The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion: They’re Not Just Buzzwords

August 28, 2019

The lack of representation of visible minority groups — women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of colour — in the field of design and technology cannot be understated.

A study by McKinsey & Company in 2017 revealed that only one in five C-suite leaders is a woman. That number is closer to one in thirty for women of colour. Last year, that same study reported that progress isn’t just slow when it comes to gender diversity, it has stalled. In addition, The Financial Times reported that only 0.3 percent of Fortune 500 company directors openly identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The importance of diversity and inclusion extends beyond design and technology; the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter, the increase in LGBTQ+ awareness, and the importance of transparent hiring methods have greatly influenced our understanding of what an inclusive society and diverse workplace look like.

As a result, the tech and design industry is starting to understand that diversity and inclusion aren’t merely buzzwords. In fact, they’ve become integral to the reputation and success of companies everywhere, requiring all of us to take a closer look at their workplace culture, hiring methods, and values to ensure that they’re doing their part.

What does diversity and inclusion mean at Art & Science?

We are living in the age of the informed and empowered consumer. Today, consumers expect to live in a society that takes into consideration the things that make them unique and different. Brands that fail to respect and celebrate those differences are facing pushback from consumers. People are now taking to social media to voice their opinions and even go as far as organizing boycotts in an attempt to limit those brands’ influence and impact on others.

This means that we have a responsibility as leaders in this industry to take actionable steps towards implementing diversity and inclusion into the fabric of our workplace. Here are some ways we’re attempting to do this at Art & Science.

Recognizing our privilege

Privilege, more specifically white privilege and male privilege, is present in meeting rooms, conferences and companies at large. At Art & Science, we recognize that there are real benefits that society affords to certain groups over others. Considering the majority of our industry’s leaders are white men, it’s important for us to check our biases in order to design with empathy in mind.

Unchecked privilege and bias fuels our assumptions and has a direct impact on the individuals who use the products we create. The more white, male, cis-gendered and able-bodied you are, the more vital it is for you to check your bias and understand how they could affect your work, and as a result, the experiences of those interacting with it.

Striving for diversity in teams

A diverse team of individuals is better equipped to design and build products that don’t exclude a certain set of users. Keeping accessibility and inclusion in mind is crucial for us at Art & Science. Simply put, we cannot create products that are accessible to all when our internal teams—the people designing those products—are not reflective of a wider demographic. Our team is racially and ethnically diverse, span a wide range of ages, and come from a variety of professional backgrounds.

But we can’t stop there. Research shows that hiring alone is not sufficient; the second driver of representation is promotions. Women are far less likely to be promoted into manager-level positions, which is why they hold only 38 percent of manager positions. Treating diversity as a business priority is an important step in ensuring we close this gap. One study found a direct correlation between an increase in racial and gender diversity and increased sales revenue, greater profits, and more customers. 

In order to attract diverse individuals, we must strive to create an environment and culture that is inclusive and accessible to all, regardless of circumstances, backgrounds, or perspectives.

Designing with inclusivity in mind

Stop reading this post for a moment. Look around. Almost every product in your vicinity has an aspect of design to it. Someone, somewhere took the time to create something so that you could achieve a set of goals, and hopefully enjoy the experience while doing so.

In recent years, our society is waking up to the importance of designing experiences that are accessible to all. This is where inclusive design comes into the picture. Designing for inclusivity means that we draw on the full range of human diversity, with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference. Learning from people with a range of perspectives and experiences allows designers to create products that consider people’s differences, rather than exclude them because of it.

The negative impact of an experience that excludes a certain group of individuals cannot be underestimated, and it’s our job as designers to understand how humans grow and adapt to the world so we can design with their needs and goals in mind. It’s only when we understand that the work we put into the world is not divorced from historical, cultural and social context that we can create more responsibly and ethically.

Taking action and advocating for change

It’s no longer enough to simply state your commitment to diversity and inclusion. It’s time to implement actionable steps to make this a reality. Checking biases, recognizing privilege, hiring and promoting women and others who are representative of a minority group, and ensuring we design with inclusivity in mind are some ways we can begin to level the playing field.

For us at Art & Science, diversity and inclusion are not buzzwords. They’re characteristics that impact the work we do every day.

Authors: Hanieh Khosroshahi, Gabrielle Anagnostopoulos

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