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Diversity Shouldn’t be a Vanity Project

Jun 24, 2019 10:00:00 AM By Katie McCaskey


When you think of someone working in the “tech industry” -- who do you see? Do you imagine a young white man in jeans and modish t-shirt behind a laptop? Perhaps.

This stereotype, and all the negative ramifications, led Lani Rosales (@LaniAR) to compile a list of female technology leaders in Austin, Texas. She was tired of the excuse that conference organizers couldn’t find “enough” qualified women to speak. Moreover: she didn’t want women participants seen as a “consolation prize” or used to merely tick off a “diversity checkbox”.

Mark Miller had a chance to chat with Rosales on his DevSecOps podcast which you can listen to here:


Most interestingly, the conversation includes discussion of “diversification as vanity”. What does that mean exactly? It means that some conference planners make the mistake of adding “diverse” panel participants for superficial reasons. This serves no one. Lani proposes the opposite - "Let's not remove male speakers, let's add female speakers."

Here are key takeaways from it that I couldn’t agree more with:

Diversity enriches perspectives, it doesn't diminish or dilute.

Differing points-of-view add to the discussion and may spark debate, but are vital to fostering the creativity necessary for innovation. Leaders should view diversity as a competitive tool. Companies with greater diversity are shown to have stronger results and better bottom line performance.

Being the token “fill-in-the-blank” can be advantageous.

Lani says her experience being the “token woman” was something she used as an advantage in her career. She concedes this is a controversial take because privilege comes in many forms. However, if you find yourself in the position of being the “only one,” you can find strength by embracing it.

More women need to step into speaking roles.

Lani says that many women don’t consider themselves speakers. However, participating in a panel will raise your individual professional profile. Speaking in public also reminds audiences how many women work in technology. If you know a woman who should speak at a conference, recommend her. If you are one, get involved!

Women and minorities always have been, and will continue to be, important contributors in tech. Let’s add more together.