Dr. Taco’s notes

The fake diversity

There is a topic that has been on trend over the last couple of years: Diversity at work.

I have seen numerous posts and articles on the internet, where people talk about diversity in the work environment, but mostly they focus on gender diversity. Also, when companies refer to diversity, they measure this with numbers related to how many people work there based on gender. There are always some bunch of statistics presented around this, and it seems that just counting people based on the gender they choose to define themselves is enough to talk about diversity (and most of the times, they just split men and women).

There are also cases where they present some statistics related to the nationalities of people working there, meaning if they have one Mexican in the company it will automatically add one more country to their counter.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a good start that more and more people and companies have the awareness that there are not only men workers. However, this seems to me, like a way for companies (or any kind of organizations) to say “yes, look how diverse we are”, but they never consider other forms of diversity.

For me, diversity should also consider different ways of working, socializing, communicating, skills, and even ways of learning. It would be so cool, that in the same way we now have pronouns, we could choose how people can address us better. For example, we could also choose labels like “writing”, “no — video call”, or “video call” for people to recognize how to better communicate with us. (Apparently, there are some efforts around, but it’s not a common practice yet.)

There are many people who get anxious about video calls, and there are others who are more in the introverted spectrum and prefer written messages instead of the confrontation of calls.

I would appreciate knowing if my colleagues prefer to work more with another person, solo, or in a group (like mob programming, for example). Maybe even if they are the kind who likes to get constant feedback or more on the side of having more space.

It would be also super useful to know what kind of skills my colleagues have and want to share with the team. Maybe you’re a lot into aesthetics and design but your job position is more related to some abstract problem-solving, so most of the people you work with, will never notice your hidden talents.

Additionally to this, it would also be great to have a tag for “things you struggle with” or “things you would like to get support with”. In this way, I could show my colleagues not just what I’m good at and can support with, but what I’d like to have help with, for example “I’m good at creating visuals for projects, and need support with organizational topics”.

And let’s not even go into the topic of neurodiversity at work because I think it’s even more hidden and less considerate in the working environment. People never consider that maybe some of their colleagues aren’t so expressive, or sometimes they are too direct, or maybe they get panic and dissociate during some meeting, and just take them as weird or rude persons, which is sometimes the reason to even get bad feedback (or fired) from a job.

Finally, another unseen aspect of diversity is the language barrier. When working in international teams, there are always some difficulties that come from speaking different languages and communicating in a language that’s not your own. There is an entire cultural aspect to it, like the differences between how people communicate with more or less gestures or higher or lower tones (this is part of the high-context & low context cultures), there is also the aspect of sounding too direct or confrontational vs too friendly because the direct translation is to the foreign language is very different. And there is also the aspect of lack of words in the language you’re speaking (it often happens that you know the word in your own language, but not how to say it in a different one, causing a series of explanations to clarify what you mean). In general, I think the diversity of languages, and speaking one that’s not your own, gives you more understanding and empathy of the difficulties others may have when communicating things (even if there is always the person, who would not be understanding), and makes you learn more about other cultures indirectly.

I think, there are many ways of looking at diversity in a broader spectrum, beyond numbers that companies present to pretend they are doing “the best they can”. But sadly, I think we are still very far from this.