“Diversity” and “inclusion” are one-dollar buzzwords with priceless intentions and consequences. Both signify the growth of the livelihood and well-being of people of color, the LGBTQ community and the disabled.
In the workplace, these words mean camaraderie, openness and balance. But in a world dominated by sameness, they look like goals that can’t be achieved.
Surprisingly, Merriam-Webster’s definition of diversity mentions inclusion. Diversity is “the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.” Inclusion is “the act of taking in or comprising as a part of a whole or group.”
But true inclusion, especially within the tech industry where blacks are still underrepresented, goes beyond being a diverse group. Diversity brings to mind data, statistics and quotas. Inclusion is intangible and connotes warmth and culture.
Diversity is simply a pacifier for a larger problem, said Michelle Matthews-Calloway, creator of The Swirl World podcast and a former Dallas city elections manager. The Swirl World’s audience is “Black women and the diverse men who love them.”
“I’d say diversity is often a Band-Aid, applied to silence any critics,” Matthews-Calloway said. “Inclusion is actually giving someone a seat at the table, with full input via participation and decision making.”
Edward Bowser is a content creator with Big Communications, a Birmingham, AL-based digital marketing and web development firm.
“Diversity is having a seat at the table,” Bowser said. “Inclusion is actually having a voice there.”
Inclusion in the tech space is about taking action. Bowser connects inclusion with a company’s final product. Giving others a voice means expanding their customer base.
“In the realm of tech, it’s the difference between hiring minority employees and those minority employees actually having a say in the development of products, specifically products that will benefit their communities,” Bowser said.
What exactly will it take for companies to have both an inclusive and diverse company culture?
How can employers, employees and stakeholders uplevel the atmosphere to reflect abstract qualities in the products and services offered?
Combatting sameness will make both diversity and inclusion a reality in the tech workplace, Matthews-Calloway said, but she’s not sure these concepts will become mainstream in her lifetime.
“I think the continued resistance to the status quo (by) people using their voices and platforms to bring attention to inequalities, coupled with the cooperation, insistence and effective action of the majority who are in a position to make change, will bring about improvement.”
Entrepreneurship is becoming a more viable route. Instead of shoehorning themselves into a company unwilling to budge, people of color are carving their own path.
“I really like the fact that many black people are moving more in the direction of creating their own spaces, products and platforms,” Matthews-Calloway said. “Waiting on someone to let you in is wearying and played-out.
“More and more, I see black people waking up and recognizing their worth, creativity and excellence. We are literally being the change we want to see, breaking down barriers and walls, and creating our own open doors. And I love it.”