Sharing thoughts and learnings

On how to promote Diversity, Inclusion & flat non hierarchical organisations

Yesterday I was happy to attend the WomenTechMakers first meeting in Mallorca.  It was interesting to meet with people that love Tech and at the same time care about the future of the professional world in general.  "We need to get women interested on STEM careers now or we as women will be out of the business world in the years to come" was  one of the phrases that made me think.  Women are indeed under represented in STEM fields in general (some countries less than others), so getting to promote the STEM careers among girls is a great objective. There are not many references available for young women that might be thinking "How can I become a Hacker if I am bad at Maths?": you need to search to find examples of influential women in Tech, and some companies are doing their best to attract diversity with social campaigns... but really, why are we so worried to promote equal participation in Tech or any other area? 

My opinion is that diversity is necessary, not only regarding gender, race, nationalities but also personalities, working styles, social background and age in order to foster innovation and generate alternatives.  If your clients are diverse, better get people that think like them right?  

In a traditional hierarchical or power oriented organisation the value of diversity might suffer: friends hiring their friends to maintain and reinforce their positions at the top instead of looking for the best talent, or HR favouring recent MBA or top-tier university graduates with a great ability to socialize their skills on top of the always hard working introverted colleague that could not pay for such an expensive education but has come up through the ranks and is able to do the same tasks and more... why this happens? 

One of the reasons why I chose to promote Agile values is because I trust that it can change the environment in which we work to reach inclusive and non hierarchical teams of unique individuals working together.  Unfortunately, very few companies realise that Agile requires transparency and risk taking culture to start with, empowering people that actually do the job and can take decisions and letting go on departmental silos. As my fellow mates in the meeting yesterday mentioned, most of the time it becomes a "Watergile" or "Agilefall" attempt of the management just to get some visibility.  You might have seen cases in which the Product Owner role itself gets duplicated as no department want to be excluded in the decisions... what is behind that? Fear of one department to be excluded? Why we have departments in the first place instead of all working to create a great product or service?  Also I freak out everytime I hear some Tech colleagues saying that "Business" have to decide this or that. Why we build the "we" and "they".  Who is the "business"? Is IT not part of the business? Who is in the best position to take that decision? Sometimes fear of making a mistake is behind the Business / IT  wall.  Better to let Marketing fail, we just take requirements and develop whatever they want. They should know why they ask for it right?  A comfortable non risk taking position after all... 

The way companies hire people give some hints on how flat and inclusive they are: is it always top down? Only HR, managers and same seniority peers interviewing candidates?  Do you hire by certain bands or by talent according to market? Do you happen to have only analytical people in Engineering and communicative in Marketing? Do you really know what that person will be doing and what you are lacking in terms of diversity? Do you ask for the personal values openly, share the hiring process timing plan and are clear from the beginning on what the candidate can expect from your organisation?

There are many fields in which diversity, inclusion and flat organisations could make a difference, not only in Tech.  And you don't need to be a top manager to promote these values. Start looking around and wondering if everyone speaks in meetings, if not, start to ask.  Also check who gets the credit for the ideas... some transparency and peer recognition helps to drive change too.