Why We Need More Women of Color In the Workplace

by Jennifer Valdez

The website Pixel Envy recently revealed that ethnic minorities account for only 1-9 percent of global workforces in the tech industry. In the wake of the world’s top tech corporations coming together for the third annual FOCUS conference (which took place earlier this month), the group announced its aim to increase diversity in the tech world. The host of this year's conference was DigitalUndivided, a social enterprise that develops programs which increase the active participation of urban communities, especially women, in the digital spaces.

I caught up with Kathryn Finney, the founder and managing director of DigitalUndivided at the conference to discuss the importance of bringing women of color into the workforce. Here are five reasons Finney says diverse women are needed in the workforce: to scale demographics, to spark innovation, to reach a key market, because women of color are underestimated, and because all women are unique and magical creatures.

1) To scale the company’s demographics

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A diverse workforce drives economic growth. “There are just not enough white dudes in the world to only have companies full of white guys.” Finney says. “So if you’re going to scale your company, you’re going to have to be able to reach out to diverse people. You have to have women. You have to have people of color. You have to have women of color.”

Any company known for its ethics, fair employment practices, and appreciation for diverse talent is far more able to attract a larger pool of qualified applicants. In return, those employees will be able to attract a larger demographic.

2) They’re an amazing market

“[Women of color] spend on a variety of categories — not just beauty and fashion,” said Finney. Let’s face it, women are a valuable market to target because they buy what appeals to them — and men also buy what appeals to women. By having a diverse group of women on a team, companies have different use-cases that they may not have known about otherwise.

3) They hold the power of being underestimated

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“I think being a woman, and in particular being a black woman, is very beneficial because we’re almost invisible. That means we can do things in a stealth mode and by the time people recognize we did it, it’s already done. It’s an amazing advantage,” Finney tells us. There is an incredible power in being underestimated. Even Jay Pharoah recognizes this, which is why he stresses the importance of having more women of color on SNL.

4) A diverse workplace is a happy workplace

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Diversity makes for a much more interesting workforce. It fosters creativity and innovation. The environment in which we work in is so important. It’s more than just a job. It’s a lifestyle, and research has proven that people who have a lot of diversity in their lives (who know a lot of people and different activities) are happier.

Britt Rients, a happiness coach, inspirational speaker, and author of "In Pursuit of Happiness," claims that if everyone around you thinks like you then it's easy to be stagnant. While being around like-minded people may be comforting for the soul, it's not good for the brain. There are many different strengths and talents that diversity brings to the workplace, which fosters mutual respect among employees.

5) The world needs more unicorns

As an African-American women working in the tech industry, Finney refers to herself as a “triple unicorn.” Every woman should embrace the essence of her inner unicorn, and every company should have a range of these secretly beautiful and magical creatures on their team. Take it from Mindy Kaling — the creator, writer, producer and star of The Mindy Project — who describes herself as "a proud chubby 33-year-old Indian-American female comic." Now that's a unicorn!

Although Finney speaks on behalf of the tech industry, it's safe to say that all companies can benefit from having a team of diverse women on their side. If companies want to reach larger demographics in the world, they've got start within the walls of the workplace. If more and more companies were solely staffed by all white males then we wouldn't be evolving much as a country.

We pat ourselves on the back as a country for growing in equality over the past 50 years but, to be frank, not much has changed in the workplace. We might not be in the days of Mad Men where secretaries are given names like "honey" and "darling" but sexism hasn't diminished — it's just more concealed. In the world of Oprah, Hilary Clinton, and Beyonce, you would think we'd have more female leaders stepping up. But according to Forbes, most women, and especially women of color, are not given a shot to take charge.

Images: Getty (3), PatrickPKPR/Imgur