Sunday, July 20, 2014

Living in a Bubble

I have been happy in my bubble, where women are prevalent in technical positions, leadership and as developers.

The bubble started when I was in college, completing a computer science major.  My graduating class had the most women completing the computer science major of any class the university saw from that point on, with 45 of us graduating that one year.  Just a few years later, the same university would see 0 women graduating with a computer science major.  Though numbers soon climbed again, they have yet to reach the same peak.  Similar universities have had similar number fluctuations.

Do you see this as disruptive technology or a necessity?
After graduation, I eventually wound up working in the world of nonprofits.  Look around there and you will see women running the show from the top down.  According to the 2013 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report, there are more women than men who run mid-sized nonprofits.  The number of women in IT and database design and administration, at least in the Bay Area, appears to be high as well, from my personal experience.

In addition, women are hailed as early adopters in a lot of technical arenas. A social media study reported by BlogHer found that "Women have an appetite for the latest gadgets and apps," particularly ones that are useful or fun.

So I've been a bit surprised by all the talk about tech companies lacking diversity and failing to employ women in technical or leadership positions.

There is a view that strong teams contain like-minded people, and that may be true if all you want is a strong team, strong enough to plow forward with weak ideas.  But if you want strong ideas, you need to challenge your solutions by creating teams of diverse thinkers who are comfortable defending their ideas, listening to other points of view and adapting to come up with even better ideas.

Innovation springs from a diversity of thought and experience and leads to ideas that can disrupt industries or invent new ones. Remember, problems inspire creativity, so don't be afraid to expose your teams to a broader picture of the problems they set out to solve.

When elevators had able-bodied, human operators the controls were placed at about elbow-height.  The placement of the controls remained the same even after operators became obsolete.  But with a more diverse viewpoint, someone finally designed an elevator with controls at foot level as well as elbow level.  If you've ever entered an elevator with a cup of coffee in each hand or a large box of equipment, you might see the use of this feature for an even more diverse selection of elevator passengers including anyone who has trouble using their fingers for such tasks as pressing buttons.

We all need to leave our comfortable bubbles to learn new things, broaden our points of view and expand our knowledge so that we can develop stronger solutions with broader appeal.  That just doesn't happen very well without diversity.

1 comment:

  1. The trend of women leaving computer science was matched with the growth of home computers in this article:

    Note that the rise of home computers coincided with the rise of home gaming consoles and growth in that area of the video game industry.