An experiment in diversity and inclusion

January 23, 2019 by Lian Li

Let's face it: the tech industry is not the most diverse. This is particularly true when it comes to engineering in general, and even more so in the operations community (i.e. Ops, DevOps, Infrastructure, etc.).

Gender distribution graph shows DevOps about 25x more likely to be male This graph from last years' StackOverflow survey shows the ratio of men to women in engineering subfields.

 

Diversity and inclusion, however, are not just the right thing to do -- they can also be essential for success.

  • A company that wants to be disruptive needs diversity. It needs people who are capable of thinking outside the box, who have experiences and perspectives different from the people who have been shaping the field for decades.
  • A company that wants employees to take ownership in their work needs to be inclusive. Everyone needs to share in the successes equally -- which means there's no space for in-groups.

Business leaders in every kind of industry are coming to understand these truths, which is why Diversity and Inclusion have become hot-button topics. And it’s great that specifically more and more tech companies -- and also conferences -- have realised the importance of Diversity and Inclusion and have begun reaching out to non-traditional groups.

On the other hand, though, these initiatives are leaving out people who are not marginalised or underrepresented. They see the immense effort that goes into advertising to and hiring specifically from these groups and feel left behind by the very efforts that aim to create a safe and productive place for everyone.

At Container Solutions, even before explicitly naming these values Diversity and Inclusion, we were always committed to disruption and ownership as core company values. It has always been very clear to us that a diverse workforce would provide comprehensive expertise and a broad field of interests, driving us to stay innovative.

Our first efforts were simply to not discriminate in the hiring process -- but, even with a completely blind process, there's no way to hire underrepresented people if none apply.

As a woman myself, I was very skeptical of joining a company that had no other female cloud engineers or consultants. Maybe there were no female engineers because it just didn't happen; that was certainly likely. But there was the risk that maybe the lack was due to employees or management being hostile towards women as engineers. I took a leap of faith and joined Container Solutions -- and found myself in a position where my opinion and unique perspective matter, precisely because they are different.

I realised that we needed to transport this spirit of openness to the outside world to establish CS as a place where marginalised people should and would want to work. It didn't take much convincing on my part before I was empowered to start a Diversity & Inclusion initiative at Container Solutions. The primary objective is to establish Container Solutions as a place where everyone can feel valued and is comfortable to share and contribute without fear of repercussions of any kind.

We do not view diversity as a list of identifiable traits to check off, but in a much broader context, where it represents a way of thinking and acting. To us, diversity means daring to stand out, to be different and to go against the grain, even if that leads to questioning our values and status quo. For this to work, we also need to make sure that our inclusion efforts do not impede the free flow of ideas. We do not practice inclusion despite differences in opinions, but because of them.

At the same time, we want to try and diversify the pond from which we want to fish, so to speak. The tech industry is already very good at funnelling and keeping talent from (mainly) white (mainly) men, but making this industry more appealing to underrepresented people will help us all. Not only will that lead to more fish, but also different sizes, colours and types -- increasing the chances that one of them will be the perfect fit.

Within this initiative, we are going to experiment heavily with techniques, approaches and mid-term goals. This is a genuine priority for all of Container Solutions and so every single employee is asked to participate. We treat this as we would any other project by using the scientific method to set measurable goals and define metrics, evaluate, make changes, then measure again.

Additionally, we aim to make this process as transparent as possible, so keep an eye on this space as we post our findings and the plans for the future that they inspire!

Meanwhile, you are invited to join us at Global Diversity CfP day on Saturday, March 2, at Container Solutions Amsterdam. Global Diversity day was launched to not just encourage but actively mentor those from groups underrepresented/marginalised in tech to write and present their very first conference proposal.

The inaugural event, held last year, featured 53 events around the world on a single day and we are proud to be part of the second annual event. Find out more here.

Or check out the Reflections on Diversity In Tech meetup on February 26, also in Amsterdam. Our good friend Fabio Tiriticco has organized this event to “try and address the issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in our tech world.” Sobhi Khatib, a human rights expert will talk about why diversity is so essential for the tech sector, followed by pizza and drinks, and then a panel discussion.

As Container Solutions Diversity & Inclusion Champion I will be part of the panel, and I hope to see you there!

Add a comment

Lian Li

Lian Li