educational backgrounds
  • personality (introvert/extrovert)

We don’t shy away from any of these thoughts, especially the critical ones. We’re ready to keep going and sharing our journey with you.

Like everything else at Buffer, inclusivity is a self-driven conversation, not a mandate. Making our startup more inclusive is an ongoing effort, and members of the Buffer community have been amazingly kind to share all their thoughts with us.

Do any of these comments resonate with you? Share in the comments!

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