back to article You can't deepfake diversity, and that's a good thing

"My other car is a Porsche" was never the most convincing of claims you could make while out drinking on a Friday night, but it's as real as the Pope's Catholicism compared to the speaker list for the DevTernity developer conference. There, the otherwise pure male roster was de-bro-ed by "Anna Boyko, purportedly a staff engineer …

  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    Would adding a family of South Korean people to a group of North American indigenous people considered as being diverse ?

    Eventually this would thin out the indigenous people and we would be risk of losing their culture.

    Where do you put the bar between Diversity and Culture ?

    1. t245t Silver badge
      Boffin

      We in technology were diverse long before it became fashionable

      Khaptain: “Would adding a family of South Korean people to a group of North American indigenous people considered as being diverse ? Eventually this would thin out the indigenous people and we would be risk of losing their culture. Where do you put the bar between Diversity and Culture ?

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        "We in technology were diverse long before it became fashionable."

        Have a quick google search limiting the results just to the The Register and I am sure that it will quickly confirm that many of the Register's articles show quite the contrary. It's a subject that has been debated many times..

        The Register.com Diversity

        1. t245t Silver badge
          Boffin

          > Have a quick google search limiting the results just to the The Register and I am sure that it will quickly confirm that many of the Register's articles show quite the contrary. It's a subject that has been debated many times..

          Diverse as in we don't care what your genetic inheritance is. Not the contemporary business practice of attempting to boost their ESG score /s

    2. HuBo
      Happy

      False dichotomy?

      I could be misunderstanding your suggestion but I do not see a bar between Diversity and Culture. It seems to me that the existence (coexistence even) of multiple cultures is an important component of diversity, and that a monoculture would be rather non-diverse.

      In agriculture, we've found monocultures to be very efficient over short time periods, but to also lead to decreased soil fertility, decreased ecosystem services and functions, decreased robustness to stressors and pathogens, and an overall lack of long-term sustainability. Diversity it seems, is crucial for long-term success, and planting fake plastic carrots into a field of potatoes likely won't cut it.

      I'd expect the exact same thing when growing people (or conferences, industries, ...), obviously!

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      Nice straw man

      No one is forcing people to expand their family by adding South Koreans or whatever it is you're suggesting. Nor is anyone forcing them to interbreed and "thin out the indigenous people" lol!

      Even if you were just suggesting a South Korean family moving in next door to a native American family I don't see why you think that would damage the culture of either. They don't have to adopt each others culture just because they live in proximity, just respect that the other has a right to their own culture.

      That's what most of the people who hate diversity are worried about. They don't want to have to accept living next door to anyone who is different from them, because they are too fragile to accept people with views or culture differing from theirs have a right to exist. So they invent fantasies like the Great Replacement Theory that "white culture" (which for most of the loudest means white southern culture) will go away because there will be too many "others". The only southern culture that will go away is the worship of states of traitors from the Civil War.

  2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    "My other car is a Porsche"

    ~40 years ago the company MD drove a Porsche. I could never persuade him to get a bumper sticker reading "my other car is a clapped out 2CV".

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: "My other car is a Porsche"

      Boss has a "my other car is electric" sticker on their Tesla.

  3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    What sort of diversity?

    For technology you want (need?) diversity of thought. What HR usually hires for is diversity of sex, gender or skin colour, i.e. things which in a photo will shout "Look! Diversity!" and gain the company brownie points. Unless you can show the latter sort of diversity necessarily produces the former, there's no win. As a counter example, I strongly suspect that the skin colour of Old Etonians makes sod all difference to their thinking(*). So are there any peer reviewed papers on correlation between the various sorts of diversity? If not, we're running on happy thoughts and Just So stories.

    (*) Pro example: I've worked with quite a few people diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome. They are truly wonderful people to have as colleagues, especially for someone like me who's very "seat of the pants" in my approach.

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: What sort of diversity?

      Agree. I don’t disagree with the body test and the whole D&I ethos. I do disagree with the garbage ‘correlation does not imply causation’ grade strap line though. That may just require a barking mad workshop session or focus group.

      “Fresh thinking and new approaches can only come from varied cohorts of people”

  4. big_D Silver badge

    Reverse diversity...

