April - 2016 - issue > CEO Insight

Fostering Diversity in Technology Firms

Paresh Patel
PhD, Founder & CEO-PayRange
Friday, April 1, 2016
Paresh Patel
Much has been written about the benefits of diversity, and the lack thereof, especially in technology companies. The idea is that since the consumer base is diverse, it is especially beneficial for companies to have employees that can better relate to a wide range of consumers. While we typically think about diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity, it can include a limitless set of characteristics such as demographics, academic background, sexual orientation, geography, culture, and more.

Our life experiences and who we are, affect the lens through which we see things. An almost literal example is to imagine a company developing a user interface and does not have a color blind person on its team. This company may select a combination of colors for the user interface, such as red and green that may make it indistinguishable to color blind people. There are simple fixes that can be done if the design team is aware of the issue; diversity helps the company become aware of a greater number of issues all in an effort to improve the company's offerings.

People see things through their experiences, prior knowledge, and who they are. This is ever more important in technology companies as we develop product for a wide ranging user base. However, companies often focus on the wrong goal. There is much emphasis on hiring diverse employees. This is a short-sighted effort, and is often done without deep commitment to actual diversity.

At my company, we have not been hiring to create a diverse workforce, but rather the byproduct of our culture creates an inclusive atmosphere that allows diversity to foster. Our company is staffed by 74 percent minority (women and/or ethnic minority). We have a diverse representation across the company from engineering, to management, to the executive team.

We do things differently, and paradoxically, the company doesn't "fit" with the stereotypical tech culture. We create an authentic, inclusive atmosphere for people who may feel uncomfortable elsewhere.

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