Women in tech is one of Tiffany Horan’s passions, starting as host of Women in Tech Chat on Twitter. She is also a growth hacker and engagement manager at humane product company Mudita and venture builder App’n’Roll.
In each venture, diversity and inclusion stand atop her success metrics. This is especially a concern in the tech world dominated by young, white males.
“Inclusion makes sure that everyone — from all walks of life, from all levels of understanding and experience – can be involved in tech,” Horan said. “Diversity means that differences in culture, gender, race, age, beliefs or disabilities don’t hold anyone back.
“For inclusion to work, people need to feel comfortable,” she said. “Everyone works toward a shared goal, striving for the same purpose. In tech, it’s usually a product or company philosophy that brings people together. Tech itself enables us now more than ever to feel included.”
Making technology inclusive and diverse is a goal with nuance.
“This is more complicated because diversity is not sympathy,” Horan said. “It comes down to being the right person for the job, in tech especially. Hiring anyone to fill a diversity quota isn’t inclusive and can be ostracizing. Diversity is about acceptance and understanding.
“The tech industry still has a long way to go,” she said. “I’ve seen a massive lack of diversity, but I’ve also seen companies improve this when it’s brought to light. Everything just seems to take more time than one might hope.”
This is why Horan knows diversity and inclusion has to continue as her top priority.
“To prioritize diversity and inclusion, you make someone’s world a better place,” she said. “Even the smallest positive change can make a huge difference to someone’s life. Workplaces should cater to the needs of those within them through flextime, remote work and so on.”
Indeed, flexibility could be the solution to the problem that is diversity in technology.
“We do have a responsibility to create collaborative opportunities,” Horan said. “We need both online and offline spaces to encourage conversations. Developing ideas together helps to break down barriers that may be in place due to subjective bias.
“More education is necessary and should be made available to anyone who wants to learn,” she said. “Equal access to technology training will make a difference.”
Horan has ideas about how to create tech programs that are pro-active rather than reactive to existing problems.
“Startups and small businesses will find this easier because they can start as they mean to go on,” she said. “When hiring, think about anonymity and clarity, no video interviews or photographs, no asking people how much they want to get paid. Let skills speak for themselves.
“Transparent salaries and anonymous application processes are one thing, but there are also other ways to be pro-active,” Horan said. “Vary contracts. Meet the needs of everyone in the most inclusive way possible. Trust your employees and colleagues.”
The best way to overcome tech’s diversity barriers is with open eyes.
“Recognize they exist,” Horan said. “If you think you can help — or if you want to help — do it. If you recognize your company has a problem, say something. Do something. Be honest with yourself and those around you.”
The success of diversity and inclusion depends on women and those who support them.
“If you know any women in tech looking for work — or looking to learn — make their voices heard in any way you can,” Horan said. “No action is too small. Write a recommendation for them. Mentor them. Be there for them. Support them. In return, they’ll probably do the same for you.”
In any event, merely eliminating stereotypes will not solve the problem.
“What about people who embrace or accept labels that make them who they are?” Horan said.
“Removing subjective bias makes sense, but pretending we’re all the same by eliminating labels won’t solve anything,” she said. “We’ll still have individual needs.”