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I saw a lot of news recently that tech companies put a lot of efforts to find technical talents that are different in something from who's working for particular employer - e.g. Google tries to hire more women, people with non-straight sexual orientation, African Americans and so on and so forth.

I also witnessed top level managers of the biggest IT companies making public statements about making efforts in hope to make employee population more diverse.

And I'm honestly curious on why is this happening?

Is this because they are penalized for having employee contingency which is not diverse enough?

What if it is extremely hard to find someone who meets the bar in the particular group - do they (big tech companies) hire no matter what, just to meet the ratio showing better diversity?

Or is this because there is a scientific study showing that if every race, gender, (put your aspect here) is different then teams become more capable? I did a quick search but didn't find a reliable information on the subject matter.

And I'm sorry in advance if someone sees this question as arrogant or provocative - I honestly didn't mean it. I am not originally from the USA. The difference is striking for me as employers in my home country are not claiming about hiring people with the other color of skin (at the same time I'm certain that they will hire anyone who meets technical bar and just a good-natured enough to work with).

UPDATE:

My question was put on hold because being too broad and I guess one way to narrow its scope is to ask what is the motivation behind strategic decisions of major IT players to make employee population more diverse.

I think it is pretty clear from the answers that I've got - and one of the key factors is to make workplace atmosphere friendlier as people will get more and more tolerable to each other - I really hope that eventually it will come true and we will all discover ourselves in a better, friendlier society.

I also agree with one opinion below that implementation of this goal is sometimes far from ideal as people still introduce groups that are close to the members outside their circle and IMO only hinders progress toward their goal (e.g. LGBT at Google, Women in Engineering, etc.) I can imagine what will happen if someone create a group like 'Young White Male Naturals in Engineering'.

closed as too broad by gnat, teego1967, Joe Strazzere, David K, Adam V Aug 20 '15 at 13:34

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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There is a very restricted talent pool out there, and companies need to access it all. And it's widely realised that companies which are, or are perceived to be, monocultural discourage people who don't fit into that culture from even applying. Nobody wants to be "the only one". Worse, monocultural companies get stuck in groupthink and reprehensible behaviour more easily (think of Reddit's recent woes). If you don't make efforts to ensure that your workplace is accessible to, and welcoming towards, everyone then you're basically handing over a sizeable chunk of that talent pool to your competition.

Would you think it responsible to say to interviewees "hey, we consider everyone on their merits, but to be honest if you're female/ethnic minority/over 40 you will hate it here, and that's just tough"? Because a lot of companies send out that message subliminally, and it's not a good way to sell yourself to potential employees. Something needs to be done to break that cycle, and the Googles of the world are taking the lead.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Aug 20 '15 at 12:28
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    This is a very good description for the "greater chance of finding talented employees" point, adds the notion of "keeping talented employees", and something that is supported by my personal experience. Well put. – Underdetermined Aug 20 '15 at 13:54
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    Lol, I've been point blank been asked in job interviews if, as a minority, I would be okay working in a company of all majority. Multiple times. So definitely a plus one for that part of your answer alone. – Kai Aug 20 '15 at 16:59
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Plus, on a purely selfish business level, a diverse employee base gives you diverse viewpoints, which reduces the risk of missing -- or alienating -- potentially large portions of your customer base. Don't underestimate the value thereof!

  • +1 ...marketing just called and they said people have a thing for this diversity stuff. Can you write something up in the name of the boss about how we are struggling with it, but still trying really hard to do it? Our reputation sure took some scratches from the public discussion on our collection of private data. Who would have thought we can polish them away by ...er...employing more people? I really get the hang of this diversity thing. Let's diversify the new employees into some outsourced contractor in order to -dare I say it?- increase the diversity of their paychecks a little... – I'm not paid to think Aug 20 '15 at 14:02
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Why is workplace diversity important to companies?

Because it's the issue of our time.

Western society right now is extremely sensitive to historical (and, in some countries, contemporary to some degree) problems with gender- and race-based discrimination. It's currently in vogue to do everything you can to completely annihilate any possible inference that, particularly as a company, you are participating in such tomfoolery.

Unfortunately, just by the very nature of how societal norms spread, pool and evolve, many governments and organisations go way overboard with this, simply because it's "the thing to do", without actually carefully considering what it is that they are trying to achieve, and the problems they may be introducing by doing so. This leads to overbearing laws that essentially force the bigger firms into these patterns, even if they would not otherwise have been so misled.

That is why there is a substantial problem with positive discrimination right now in the western world: people are being hired over others, because of their gender or the colour of their skin, to hit "targets" and "quotas", and to show that HR is neither sexist nor racist. It's almost amusingly ironic that the end result is a complete contradiction. It's in fact harmful to society on the whole, because it stems from a group of people doing something that they militantly believe makes them better modern people, whereas in fact it's just making the problem worse.

In a perfect world, you'd just hire the right person for the job, because neither gender nor race matter. But in practice there is too much concern about subconscious discrimination, and about the need for anti-discrimination laws to account for those few unscrupulous CEOs who may be backward-thinking, so we end up with this all-encompassing quota culture that you cannot opt out of lest you yourself be deemed sexist and/or racist.

