LACK OF DIVERSITY ON THE INTERNET – IS IT IMPACTING US AS MUCH AS WE THINK?
The digital realm of technology has changed dramatically over the past decade and continues to change today, specifically due to the influence on diversity and inclusivity of societies and individuals on the internet. It has become clear that challenges with diversity over the internet and in the workplace will continue to be a problem in today’s society and many years to come. However, but acknowledging these issues, maybe some individuals can make a change. To a certain extent, the lack of diversity and cultural acceptance has impacted the development of the internet positively as many individuals and members of society have challenged the degree of acceptance and welcoming nature in the tech industry. However, there is also a negative result as the industry can suffer greatly from a lack of skills and creativity from certain workers. This can be seen through the acceptance of race, gender and age differences on the internet today, and how this has changed over the years.
What is Diversity? How has it changed over the years?
Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another (Global Diversity practice, 2022). Although it was what is usually associated with diversity, diversity goes beyond gender, race or sexual orientation, as it can include geography of members/ clients, age, and roles in your organisation and experiences (Talbert, 2015). Diversity and the lack there is of it on the internet has been a reoccurring issue in society today and over many years in the past, specifically within internet tech companies. It is well known that diversity and inclusion across the board has received heightened attention during the last decade, especially during the latter of the decade as momentum towards progress for underrepresented groups has been limited. However, social movements in the past few years have made an impact, e.g the MeToo and BlackLivesMatter movements have become a big part of the national conversation, prompting individuals and societies to address cultural issues and many injustices within the workplace. More specifically, by instigating a national conversation, the MeToo movement raised the ubiquity of sexual misconduct and the importance of the interplay of gender and power (Umoh, 2019).
Who is impacted?
The internet and the impact of diversity has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, with both the millennials and members of Gen Z playing a big role in leading the charge for increased diversity (Umoh, 2019). The tech industry is a primary example of the impact of diversity on the internets development. According to Ruth Umoh (2019), “The tech sector was one of the first industries to publish regular diversity reports, with other industries late joining what has become an annual rite of passage”. Similarly Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft also released diversity figures in 2014, however progress remained dismal for women and people of colour. Although in the past some companies in this industry are seen fighting for change, this lack of diversity has in turn negatively impacted the development of the internet today.
There has been a lot of media attention around diversity in the workplace, especially gender-related diversity, as we continue to see women getting paid less than men for the same roles. Age and gender – both 22% – are believed to be the top diversity barriers to getting a job in the tech industry (Holmes, 2020). As this continues to circulate tech industries are limiting themselves of getting the opportunity to engage with employees with better creativity and a wider range of skills. Diversity is considered to bring strength, as well as creating an inclusive working environment, as without it the internet will lack what it requires to grow.
The internet has been a predominantly English-language medium for many years with approximately 56% of web content in English, whereas, 75% of the world population not speaking English (Lotti, 2022). These statistics have prompted many countries to take action to engage with and alert more of multilingualism and protect cultural diversity amongst individuals and societies. This is important as its not only an issue of culture, but directs back to the need for future development of the internet. Despite there being a lack of diversity over the internet, some people may see this as a positive in terms of future growth, as it pushes companies in the tech industry to aspire for new possibilities and allow for individuals to be a part of something and express themselves in ways that reflect their national and cultural identities.
Women and Race
The relationship between the internet and diversity, and in more respects cultural diversity more specifically, offers individuals new possibilities to express themselves in ways that reflect their national and cultural identities (Lotti, 2022). However, it is because this lack of diversity that societies and individuals are harmed as they cannot explore these new possibilities. Due to diversity being essential to the development of an inclusive information society, that we look at specific groups such as women and minorities based on race that we understand how these societies are harmed. Gender is considered to be thebiggest diversity barrier (29%), followed by age (19%), and ethnicity (11%) (Holmes, 2020). In the tech sector alone, women are seen making up about half the workforce in the United States but hold just 26% of computing jobs, as well as in many Silicon Valley top companies, less than 20% of tech positions are held by women (Wynn, 2019), reminding us of how women are treated differently in the tech industry to men. Women in particular are targets across a range of platforms, and because of years of disadvantage it leads to mistrust and retreat from the web, therefore depleting diversity online and harming the health of internet and internet users overall (Zawacki, 2017).
Everyone deserves equal opportunity to access the internet, and to use it to improve their lives and societies, and like society, the internet grows stronger with every new voice, thus although both societies and individuals are harmed, it is the internet and tech industry companies that are at disadvantage as they miss out on engaging with new creative skills and knowledge. Ethnic groups and minorities are also significantly harmed by the lack of diversity across the internet. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic was and still is considered to be a living example of how societies are individuals are harmed and/or impacted by diversity. This was seen in a report by McKinsey (2020) that discussed how workers across demographic groups and geographies displayed a similar set of challenges related to a missing sense of connectivity and belonging with colleges, and concerns about job opportunities (Ellingrud, Krishnan, Krivkovich, Kukla, Mendy, Robinson, Sancier-Sultan, Yee, 2020). As a result of the pandemic, many companies research and analytics have shown diverse groups of individuals struggling the most with adjusting back to normal life pre-pandemic, as they don’t feel nearly as supported or offered as many benefits as other more ‘privileged employees’. Progress on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace and the economy as a whole has been slow, and as seen in McKinsey research, companies in the top quartile for diverse leadership teams outperformed less diverse peers on profitability (Ellingrud, Krishnan, Krivkovich, Kukla, Mendy, Robinson, Sancier-Sultan, Yee, 2020).
Therefore, it is clear that although societies and groups, specifically women and other minorities are being harmed, but more significantly, the internet and tech industry is lacking more if they continue to ignore the problem of diversity over the internet.
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