The lack of diversity in the IT industry is hampering creativity in the workplace, according to Dropbox's diversity chief.
The subject of diversity in the technology industry was highlighted in November when Microsoft released its diversity figures, which showed the percentage of female employees globally fell from 29 per cent to 26.8 per cent between 2014 and 2015.
According to Judith Williams (pictured), global head of diversity at Dropbox, if everyone in an organisation is perceived to be similar, staff can suppress their own diversity and creativity.
"When we perceive people to be similar to us, we assume they think like we do. So we actually suppress some of our own ideas, some of our diversity, in the desire for consensus. When we introduce someone we perceive as different, we assume they will think differently. That allows us to feel safer expressing our own individual differences," she explained.
"That is one of the things that brings out the best in organisations. Organisations are successful because they have a lot of really smart, different people who are able to work effectively together."
Other IT companies that released diversity data painted a similar picture to Microsoft, with Cisco showing 23 per cent of its employees were female in 2015. Google currently has 30 per cent of its workforce listed as female, but Intel is the most diverse with 51.9 per cent of its global workforce being female.
The same companies also reported their ethnic diversity figures – for the US – with Intel again being most diverse with 53 per cent Caucasian. Cisco reported 55 per cent of its workforce was Caucasian, Microsoft came in at 59 per cent Caucasian and Google reported 60 per cent of its employees as Caucasian.
'A lot of work to do'
Thirty-two per cent of Dropbox's workforce is currently female, according to Williams, who said that "quite frankly we have a lot of work to do."
"What we see is a very similar story regardless of the company," she added. "That is why early pipeline investments are so important; identifying organisations that are saying 'we don't think 24 per cent of women going into computer science [according to US Department of Commerce, 2011] is enough.' So looking into how can we support them so that more women go into the industry?"
Williams said that as well as the obvious way to improve diversity by bringing in a more diverse range of employees, organisations need to think about their formal processes and informal behaviours and how they may affect the inclusivity of their culture.
"We need to make sure we are being thoughtful about our promotion rates," she said. "We need to look at, for example, are men and women being promoted at equal rates, and are they being nominated for promotion at equal rates. If not, then we have to do root-cause analysis and ask what should be happening that isn't happening right now.
"It is important for every organisation to make sure they are paying attention to the outcomes of all their official processes."
She added: "Sometimes we stop the conversation at diversity, so looking at who we bring into the workforce. We don't go further, to look at what the culture is that we bring folks into, and how do we make sure our pipeline isn't leaking once people get here. We have to think about inclusivity as well as diversity."
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