    When I started in IT, about 40% of the office was women and there were diverse races in the mix as well. That was in the 80s. I worked at a large consultancy and 2/3 of my bosses over the 15 years I was there were women and they were much better managers than most of the men I worked for.

    In more recent years, each new job I've had has been less diverse - and not for want of trying, in my current job, we looked for a couple of new co-workers for 18 months, no females applied, although we did end up with a Ukranian and a Turk joining us, as well as 2 native Germans. I suppose you could call me diverse, as I am a British immigrant, working in Germany...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reverse diversity...

      "in more recent years, each new job I've had has been less diverse - and not for want of trying"

      Possibly because employers are trying so hard to tick the boxes, so there's quite remarkable competition for some groups of people. Case in point - a female relative recently graduated (just) with a 3rd class engineering degree from a tier 3 university. Walked straight into a job, turned down multiple offers and had to beat them off with a dirty stick. Her boyfriend, same course, same uni, but first class honours too several months longer, multiple interviews with no offer, and eventually had to grab the first one who offered him anything.

      In my own job, we've recently recruited a whole load of around 40 interns for one year placement. The makeup of this group is so unrepresentative of the population at large, in terms of the recruited group having vastly more diverse characteristics than the UK population, the only logical explanation is recruitment bias. Perhaps if this were a one off I'd accept it as sample variation, but wherever I look I see similar evidence.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Reverse diversity...

        In 18 months, with the ads on the website and all of the job portals for Germany, we had less than 8 responses for admins. We took 4 of them, but 2 were re-trained and have no real knowledge of IT, so we are having to train them up.

        We just happen to be in a region that isn't fashionable - we are in a rural town and a lot of people only want to work in the big cities, so finding anybody is often hard.

        On the other hand, I get head hunters contacting me constantly for jobs in Munich, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt or Berlin. Thanks, but not thanks. I like the job I have and I like the region I live in. I have a higher standard of living than when I would work in a big city, even though I'd theoretically earn more.

  5. big_D Silver badge

    It just works...

    I do remember sending out an application to the customer in the late 90s. It was issued to their regional offices in around 60 countries around the world. After 2 years, we'd had 2 bug reports! And one of those was a bug in Windows.

    I'd written the spec and the test cases before the other programmers started on the project and everything just seemed to click with the project. It was probably my proudest moment.

    The Windows bug? There was a Win32 API for returning the month names in the local language... I tested it on German and French Windows, as well as British English. It worked fine. Then we started getting bug reports when it landed in the different countries. They weren't using local language versions of Windows, they were all using "International English" and a bug in the API meant it returned "January" as the name of all 12 months! After talking to the client, we just hard coded it to January through December as all employees had to speak English and the local translation wasn't necessary.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's very politically correct to talk about "lack of diversity" and there seems to be an implicit assumption that diversity is always a good thing and that something must be done to address the lack of it. I'd venture that in reality, that there are actually very few situations where there is any advantage in having a very diverse workplace.

    It's incredibly hard to take a very diverse group of people and then expect them all to have compatible values, work nicely with each other and sing from the same hymn sheet. In the real world, some people are borderline incompatible with each other.

    Surprising as it may seem, every project doesn't need (reads from this month's checklist): a man, a woman, a white person, a black person, an oriental, an indian, an arab, a native american, a billionaire, a homeless person, a scientist, an artist, a yankee, a confederate, a protestant, a catholic, an Israeli, a Palestinian, a university professor, a high-school dropout, a war veteran, a hooker, a disabled person, a convicted criminal and a bunch of people with rainbow coloured hair. Perhaps if you need a focus group for a product that needs to appeal to a wide range of people then it's worthwhile, but that is a rare exception. Most of the time all you actually need is a bunch of people with the right skills who can work well together.

    People from different backgrounds see things in different ways, which might (in theory at least) help solve a difficult problem, but how often does that actually happen in real life? More likely you find that arguing over lots of contradictory ideas and opinions at every meeting is just frustrating and inefficient. Whereas people with a similar kind of mindset (whatever their background) can often work very well with each other and achieve a lot.

