Today there is a lot of conversation around making the tech world more inclusive. And there are good reasons: just 17.2% of ICT workers in the EU are female, and 91% of the US tech workforce is white or Asian.
In short, almost everyone in tech is a white dude.
But there’s another inclusivity problem in tech that is often underlooked. Being inclusive doesn’t mean just hiring diverse people. To be really inclusive you also need to make technology understandable for everyone.
Tech people are usually not very good at this. I can empathize with them: it’s natural to forget how to talk to humans when you write code 8hrs a day every day. This is why we need a deliberate, conscious effort in more inclusive communication. Without this, there will be problems both outside and inside organizations.
Let’s look at the effects of poor outside communication. Try checking out some product pages of tech products. Here are some marketing bits I’ve read: “440 Hz high-frequency PWM dimming control”, “up to 16 GB 3733MHz LPDDR4x memory”, “train deep learning models to recognize your brand”. What the hell does this stuff mean? Some companies think that portraying their products as complex will lure people into buying them. We’re way past the point that people are attracted by the technology they don’t understand. People need to trust technology, and understanding is the path to trust.
Inside organizations, I’ve seen two trends. One is tech people who don’t put enough energy into making their work accessible. Other people have a selfish interest in keeping their work obscure. I’ve seen people purposely using complex language to keep others from understanding their work, hoping that’ll boost their “tech guru” image. Both cases don’t serve anyone. Purposeful technology is the fruit of collaboration, and you can’t collaborate without a shared, open understanding.
I’ve spent the last 5 years trying to make technology easier to understand for everyone. I always thought that it’s a worthwhile mission because it enables people to improve their careers. Looking at the problem from the lenses of inclusivity is a new approach to me, but I’m realizing its importance. Making technology universally comprehensible is paramount to build more inclusive workplaces and more inclusive society as a whole. I hope you’ll invest in that.