Why diversity initiatives don't work

While the number of diversity initiatives in the tech industry is increasing, they have come under criticism over ineffectiveness, as they have not yet resulted in perceivable changes in industry demographics, especially at higher levels. This is deemed to be a "leaky pipeline" problem.

In fact, diversity initiatives were never designed to create any significant changes in the first place. Here's why.

A minority person, we're told:

  • finds it harder to enter prestigious institutions and companies
  • is paid less / charged more when they do
  • struggles to develop a network of industry peers
  • often their network consists mostly of other minority people

In short, they are presented as a charity case: someone who will need constant help over the course of their career, is not likely to offer equal or greater support to their benefactor in return, and their network consists of more charity cases.

Now, the higher up you want to go in hierarchy, the fewer spots are available, and the less often you have a chance to offer it to someone. For example, here are some opportunities:

  • common: spending a day tutoring someone in coding, or helping them with a CV
  • average: forwarding them a publicly available job advert
  • rare: letting them know about an insider opportunity, or a growth project
  • very rare: championing them for a promotion, or a leadership position

Given a rare opportunity to share with one person, who do people chose: a minority friend (greater risk and lesser payoff) or a privileged friend (lesser risk and greater payoff)? Of course, they invest in the latter, producing the Matthew effect - rich get richer.

It is in nobody's best interest to help minorities up the ladder. Therefore, diversity initiatives have not, and will never offer truly meaningful opportunities. Rather, they serve as PR stunts and/or factories of undervalued labour.

The pipeline isn't leaking - it drains off into a moat.

Categories: social justice · social hierarchy