Hacking Diversity


Inclusion Hack

Everywhere you look, someone is tacking the word “hack” onto something, to the point that it’s lost emotive power. Life hacks, cooking hacks,relationship hacks, etc. However, the Inclusion Hack is the exception that proves the rule — nowhere is “hack” more applicable. (And it works on multiple levels)

The Inclusion Hack is a live event hosted by the ITEM (Inclusive Technology and Entrepreneurship Movement) Wednesday, November 1st! I spoke with the ITEM’s founder, Kahiga Tiagha about it. For the td;dr’s out there, fear not, there is an audio clip below. 


NOTE: The date has changed to November 1st!



Inclusion Hack is a two-pronged attack. One prong is flipping the job hunt paradigm on its head for individuals looking to break into tech. New techies often work on small projects behind the scenes to build their skills, but have nowhere to showcase them. The ITEM spoke with tech leaders on their hiring needs and Inclusion Hack will provide new techies the opportunity to demonstrate their skills to these employers. They hope to have 50 open positions to fill on the 1st!

The second prong is a medium for exchanging ideas and best practices on inclusion and diversity. Inclusion Hack has reached out to employers who are championing diversity and want to impart what they’ve learned while also learn from others. There will be a very important conversation about diversity and some of the shortcomings in the tech sector as of late. (Think Uber and Google)

Inclusion Hack is sponsored by Delphic Digital, Rogue Studios, and AskMentor Enterprise. Again, Inclusion Hack is happening Wedesday, November 1st. Go to inclusionhack.com for more information and to sign up. Email Kahiga at theitemphilly@gmail.com if you need to speak with him directly, or you’re an interested employer.

Diversity Examined


Unfortunately, diversity or lack thereof, is an issue deeply seeded in our history. The emotional baggage attached makes it hard to examine as a principle.

It is no secret that people tend to hire those that look like them. According to The Enterprise Center’s (TEC) 2015 Master Growth Plan:


"Research conducted by Wayne State University Professor Timothy Bates shows that the average white-owned firm located in a predominantly minority community employs a workforce that is 35 percent minority. In contrast, a minority-owned firm in a minority community will employ a workforce that is more than 85 percent minority."


As you’ll hear in my interview with Kahiga, government contracts often help sustain businesses and provide the avenue for them to scale. This becomes a major problem when government contracts aren’t awarded diversely. Again from TEC:


"Out of all of the City’s [Philadelphia] contracts, 14.6% of them were awarded to MBEs, and MBE-awarded contracts only represent 8.4%, of the total dollar amount of all awarded contracts. (Source: City of Philadelphia Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Disparity Study)."


To be clear, this is very unrepresentative of Philadelphia’s demographics. Whites make up only 44.8% of the population. Because minority owned businesses employ 85% minority workers, if more government contracts were awarded to minority owned businesses, economic inclusion would follow.

Sadly, we’re in a hostile environment toward diversity and inclusion. Many white people argue against affirmative action, calling it “reverse racism.” Instead, they say, we should live in a meritocracy, a society where the best candidate is chosen, regardless of race — and I completely agree. However, upon interpreting available data, these arguments quickly fall apart.

For example a Vox article from 2016 states, “the National Bureau of Economic Research found that applicants with stereotypically white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to get a callback than applicants with stereotypically African-American-sounding names.”

This is from a FiveThirtyEight review from 2015:


 Source: FiveThirtyEight

Source: FiveThirtyEight

"Black and Hispanic students are still vastly underrepresented at these colleges overall, and they fare even worse in states with bans on affirmative action. Black students are underrepresented by at least 20 percent at 79 percent of the country’s research universities; only two research universities in states with affirmative action bans have at least the same proportion of black students as the state’s college-age population, and one of those, Florida A&M University, is a historically black college or university (HBCU)."



And here is a pie chart from Mark Kantrowitz at finaid.org:


 Source:  finaid.org

Source: finaid.org


Interestingly, per another Vox article, white emphasis on meritocracy appears weighted toward whether or not in benefits them. These results are from a study released in 2013 by Frank L. Samson, Department of Sociology, University of Miami. Half of the participants were told that Asian-American students make up 40% of the University of California population compared with being only 12% of the general state population. These were the results:


"Nonetheless, Samson found that white Californians had inconsistent views on how much weight should be given to test scores when evaluating applicants. White Californians were much more likely to emphasize GPA when they perceived black people as their competition. However, when they compared themselves to Asian applicants and were told that Asian students are overrepresented on college campuses, white Californians deemphasized the importance of GPA."


This so called “reverse-racism” fails every metric we have. But still the belief persists. According to a 2016 Pew Research survey, whites and blacks are “worlds apart,” on perception of black life in America. 38% of white Americans believe all of the changes for blacks to have equal rights have already been made, compared to 8% of blacks who feel the same way*.

[*Note: There appears to be ambiguity in Pew’s statement. Technically, blacks and whites do have equal rights. However it is the way these rights are treated and exercised that is of issue. For example, every citizen has the “right” to due process, but if the courts are unfairly sentencing African Americans, the equal “right” is a moot point.]

 Source:  Pew Research .

Source: Pew Research.

Here is another look at the vastly different perception of black life in America:

It appears that some whites view opportunity as zero-sum, meaning that more opportunity for minorities means less for whites. This is completely false. There are even some “white-only” scholarships that have been created as a response. While these beliefs are not based in reality, they do have real implications for the life outcomes of real people.

As always, education seems like the best option — both in terms of providing more educational opportunities to minorities as well as educating misguided white folks about the “reverse-racism” myth and the benefits of diversity — and there are empirical benefits. Although this piece focused only on race, a 2016 Morgan Stanley gender diversity review stated that “high gender diversity companies have delivered slightly better returns, with lower volatility, compared with their low diversity or sector peers, and they have moderately outperformed on average in the past five years.”

All this is to say that although we have made significant strides in diversity, there is still much work to be done. The ITEM and Inclusion Hack are certainly doing some of that work and you can too. Visit inclusionhack.com to sign up and please get the word out! Inclusion Hack is Wednesday, November 1st.