World Thinking Day is almost here. A Girl Scout tradition that began as a way to honour sisterhood, World Thinking Day is now a day to raise awareness of important international issues that affect girls across the world. This year the theme is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It’s the perfect time to reflect on what these concepts mean to you, how you can create positive change, and how these things affect and intersect with issues in STEM industries.
Movements are being made throughout the tech world to encourage diversity and more inclusive practices. The British Science Association are working towards employing and encouraging the career progression of people from diverse backgrounds, via the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM. The Tech She Can Charter is committed to closing the gender gap in tech by tackling the root of the problem at a societal level.
But why is it so important?
When considering how to encourage diversity and inclusion, it’s essential to think about the ways in which diverse groups intersect, and how these intersections interact. A woman of colour at a STEM conference may be the only person of colour giving a talk, and she may also be the only woman. A working class LGBTQ person in a tech workplace may be both the only LGBTQ person, as well as the only person from a working class background, and this could present a host of different challenges. There are barriers to inclusion for every person from any marginalised background, and can lead to being isolated and shut out from progression and leadership opportunities. This perpetuates a vicious cycle in which the only people in leadership positions are people who have no personal experience of the marginalisation that others face, leading to more barriers or, at the very least, an ignorance of the barriers that are already there and a resulting neglect to do anything about them.
Mark Martin of UK BlackTech (quoted by DotEveryone) found that only 2.9% of the tech sector are BAME, without a single British BAME person in a leader position (1). PWC found that only 16% of women have had tech suggested to them as a career, as opposed to 33% of men, with only 3% of women saying a career in tech is their first choice (2).
Rashida Richardson of the AI Now Institute is quoted saying that “Tech companies adopt a form of the Hippocratic oath” (1). When considering underrepresented groups and how they deserve to fit into the industry, we all need to consciously recognise and take responsibility for the problems that can arise if we choose not to work at promoting inclusion. There are many ways to create positive change.