One statement that really gets to me is when I hear people state that a requirement of an inclusive team is that it is diverse. While many inclusive teams are diverse, NOT all of them are. Diversity and inclusion are two different concepts. You can easily have either one without the other. Let me explain.
I am very passionate about this distinction because I want our industry to become more inclusive AND diverse. In order to do that, everyone needs to understand and recognize the difference between these two words.
is the state of being diverse or having a large variety.
is the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.
A diverse team has many different unique individuals. This should not only include the usual diverse selections such as religion, sex, age, and race, but ALSO additional unique personality characteristics such as introverts and extroverts, liberals and conservatives, etc.
One of the biggest distinctions here is that diversity is the who or the what. You physically have to have multiple people in order to achieve diversity. Inclusivity, on the other hand, is a mindset. You can have a team of one, which is not diverse, but, can be inclusive. Someone who has an inclusive mindset behaves in a way that welcomes and embraces diversity.
The reason I choose to write this post is to help educate people. I often hear people express the idea that an inclusive team HAS to be diverse. Many people feel that if a team is not diverse, then it must have a toxic environment. This is the stereotype I want to break. Don't judge a team based on how diverse it is, judge a team based on how inclusive the people are! No one wants to be judged on their looks, don't judge a team based on its composition.
Especially, at the very beginning when a team is small, it might not have had a chance to become diverse yet. If two male's start a company then should people discount joining them because their team is not diverse? Of course not! What you should be looking for when you are evaluating teams and jobs is not diversity, but inclusivity.
An inclusive team will lift you up and support you. No one on an inclusive team will judge you based on what you look like, what gender you identify with, what your sexual preferences are, etc. An inclusive team will embrace all of who you are and values you for your mind and what you bring to the table above all else. Next time you walk into an interview, don't look around the office looking for diversity. Instead, sit down and talk to as many people as you can and find out how they think. Find out how they act. Are they allies? Do they support those around them?
If a team is inclusive, as it continues to grow, it will naturally end up growing into a diverse team. However, at the very beginning, often those teams will not be diverse.
There are plenty of teams out there that are not diverse and DO have toxic cultures. I am not arguing that there aren't. My point is that when you walk into a place, if the team is not diverse, don't discount them right away. Especially if the team is small, give them a chance! If you talk to a couple people and you get red flags indicating a toxic environment, by all means, walkout the door. But don't judge a team based on how it looks before you talk to them.
On the flip side, there are diverse teams that have toxic cultures. Companies sometimes will hire marginalized individuals in order to check their "diversity" box. Be aware of this as well. If you let the diversity blind you to the actual team culture you could miss a lot of warning flags telling you it is not a great place to work.
I want more than anything for this industry to become more diverse! Diversity is going to bring new and innovative ideas which will allow the tech industry to continue to flourish. But in order to get there we first have to start with inclusivity. The vast majority of teams, in the beginning, are not diverse, but many are inclusive. Seek out those inclusive teams, and when you find one, hold on tight. An inclusive team can take you places you never dreamed of.