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Susan McIntosh on Diversity in Tech

| Podcast with Susan McIntosh Follow 10 Followers by Shane Hastie Follow 28 Followers on Jun 10, 2018 |

In this podcast Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke with Susan McIntosh, an InfoQ editor, agile practitioner and scrum master who works in the area of cultural change about the impacts that the lack of diversity in tech has and some ways to address the inherent imbalances in the system.

Key Takeaways

  • There is a significant diversity challenge in the information technology industry
  • Women are the primary decision makers in shopping but the IT industry as a whole doesn’t consider the women’s perspective when designing and building products
  • The common misconception that confidence equates to competence and how that impacts people who may be very competent but may be uncomfortable putting themselves forward
  • Some advice on how organisations can encourage people to “bring your whole self to work” and create a safe, supportive culture
  • Being valued as a complete person in the workplace improves engagement and commitment to the organisation, and benefits the employee, employer and customers
  • A diverse group will have a wide variety of experiences and can use these diverse ideas to produce products which provide better value for the customers they are building products for

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Ocado Technology: This podcast is brought to you by Ocado Technology, a division of the Ocado Group. Ocado Technology builds the software and systems powering Ocado.com, the world's largest online-only grocery retailer. We’ve been disrupting the grocery industry for over fifteen years using the cloud, robotics, AI, and IoT. Find out more and check out career opportunities here.

Show Notes

  • 0:40 Introductions
  • 2:04 There is a significant diversity challenge in the information technology industry
  • 2:22 Visible evidence of the lack of diversity in organisations
  • 2:51 “Oh, you’re not Steve” response when people met Susan in a programmer role
  • 3:08 People from diverse backgrounds bring different ideas to the table, which customers might find valuable
  • 3:25 Women are the primary decision makers in shopping but the IT industry as a whole doesn’t consider the women’s perspective when designing and building products
  • 3:35 The example of AI gloves which are not designed for women’s hands
  • 3:45 How do we ensure we’re appealing to a customer if we don’t have somebody on the team who represents that customer?
  • 4:12 Even if we don’t think we’re biased there are unconscious biases which we don’t see in ourselves
  • 4:28 White privilege is a real thing – people of colour are automatically behind their white counterparts even when it feels like they are starting from the same point
  • 5:00 Examples of the unconscious biases that are inherent in the system, from Susan’s own experience as a woman of shorter stature
  • 6:10 The need to adjust general working structures to accommodate, for example, for working parents or all genders
  • 6:35 The importance of creating work environments where people can bring their whole selves to work and also be able to step away when needed
  • 7:25 The common misconception that confidence equates to competence and how that impacts people who may be very competent but may be uncomfortable putting themselves forward
  • 7:52 We often attribute knowledge to people who make the most noise rather than exploring their actual competence in a topic
  • 8:08 Women are often doubly disadvantaged in this situation because of politeness and social conditioning
  • 8:25 Adopting a power stance helps, but doesn’t overcome differences such as height
  • 9:02 If you’re shy about saying how successful you are then other people won’t know that you are and you might be overlooked
  • 9:19 Just because somebody if confident doesn’t mean they are the smartest person
  • 9:32 Overcoming this particular bias is very hard and requires careful consideration
  • 11:18 The AnitaB.org awards for women in technology are one example of a concrete positive step to recognising the contribution of women to technology
  • 11:42 Things that can be done that help include recognising the companies who are doing well at reducing the imbalances, tracking and reporting diversity data
  • 11:59 Statistics that show that the proportion of women taking Computer Science has dropped, whereas in other technical fields such as Chemistry and Materials Science it has increased
  • 12:24 Expanding the funnel – ensuring that girls get as much opportunity and encouragement to explore computer technology as girls
  • 12:32 Examples of organisations and initiatives that are focused on bringing young women and people from minority groups into IT
  • 13:17 The importance of ensuring our workplaces are more open to a broader diversity of people
  • 13:35 The culture of loading up on highly caffeinated drinks and working excessive hours is not one that is worth persisting or emulating
  • 14:02 Moving to an environment that focuses on outcomes from work not the number of hours you spend at a desk
  • 14:16 These changes are beneficial to everyone in the workplace
  • 14:33 Expanding on the idea of “bring your whole self” to work
  • 15:25 An example of how looking at the products we’re building from your perspective as a shopper rather than as a builder can result in a better user experience
  • 15:49 Being valued as a complete person in the workplace improves engagement and commitment to the organisation
  • 16:25 This results in benefits for the employee, the employer and the customer – win-win-win for all
  • 16:43 This reinforces and expands the ideas around psychological safety at work – creating an environment where people care for and about each other
  • 17:30 Expanding on Dan Pink’s ideas about autonomy, mastery & purpose and adding psychological safety and social connectedness
  • 18:12 In the technology industry we think that technology can solve any problem, but the reality it is the people who are doing the technology who bring the answers
  • 18:42 A diverse group will have a wide variety of experiences and can use these diverse ideas to produce products which provide better value for the customers they are building products for

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