Diversity numbers are ‘not enough’

26 June 2020 INdivisible cited in Germany’s ada magazine

INdivisible, which I co-wrote with Rebekah Steele, was featured in an article about diversity and inclusion by journalist Alexandra Borchardt in the German magazine ‘ada’, which focuses on the digital world. Borchardt quoted our argument that it’s not enough for organisations to tick the ‘diversity numbers’ box, and that the work of inclusion goes much deeper and wider. Here’s the excerpt, translated from the German:

Having diverse management and teams can only be a first step. Those who make it to the top in a hierarchical corporate world are often particularly talented in understanding and adapting to the prevailing culture. “Too many companies see diversity as a ‘problem’ that has to be solved,” says Alison Maitland. Together with Rebekah Steele, she wrote the book INdivisible: Radically Rethinking Inclusion for Sustainable Business Results (Young and Joseph, 2020). If the diversity numbers look ok, they feel they have ticked that box. But actually the work is just beginning. Diversity has to be considered in the design of processes and products, says Maitland: “Diversity without an inclusive corporate environment is unfulfilled potential.” And inclusiveness also means getting diverse voices and trying out their ideas.

This is particularly true when artificial intelligence is involved, says Maitland, because software developers built certain assumptions into the algorithms. The authors describe the case of a Canadian company. It created a product that analyzes body language and gestures electronically. The designers had tested the software, but failed to do so on left-handed people and people with smaller hands – women’s hands tend to be smaller. Maitland says: “They learned the hard way that if you are looking to increase your market share, you have to think about and incorporate inclusiveness right from the start.”

Read Alexandra’s article in full in German here.

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