Like many industries today, the tech industry has also been criticized for its lack of diversity in the workforce. While big players in the industry appear to be making large scale efforts to combat these issues, there are still several communities being underrepresented in technical and executive roles within the industry. This article does not address the ethical reasons for why tech companies should be making efforts to diversify their workforce and provide an equal opportunity workspace. That should go without saying. What this article does address, is how diversifying your team, specifically your design team, is actually beneficial to your product and your business in the long term.
As designers we are constantly talking about the importance of empathy: We need to empathize with our users in order to design and develop products that actually address their needs and pain points. While we often try to develop our empathy and understanding of users through research, there are other factors which shape our ability to empathize with our target demographics. One such factor is perspective, and each person’s perspective is shaped by their own personal experience. For better or worse, in this country, your experience is often shaped by your identity. Having diversity on your team means a wide array of perspectives and experiences which lead to greater levels of empathy and understanding of a larger, more diverse audience or set of users.
Aside from shaping our ability to empathize with others, our personal experiences and perspectives also shape the way in which we think and approach the world daily, how we react, and how we resolve issues and problems. Employing a diverse team will therefore lead to a diversity of ideas and more creative ways of approaching design problems. From my personal experience, design decisions and solutions are often developed through brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of teammates, therefore it is important that the members of your team have perspectives that are different from your own so that they can account for things that you wouldn’t normally consider, leading to more inclusive designs and design solutions.
In conclusion, while today’s social climate has led many companies to issue public statements denouncing racism, real change can only happen through real, measurable and practical action. Hiring a diverse and inclusive work force is an obvious first step. As designers we look to improve our world and solve real problems through design. Diversifying our design teams is not only the right thing to do ethically, but it will also help us address and solve more problems for a larger more divers user base, which is in the best interest of us all.