    Perhaps we should relabel "diversity" as "lack of homogeneity". Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating discriminating against people of any kind. But I think we should stop the box ticking exercises and just hire whoever is best for the job. It really doesn't matter if people of any particular group are under-represented, provided they are not being deliberately excluded.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      inefficient

      "arguing over lots of contradictory ideas and opinions at every meeting"

      Replace the whole lot.

    2. veti Silver badge

      It's not about "helping solve a difficult problem". It's about not making unnecessary assumptions, or at least being aware when you are making them so you can think about their effects and test for them.

      This, incidentally, is why I worry when I see and hear about "activist" workforces putting pressure on their employers to take sides on (this or that). Because that's a tell for lack of diversity in the workforce. The assumption that all "right-thinking" people see things the way you do is the root of about half the evil in our world.

    3. NeilPost Silver badge

      Would it be discriminatory to talk about unconscious bias from diverse employee’s.

      Some countries around the world have horrible discrimination and ingrained misogyny in society

      Saudi Arabia, Iran, USA, UK…

    4. Tim Wolfe-Barry

      "It's incredibly hard to take a very diverse group of people and then expect them all to have compatible values, work nicely with each other and sing from the same hymn sheet"

      Very true; BUT it's worth the effort.

      BBC published an article a while back (here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-49582852) pointing out the ways that the US (Western) Intelligence Establishment completely underestimated Bin Laden in the lat '90s, arguably leading directly to the 9/11 attacks. The premise is that a more diverse community working for the US government might have understood the message and prevented the attacks...

      I work in a team that is incredibly diverse in background, nationality, skin colour, sexual preference, age etc, etc and yes it IS sometimes hard to agree on things; but generally people listening to each other and working from a basis of good-will tend to get to the right answer in the end.

      Even if it takes us a bit longer to get to our answer than a cluster of 50yr-old white men might, I feel pretty sure that 9 times out of 10 we get to a better answer than any monocultural group would; and that is the benefit of having (and listening to) all those points of view.

      **(Notwithstanding the above; I agree both that box-checking Diversity Surveys are a waste of perfectly good electrons and that any group of Old Etonians (or similar cadre of over-privileged representatives of the establishment education system of your choice) are probably a monoculture of thought no matter how apparently diverse they may appear!)

  7. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Can't check the avatar now

    The nasty part of me thinks the conference made up a woman (or multiple women) because the real candidate speakers were not "hot" enough. But nobody could be that juvenile, correct?

  8. imanidiot Silver badge

    "This is most plausibly due to lack of staff, especially the most experienced, due to sector contraction during COVID causing early retirement and career changes."

    Nah, especially for Aviation that's exceptionally shortsighted. It's part of it, but there's been lots and lots of pressure from the general upheaval of the aviation business as a whole that's having repercussions on all sorts of levels and bad management decisions are definitely also part of the mix, with financial decisions seemingly starting to get a stronger footing and pushback from flight crews becoming less effective.

  9. nijam Silver badge

    > ...they'll get pretty angry for good reason.

    Presumably your point is that "a good reason" isn't simply that they've been found out?

  10. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Why does any mention of diversity - like any mention of climate change - turn the El Reg commentariat into a frothing subset of theDaily Mail's gammon?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because, just like climate change, it's a nice political topic and we all must be seen 'doing something' but in reallity we don't give a damn.

      Anon cause I really don't give a damn about diversity (good in some cases bad in other) or climate change (it's not our doing, we just made it happen sooner).

  11. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Affinity

    "My other car is a Porsche"

    It's like advertising how one is uneducated or the affinity for a certain past German regime ran by a moustachioed aquarellist.

  12. Jeff 11

    I think diversity is great when it's a side-effect of good hiring - but not when it's a corporate goal or cultural bugbear.

    Two principal things I look for in a candidate for roles I've interviewed for in the past:

    - is the individual capable of doing the job, or can be made so in the short-term?

    - can they communicate sufficiently well to facilitate this in a team?

    I find that hiring individuals whose first language is not English can *sometimes* be an obstacle to the latter, although never one that's been insurmountable given enough patience. Any other identifying characteristic - age, ethnicity, gender etc - is a total irrelevance.

    But I would not waste valuable time fishing around for some diversity box-ticking unicorn candidate when there are individuals who match the above criteria within reach - and would opt myself out of the hiring process if asked to do so.

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