Racial Perception In Tech Workplaces

Posted on: 25 June 2015


Diversity exists not only to educate others and bring in ideas from different mindsets, but also to create a comfortable work environment for those diverse minds in order to bring better, faster ideas at a consistent pace. Diversity isn't an issue of bending over backwards to please groups; a little common courtesy and understanding can go a long way when it comes making a diverse team work efficiently. As you consider what diversity means and how it could change the world of business tech, consider a few perspectives that could shape the way you work and socialize on the job.

Understanding Diversity When The Need Isn't Obvious

Diversity can be an awkward issue for some people. The term came about when society recognized a need to shift the standard workplace away from a single, monotonous group of people. There are a lot of buzzwords and sayings about how different groups of people (gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.) can bring different ideas. But some people may be confused at the idea, either taking it at face value and waiting for unmeasurable results or remaining skeptical.

For one example, consider the African American population and their role in diversity. At first glance, many professionals may assume that diversity would mean bringing in specific ways of thinking that only the African American community possesses. The African American diversity contribution could be a true assumption because different ethnic groups have cultural and traditional values that may be different from one another. Some may trace traditions back to African culture, while others may be based in post-slavery cultures and the unique American influence. 

In the business technology world, these differences may manifest themselves in different ways. If your business is trying to enter a market wary of outsiders, an appeal that seems more comfortable to African American communities may give you a better image amongst local consumer electronics users. Some companies may try to market to an urban youth demographic that is steeped heavily in hip-hop culture, which certain groups of people could help in a.

That isn't to say that all members of a group have to follow that example. In fact, members who aren't part of a perceived stereotype may reel at a heavy-handed attempt to use that stereotype. It might not be the culture they're looking for, but they are looking for someone to accept them.

Avoiding The Token Problem

One big mistake when embracing diversity is grabbing people from groups just for the sake of filling up groups. In informal terms, a token person is a person who may have been brought into the business for the sake of proving a point or to simply appear diverse.

Diversity in the workplace requires that people from diverse groups are able to perform the job. The person needs to be not only skilled in that position, but welcomed as a part of the group that can contribute and be heard. Although there are many reactions and results to a token situation, two major issues can illustrate the problem.

Consider a skilled, female programmer with a solid education and an impressive list of skills or experience. If a workplace were to hire this person just to have more women around the office, and not value her opinion, she may become burned out and bitter towards the position. The company could lose out on a lot of innovation just because the position isn't taken serious.

In another scenario, an incompetent person hired just to fill a certain diversity requirement could ruin opportunities for future hires. An Asian American, African America, female or any hire that doesn't perform well may strengthen biased and bigoted opinions of some in the workplace.

To evaluate your diversity needs and figure out how to move forward in an increasingly diverse business world, contact an IBM diversity guide to see the possibilities.