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Tech’s attempts to diversify are failing. Here’s what to do instead

While tech companies have pledged to do better with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), many of these commitments have yet to translate to tangible change—and in some cases, we seem to be moving backwards.

As 2020’s protests for racial justice heightened the spotlight on tech’s continued diversity problem, we saw tech leaders respond with public statements and commitments to increase diversity in their workforces. However, little progress has been made to meet the goals they’ve publicly committed to and diversity numbers are still dismal. Even more troubling, we continue to see reports of continuing discrimination and censorship in tech workplaces. In the last few months alone, several prominent Black women have been pushed out of tech companies in hugely public ways: The prominent AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru was forced out of Google in December, and earlier in 2020 Aerica Shimizu Banks and Ifeoma Ozoma went public with allegations of discrimination at Pinterest.

These stories speak louder than any press release or platitude could.

It’s long past time to acknowledge that current approaches to diversity simply aren’t working. We can’t continue to hide behind “diversity is so important, but I want the best”—it is not “but”; it is “and.” We can have both, but top-down DEI initiatives alone will not get the job done or get us past the status quo of “big talk, incremental action.” Without fundamental change and a ground-up approach to increasing diversity in tech, marginalized communities will only face further setbacks and see progress backslide and the tech industry will miss out on the innovation that’s only possible with diverse teams.

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