Beyond the Usual, Passive DEI Efforts in Tech

Blog:D&I: It's not solely HR's responsibility

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Manny Becerra as a child

March 2019

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) programs are gaining more traction at companies these days, which, as a person from a historically underrepresented community, I think is great. One thing, however, that has stood out to me through experience and shared stories with others that I find concerning, is how D&I programs tend to be perceived as solely a human resources (HR) issue and responsibility. No, full-stop. (I actually have another concern, which is the usage and implication of the word inclusion—e.g. who gets to (continue to) define what is considered "normal" and to be "included" in, which can perpetuate, ironically in this context, inequities—but I'll save that for another day, another post.)

I believe that diversity & inclusion efforts should require everyone's vested interest and responsibility.

I get that we, as people, may be used to having some department completely own something in the workplace, in this case your company's D&I program, but we have to be careful not to place too much (or all) responsibility on one group of people while absolving others of it. This can lead to check the box programs for critical matters, like diversity and inclusion initiatives, which if approached in this shallow manner can inevitably cause more harm than otherwise.

We now face a new era framed by what I call “technological redlining” — the way data is used to profile us.[...] What we see is content that favors its creators. This is typically what proliferates. — Excerpts from an interview with Safiya Noble, author of Algorithms of Oppression

So, to be clear: I believe that diversity & inclusion efforts should require everyone's vested interest and responsibility, particularly at organizations where there is nearly no diversity in existence amongst staff at all or some levels, like leadership. Perhaps a sub-team from HR or a sibling team outside of HR that works close with HR can take ownership in providing D&I guidance to individuals and teams within a company, but the responsibilities of diversity & inclusion practices should demand everyone's willing participation.

Diversity and inclusion entails how we work with one another, how we consider, respect, and see others as full human beings (or not).

I'm sure that my position on how D&I programs are developed and implemented will evolve over time, and as D&I programs grow and change with, hopefully, how society evolves for the better, however, I hold this position now because of my lived experiences as a first-generation, Mexican-American and my professional experiences in tech through which I've developed the belief that D&I is more than just words: diversity and inclusion entails placing a spotlight on how we work with one another, how we consider, respect, and see others as full human beings (or not), and, by extension in the context of tech: what assumptions and biases we hold which influence how we create products that may (further) exclude and harm (already marginalized) people in communities.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. — Martin Luther King, Jr

What are your thoughts on how D&I programs are structured and implemented at companies, and who should be responsible for D&I? I'd love to hear from and exchange thoughts with you.

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Manny Becerra as a child

I operate from a place of compassion, possibility and imagination. My work and efforts share a common goal: create a better, sustainable and equitable world by building inclusive communities, products & experiences.