Lesson Monday

This lesson is part of our regular Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion curriculum. On most Mondays, you will be expected to read a short lesson about that week's DEI topic. Then, on Tuesday, your instructor will lead a standup on that topic.

Last week, we discussed the benefits (including the economic benefits) of diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech. This week, we'll discuss why DEI efforts are so important in the tech industry - and elsewhere.

Equity Versus Equality

When we value equity, it means that we are focused on giving people what they need to be successful.

On the other hand, equality is the idea that we should treat everyone the same no matter what - even if that means some people won't be successful as a result.

There's a problem with treating everyone the same. People are born in different situations, with different challenges, and with different opportunities. Linda may grow up in a wealthy family with access to a computer, two parents and good schools. On the other hand, Sally may grow up without access to a computer in a single parent household - and may go to schools that don't offer the same opportunity and support. Sally may need some additional tools and support to have a greater chance at success in the tech industry.

Also, there's a simple, sad fact - we have a long way to go, both in the tech industry and in our country, not just on issues of equity but also on basic equality. In the example above, Sally isn't getting equitable or equal opportunity.

Unfortunately, this lack of equality and equity is systemic - it doesn't just affect Sally. It affects entire groups of people. As a result, women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), and other groups are still underrepresented in the tech industry, as this Wired article shows. Instead, as the charts in this article demonstrate, the industry is overwhelmingly white and male.

Recognizing Privilege

Why is the industry primarily white and male? There is no compelling evidence to show that white men have innately better ability to code and work in the tech industry than other groups. Rather, both white people and men have long had more privilege than other underrepresented groups in the tech industry - and this trend continues to this day. Privilege is an unearned advantage that a society gives to some but not all people. Because of systemic racism, sexism, and other societal issues, underrepresented groups are not given these same privileges.

Anyone can have privilege. For instance, take a look at the chart below from Frame Shift Consulting's Ally Skills Workshop, which illustrates different kinds of privilege.

Chart shows examples of power and privilege.

As we can see, there are many different kinds of privilege. In order to have a diverse and equitable tech industry, we need to neutralize this privilege and practice inclusion.

Privilege can be a hot button topic for many, often because it's common to have some privileges but not others. Also, people are often afraid of losing the privileges they already have. However, equity is not about taking privileges away from people that already have them. Instead, it's about giving those privileges to everyone. In the case of the tech industry, that means providing opportunity to underrepresented groups.

Lesson 21 of 32
Last updated more than 3 months ago.