When global business and technology leaders sneeze, all ecosystems that look up to them inadvertently catch a cold. The current flu doing rounds is one called diversity and it has caused those of us in the Silicon Savannah to take a hard look inward at the manifest symptoms of deficiency. The diversity agenda sounds great on paper and presentations but the practicalities of it are most difficult even in light of glowing recommendation from organizations, mostly large that have benefited from policies that apply a measurable metric to it.
The definition of the diversity that I refer to, is best captured by the online collective as “encompassing acceptance and respect; understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing individual differences that can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies in a safe, positive, and nurturing work place environment.”
In the West and among the tech fraternity, the issues are predominantly around gender, race and ethnicity given the cosmopolitan nature of their ecosystems while in Africa the heavy cloud is around gender. Despite efforts at women in STEM; science, technology, engineering and mathematics at various levels, there is still a dearth of representation when it comes to critical roles in the c-suite and boards of technology companies and most important at the founder level of tech inclined startups.
Fresh from a tour of Africa with DemoAfrica seeking out the next wave of startups and mentor sessions in multiple continents with Google’s Launchpad Accelerator for growth stage companies, the issue weighs heavy on my mind and I do not currently have a panacea. So many moving parts, that all I have now is question upon question on what is a very delicate matter to address, depending on the audience and approach taken.
Is the problem self-inflicted and perpetrated? Are we doing enough to create balance? Do we need specific interventions? What is at the heart of the matter? How do we avoid polarity and entitlement while encouraging personal responsibility and drive, if it is something we agree on? Are we even addressing it right?
What I know for sure is that we are here now and have inched forward in awareness and are actively applying ourselves to much needed balance. Realism says to give it time and not expect overnight tectonic shifts. The business of building value through well thought out products and services must continue in parallel with efforts at diversity in all the ways it can be construed.