It'll blow over in a few decades' time, when things have settled down a bit.


Why is workplace diversity important to people?

I don't think that it is, particularly. Everyone around you is human and the sooner you realise that, the better you'll be. It should not matter to you what colour someone's skin is, or what formation of genitals they possess. I hear arguments that a diverse workplace opens up ones horizons and promotes cultural crossover (e.g. learning "what girls' lives are like" or "what Indians' lives are like"), which would be true if gender and race roles actually had any basis in reality. Thinking in this manner is discrimination, no matter how much you think you're being modern and open.

I honestly believe that whether your workplace is "diverse" or not is fundamentally neither good nor bad and shouldn't matter to you one bit. Just get on with your job and treat everybody as human, regardless of their physical properties.

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    Do you have any references for "positive discrimination" being a substantial problem? I've very interested in reading any research on this topic. – Rick Aug 20 '15 at 14:10
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Rick Aug 20 '15 at 16:03
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    While this answer raises an important point: "because it is a fad", and highlights a perverse effect of quotas to stop discrimination being discriminating themselves, which negates the positive effects of a diverse workplace. I'd say the answer is heavily opinion based and fails to acknowledge some of the more nuanced aspects of the topic. While I completely agree with the last sentence, it is a fallacy to believe everybody is the same. – Underdetermined Aug 21 '15 at 6:42
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    @Under I didn't suggest that everybody is the same. I said that everybody should strive towards this way of thinking, rather than the quotas way of thinking (which is to go in the wrong direction). I don't think this is opinion based and I think the entire answer's purpose is to highlight the nuanced aspects of the topic that others miss. – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 21 '15 at 10:00
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I believe you have pretty much answered the question yourself there. One can argue about the specifics, and I am sure each company has it's own particular set of reasons, but you've outlined three big factors:

  • Less risk in the case of lawsuits.
  • Greater chance of finding exceptional talent (bigger number to choose from).
  • Diverse teams will be more resilient (I believe ecology has shown that biodiversity is essential).

Perhaps another reason you will stumble upon sooner or later will be

  • Because the others are doing it.

Whatever the true factors are for a specific companies choice, will be almost impossible to find out, even if you work there. Concrete evidence for the beliefs above will also be hard to come by, whatever your stance on sociological research. (Meta-Study finds good and bad effects: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jibs/journal/v41/n4/abs/jibs200985a.html).

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    I have also read that diverse teams tend to get things done more often and sometimes quicker. This is because the personalities affect the different phases of work: some people tend to have good visions and ideas, but they might not have the character to actually build them. Some like grunt work and will happily do the boring things with precision. Some people have a drive to get things finished. Altogether, the variety will make for a successful team. Also, homogenous teams tend to have higher stress levels for some reason, whereas diversity reduces overall stress. – Juha Untinen Aug 20 '15 at 8:03
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    If you want to dive further into the Concrete evidence path, that would be a good separate question for Skeptics. There is one question there already: Importance of teacher diversity in closing the achievement gap?. – Jan Doggen Aug 20 '15 at 8:07
  • @JuhaUntinen: Surely that only needs diverse personalities and not diverse sex/race/age, right? Not to mention that you'd want personalities that actually get along together – Pyritie Aug 20 '15 at 9:52
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    @Pyritie Yeah, but then you're already almost there anyway - differences between individuals are very often much bigger than differences between sex/race/age etc (in fact, that's the observation that led to "accepting black people as humans" in the past, biologically). This is pretty much the healthy core of the anti-racism/sexism/ageism movement. – Luaan Aug 20 '15 at 11:25
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Are new hires coming already trained for the job? Of course not. They have to learn the business, additional technologies, the processes, the corporate culture.

Are new hires formally learning from external training contractors? In most companies, either not at all or only marginally.

Employees are mostly learning from other employees. New hires are also teaching things to existing employees, even in case they initially contribute nothing but curiosity and new questions.

I assume that the benefits of diversity may not stop with hiring faster from a larger pool, but there is also more intellectual cross-polination and a wider mix of skill sets after you hire, because people from different backgrounds think differently. On the other hand you may lose some productivity especially initially as people are getting used to various cultural differences and calibrating mutual trust.

Whether diversity will help or hurt at a workplace can depend on many factors. Like, how creative and collaborative is the job; how fast the industry evolves; who are your customers; or whether the company is successful at promoting shared values that are compatible with both its business needs and with its hiring process. Innovative tech giants have more to gain and less to lose from diversity than a small provider of guard services.

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    Cross-polination is a great point. There's also a huge benefit from people responding stress differently - if everyone gets worked up over the same issue, they will tend to reinforce their own stress as a group. It's just like with a pub argument - if there's ten people with the same "outrage" at, say, government spending, they will tend to escalate the ranting; if there's variety of levels of interest (and to a lesser extent, a variety of opinions), they will tend to be more productive in the discussion, and change subject earlier. – Luaan Aug 20 '15 at 11:29

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