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COMMENT BEYOND20


Thefutureof diversity in techology


EILEEN BURBIDGE, A FOUNDING PARTNER OF PASSION CAPITAL, COMMENTS ON THE PRESSING NEED FOR TRUE DIVERSITY IN THE TECH SECTOR


important that our sector reflects society as a whole. This applies to everything the sector


touches, including delivery platforms, distri- bution channels and user interfaces. It doesn’t even have to be something as sophis- ticated or novel as artificial intelligence or facial recognition — where we’ve already seen the perils of homogeneous engineering teams developing algorithms that are unsuit- able and inadequate for non-white men. In order to properly provide these products and services, our delivery and development teams must be diverse. Some small assurances can come from the


EILEEN


add to the discourse, because, rather obvi- ously, it must improve. In truth, the future of diversity in tech is


W


an honest conversation about equality more broadly. Without diversity of thought, experi- ence, gender, ethnicity, sexual preferences, physical abilities and social classes, there will be no equality among those different charac- teristics and there will not be tech products, services or platforms that serve everyone equally and fairly. But before attempting to tackle equality,


we must continue to work on increasing rep- resentation and diversity within the tech sec- tor itself.


Avoiding obsolescence It’s been a long-standing thesis of mine that over time we will stop referring to ‘tech’ as its own sector. I fully believe that in time, all industries, commercial undertakings and businesses will become tech-enabled if not fully tech-centric. Everything else will become obsolete. Because this technology will empower society at large, it is incredibly


46 BURBIDGE


hat is there to say about the future of diversity in tech? It feels as if there can’t be much more to say or


fact that improving gender representation has become a properly concerted effort within the tech sector. After years of asking why there is an all-male panel at an event or conference, or whether there are any female candidates on a short list for an executive role or non-executive appointment, the tide has turned. It’s finally acknowledged that having an all-male panel, executive team or board of directors is a sign of a tone-deaf organisation, inattentive leadership and, fundamentally, an obvious problem. We don’t seem to have to ask those ques-


tions anymore, thankfully. Everyone has finally understood the problem of a lack of gender inclusion. And it is refreshing to be at the point where it would take a concerted effort to not have any women on a company’s ‘About’ page, on a company board or involved in a conversation — whether at a product team meeting or a panel session at an event.


Being the other And it’s about time. I’ve been working with IT since 1989 when I started pursuing my com- puter science degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I recall another student once teasing and calling me out, saying “You weren’t at the lecture last week”. While I didn’t understand why that was any concern of his, I was naively baffled as to how he knew and managed to catch me out. After all, ours was a lecture hall of at least 150 people. But his response was as straightforward


as it could be: “Well, there’s only five girls in the entire lecture, so it was pretty obvious


www.fDiIntelligence.com April/May 2021


Artwork by Sam Kerr


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