Diversity Works


Tracy Levesque / @LilJimmi / yikesinc.com

Tech Companies have a notorious diversity problem.

This may look familiar.

Why should we care?

We make products for everyone.

20 Smilies

Representing the US adult population

Gender Orientation

51% Female, 49% Male, 0.3% Trans/Non-Binary

Census Bureaus March 2015 Current Population Survey / June–September 2012 Gallup poll

Race and Ethnicity

63.7% White

2010 Census

16.3% Hispanic or Latino

2010 Census

12.2% Black

2010 Census

4.7% Asian

2010 Census

1.9% Two or more races

2010 Census

0.9% Native American/Alaskan/Hawaiian/PI

2010 Census

Sexual Orientation

3.4% Identify as LGB

June–September 2012 Gallup poll


19% Report Having a Disability

Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports, July 2012


10% age 19 to 25

Population Distribution by Age, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2014

12% age 26 to 34

Population Distribution by Age, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2014

13% age 35 to 44

Population Distribution by Age, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2014

14% age 45 to 54

Population Distribution by Age, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2014

14% age 55 to 64

Population Distribution by Age, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2014

15% age 65+

Population Distribution by Age, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2014

Our Consumers

A conservative estimate

Diversity is good for business.

Diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation.

"Global Diversity and Inclusion: Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce."
Forbes | Insights, July 2011

When selecting a problem-solving team...a team of randomly selected agents outperforms a team comprised of the best-performing agents.

Lu Hong and Scott E. Page "Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers."
Michigan Business School and Complex Systems, University of Michigan; and Department of Finance, Loyola University, September 2004

We’ve found that when at least one member of a team has traits in common with the end user, the entire team better understands that user.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Melinda Marshall, Laura Sherbin "How Diversity Can Drive Innovation"
Harvard Business Review, December 2013

Companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.

Vivian Hunt, Dennis Layton and Sara Prince "Diversity Matters"
McKinsey Quarterly, February 2015

It's the right thing.

How does this happen?

The Myth of Meritocracy.


The most qualified candidate gets the job.


Some qualified people never make it to the first round because of unconscious bias.

Personal Stories

Carlos Zuniga

  • Talented programmer
  • Mad Sysadmin skills
  • Fun to work with

Carlos Zuniga

After applying to positions I felt I was qualified for and receiving no responses, I reapplied a couple weeks later as 'Carl' instead of 'Carlos'.

Almost all of them called back asking for 'Carl.'

What's in a name?

Racial Bias in Hiring

A November 2002 study by the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business

Applicants with "white-sounding" names were 50 percent more likely to get called for an interview.

The most surprising and disheartening result is seeing that applicants with African-American names were not rewarded for having better resumes.

Marianne Bertrand "Racial Bias in Hiring."
University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, November 2002

Kim O'Grady

Photo of Kim O'Grady
I made one change that day. I put Mr in front of my name on my CV. ...I got an interview for the very next job I applied for. And the one after that.

Kim O'Grady "How I Discovered Gender Discrimination."
Tumblr, July 2013

Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students

A November 2012 study by Yale University

Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hire-able than the (identical) female applicant.

Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman "Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students."
Yale University, November 2012

Courtney Wilburn

  • White House LGBTQ Tech & Innovation Fellow
  • PHP and Node.js programmer
  • Public Speaker and Teacher

Courtney Wilburn

The phone and in-person interviews went incredibly well. A few days later, they called saying I was qualified and felt confident I had the ability to perform whatever was required of me, but they felt that I wasn’t a good 'culture fit.'

Courtney Wilburn

I'm incredibly easy-going, so I was mystified by what that meant until I took a second look at the company’s website. If I joined them as a developer, I'd be the only woman there outside of administration, and the only Black person.

"Culture Fit"

The biggest problem is that while we invoke cultural fit as a reason to hire someone, it is far more common to use it to not hire someone.

Katherine Klein "Is Cultural Fit a Qualification for Hiring or a Disguise for Bias?"
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, July 2015

What do you want your company culture to be?

The only way that culture in the workplace is effective is if there are sets of values that help the company achieve its strategy.

Sigal Barsade "Is Cultural Fit a Qualification for Hiring or a Disguise for Bias?"
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, July 2015

Mia Levesque

Your clients don't give a sh*t about your Beer Pong Fridays and foosball tables.

What do we do?



Examine your job listings.

Highly masculine wording used in job postings reduces women’s appeal of the job because it signals that women do not fit or belong in that job.

Stephen Shearman "You Don’t Know It, But Women See Gender Bias in Your Job Postings"
ERE Media, March 2013

Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality

A March 2011 study University of Waterloo Department of Psychology

Words not to use

  • Ninja
  • Rockstar
  • Hacker
  • Cowboy
  • Guys
  • Superhero
  • Jedi
  • Guru

Erin Kissane "Job Listings That Don't Alienate"

"Masculine" themed words

  • Ambitious
  • Analytical
  • Assertive
  • Autonomous
  • Best of the Best
  • Boastful
  • Chairman
  • Competitive Salary
  • Dominate
  • Rigid
  • Takes Risks
  • Hierarchical

"Feminine" themed words

  • Adaptable
  • Choose
  • Collaborate
  • Creative
  • Curious
  • Flexible Schedule
  • Multitasking
  • Imaginative
  • Intuitive
  • Self-Aware
  • Thoughtful
  • Trustworthy

Examine your job interviews.

Melanie Chongolola

The day of my interview, I arrived and the manager took me into his office.

The first thing he said was, ‘After speaking to you on the phone to schedule the interview, I expected somebody white!’.

Interview Questions to Avoid

Sheryl L. Axelrod, Esquire

The Axelrod Firm, PC

Never, under any circumstances, ask interviewees such questions.

If you do, you as an employer are opening yourself up to a discrimination claim.
How old are you?
Do you have children or plan to?
What is your race, color or ethnicity?
What is your religious affiliation?
Are you disabled?

Check local laws


Diversity ≠ Low Quality

Homogeneity = Less Quality

"Diversity Hire"

Realize diversity is an asset.

Marc Coleman

Founder and president of The Tactile Group, LLC.

When we have to choose among equally qualified candidates, we choose the candidate that will best maintain our culture of diversity.

Right now, we could use the perspective of some cisgender straight white men.

Explore new networks.

Diversity Networking Groups

Chris Lema

CTO & Chief Strategist for Crowd Favorite

Pro-actively surround yourself with people who are unlike you.

Choose it. Go out of your way to embrace the difference and learn from it.

Be part of the solution.

Support organizations working to fix the problem.

Diversity Networking Groups

National organizations

Let's make it better!

Tracy Levesque

Co-owner, Co-founder YIKES, Inc.
@LilJimmi   •   yikesinc.com