The tech sector doesn’t only have a diversity problem in the workforce – tech workers and leaders often live in an online social bubble of… well, men. Mostly white men.
When the echo chamber of the community spills into social platforms, it’s too easy to find yourself in a homogenous bubble, which can be so large and opaque that it eclipses the world outside of it.
And that is dangerous to us as people, as world citizens, as tech makers and users.
Yes, the Twitter feed diversity problem is real.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact – Elon Musk didn’t follow a single woman on Twitter until October of 2016 – and only then because a Motherboard article called him out on it.
Musk isn’t alone – The Guardian looked at the Twitter accounts of several male tech leaders and found that they followed between two and eleven times as many men as women. The CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, for instance, followed 238 men and 29 women at last count (also in 2016).
And that’s just the male to female ratio, they didn’t even touch on people of color or the LGBTQ communities.
When you consider that most founders of tech startups in America are white, and that the average white American only has one black friend (75% of white Americans don’t have any black friends), it’s clear that not only do most of us in tech live and work in our bubble, we’re so far inside it that it can be hard to imagine how to climb out.
I suggest you start by diversifying your life and work by inviting in different ideas and opinions on Twitter.
No, it’s not going to fix the diversity problem in tech or lead to world peace. But at least it’s a start.
How can you diversify your feed?
As with making most changes, awareness is the first step.
It’s easy to look at the list of people you follow on Twitter and feel fairly satisfied that you do have a diverse group. The human mind is funny that way – we see what we expect to see.
Try this app, Proporti.onl, to see how your feed really stacks up. If you’re surprised by your results, and feel like you’ve got a long way to go, that’s okay – I’m still working on diversifying my feed, too.
Consider all types of diversity
Diversity doesn’t just mean ethnicity or the spectrum of LGBTQ, it’s also about cultural diversity, people who believe, think and act differently than you.
That isn’t to say you should befriend people who don’t share (or who are actively against) your core values, but try to recognize and respect other ways of being.
Don’t just add – listen
James Governor, co-founder of RedMonk, wrote about his effort to diversify his Twitter feed and made a very important point – it’s not enough just to add people who are different than you, you also have to listen to them. And that’s not always comfortable.
“Question your assumptions. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll be smarter for it, and learn crucial lessons in empathy. Sometimes it’s the little things.”
The benefits will be worth the effort. When you listen with an open mind to what different people are saying (and yes, complaining about) you gain insight into how to treat people with more sensitivity, and communicate more effectively.
As Governor also notes:
“…following a broader range of people means that suddenly – surprise – it’s a lot easier to find amazing speakers for tech events.”
Perhaps, most importantly for us in tech, this is an exercise in empathy. When we have empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – we build better products, better user experiences, and better relationships in and outside of work.
Not sure where to start? Here’s my shortlist of diverse voices who are sure to add unique, smart perspectives to your Twitter feed:
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