OurVoices

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion on Dev Teams

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Dec 9th, 2019

We’re excited to welcome AllVoices partner, Women Who Code, to the OurVoices blog today! Women Who Code is a global non-profit inspiring women to excel in technology careers. WWCode is building a world where women are proportionally representative as technical leaders, executives, founders, VCs, board members, and software engineers. Read on to hear them explain why diversity and inclusion is so important on dev teams. 

The importance of diversity comes not just from the moral imperative that it represents, but also from the ability it has to increase the effectiveness of teams. Being inclusive and accepting are admirable goals all on their own, and anyone with a belief in creating a better world should strive for those objectives. However, it goes beyond simple morality. It’s also a matter of being better at what you do. 

According to an article by Forbes, diverse teams make better business decisions 87% of the time. This is particularly true on dev teams, where greater diversity, and particularly the presence of women, can help groups solve complex problems better and faster than homogenous ones, as supported by research done by the National Center for Women and Information Technology. This is due to the fact that when you have people approaching a problem from different backgrounds, different perspectives, and with different personal experiences, you are able to create teams that have a much greater scope, and which can find solutions that may not be obvious to a group of people that are all similar to one another. That can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness and the ability and speed with which challenges can be overcome. 

You also see this reflected at the highest levels of industry. Companies with the greatest representation of women in their management teams have a 34% better return on investment than did those with few or no women, and Fortune 500 companies with at least three female directors have seen their return on invested capital increase by at least 66%, return on sales increase by 42%, and return on equity increase by at least 53%. 

However, diversity isn’t something that can just be forced. Companies have to work to create a culture of inclusion that makes everyone, employees, potential employees, and even management, feel accepted and respected equally. And there are a number of ways this can be accomplished. If an organization is willing to take the steps to implement change for better. 

It starts with hiring, where double-blind measures should be used throughout the interview process to ensure that personal, and often unconscious bias, does not affect final decisions. It is also important to ensure that job advertisements do not use gendered language and that positions are described in a way that is welcoming to anyone from any background. 

Steps should also be taken to ensure that current employees are being treated equitably. This can include introducing salary transparency, so that bias has no place to hide behind the obscurity of individual paychecks. And regular audits should be conducted to find out if promotions and pay raises are being given more often to people from certain backgrounds, with measures implemented to correct that if it is found. 

Creating a safe environment is also important, as employees need to feel like they can make complaints and suggestions without feeling like they might face reprisals from others in the organization. AllVoices is one company that is working to help that, by providing a platform where anyone can make anonymous comments through their system that can then be reviewed in order to help improve practices and resolve interpersonal issues. 

According to AllVoices Product Manager Annie Meadows, "Employees, especially those with relatively little power in an organization, are often hesitant to come forward and speak up about issues they have experienced— from bias to harassment to feedback. Our platform helps empower them to do so in a way that feels safe, to provide company leaders with information that helps create a more inclusive and healthy organization." 

In addition to creating more diverse, and thus more effective teams, creating a culture of inclusion can also have other benefits for companies. Statistics show that 56% of women in tech will leave their jobs mid-career, right when they become most profitable to the companies they are working for. But a policy of inclusiveness and equitable respect for all can have an exponentially beneficial effect.

Diversity is a morally positive thing. Everyone should be treated equally, and inclusion is good in and of itself. But if you want to have the most effective dev teams, creating innovations, solving problems, and making your company as profitable as possible, then it is also a vital business principle that needs to be implemented at every level of your organization. It can be done. And in the end, it will be worth it.

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