Diverse Teams Drive Innovation in Ways Homogeneous Teams Just Can't
Ideas that go nowhere are much less of a problem than the ideas nobody on your team has the background to think of in the first place.
As a business leader, what is your biggest concern? Is it cybersecurity? Innovation? Business growth in a global market? Of course, all of those factors are critical to building a successful company. But with only 7 percent of today’s Fortune 1000 companies being led by a female CEO, one of the leading challenges for tech companies, in particular, is diversity.
As a female executive at a leading technology agency, Simplus, I am a great believer in diversity. Of course, I'm biased, but I believe that our executive discussions are fuller, wider and deeper because I am there to offer a sometimes complementary, sometimes contrarian point of view. Diversity within a company is vital for maintaining an edge in a competitive business climate. While often underestimated, the benefits of incorporating a team comprised of women, minorities and underrepresented communities is a game-changer. Here are four reasons why hiring a diverse tech team could be the missing link for your business success.
1. Your diverse perspective can help you understand customers better.
Not only does a company benefit from inviting a diverse perspective on company operations, but that diversity helps to better understand customers. The potential for AI technologies to track and interpret a customer’s buying behavior is impressive -- almost spooky, really -- and it is certainly an important tool in staying pertinent in a competitive market. But in many cases, there is no substitute for organic, human interpretation. Experts believe that beginning with a diverse team that is a direct reflection of your customer base creates a deeper understanding of customer needs and increases the opportunities to form a personal connection. In other words, a collection of varied backgrounds and life experiences improves a company’s ability to serve customers. And that means a stronger bottom line in the end.
2. You can reduce your risk of incomplete data.
Acknowledging the bias of data is a relatively new dilemma for leading tech companies. Surely information generated by a computer would appear objective, right? Well, no. “When you create technology, it’s influenced by a personal perspective,” said Marlene Jia, chief revenue officer of AI and machine learning strategy and research firm TOPBOTS, in a personal interview. Although data may seem homogenous within the company, this data holds little value when interpreting the behaviors of a global customer base.
For example, when Microsoft introduced TAY, a Twitter chatbot purportedly designed to mirror the behaviors of a teenaged girl and designed to learn dynamically from human interaction, it took mere hours for innocent TAY to absorb the ugliness of social media and regurgitate it for public display. Microsoft quickly pulled the model and promptly issued an apology thus igniting a firestorm of speculation on bias in AI and machine learning technologies.
3. You can help create role models for future business leaders.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood, and others have laid the groundwork for aspiring young people who may not know the specific job title their role models possess -- but they know that when these female technology leaders talk, people listen.
It’s important for young people to see that many of technology’s minority executives started their careers as the only female in a science college course, for instance, or the sole minority team member at a tech company. Their stories offer a pathway to students who have a natural ability to excel in STEM fields but may lack a vision for pursuing a career in it. Those in the majority can support trailblazers, such as Marc Benioff, who recently spent $6 million equalizing salaries of men and women at Salesforce.
4. You can redefine merit and problem set.
If hiring a more diverse team is the key to securing a stronger foothold on the competitive ladder, what does that look like? It isn’t just about hiring more women -- although with only 17 percent of computer science graduates being women, it’s a great place to start. But diversity runs much deeper than relying solely on gender. For example, a company may focus on strong math skills as the ideal angle for recruiting new hires. But great math skills don’t always equate to strong collaborating, communication, leadership or problem-solving skills.
If your business needs a fresh perspective, new ideas and a varied skill set, expanding the workforce to include diversity can make a pivotal impact on business goals.