This LGBTQI+ History Month, Kubrick Diversity Champion Jayanti Popkin explores the criticality of LGBTQI+ representation in the data sector and the steps leaders can make to improve inclusion.
When producing examples of LGBTQI+ technology leaders, the default example given has been Alan Turing, the famous WW2 codebreaker who was recently immortalised on the British £50 note. However, the contribution from members of the LGBTQI+ community has touched so many other areas of technology such as the construction of Linux (Jon Hall), PayPal (John Theil) and complex circuits (Lynn Conway). This narrowed lens on these pioneers of the technology does serve to aid representation to an extent; they demonstrate how instrumental members of the community have been in human advancement. However, as a wider goal it is important for business leaders to understand how essential building an LGBTQI+ workforce not just in key examples, but in the development of the technology industry as a whole.
With the explosion of the data science industry in the past 5-10 years, we have been given a unique opportunity to adopt a bottom-up approach to diversity and inclusion, one already demonstrated by Kubrick Group in their mission to close the gender divide in the data industry. Now as the data sector continues its unstoppable growth, business leaders must seek to create a more inclusive and representative workplace in order to sustain and further the development achieved thus far.
What does LGBTQI+ representation in the data sector look like currently?
Currently across the corporate landscape, representation of the community is nowhere near where it needs to be, with an increasingly low presence of LGBTQI+ people at senior levels and many members of the community reporting exclusionary or offensive language used against them in the workplace and only 6.1% of people at senior management positions being LGBTQI+. [i] It is clear that in order to increase engagement, there will need to be a cultural overhaul to promote tolerance and create a space where LGBTQI+ people feel safe.
Within the data sector specifically, it has been theorised that, to an extent, the autonomy, fluidity, and non-conforming to heterosexual or cis-gender societal norms of the LGBTQI+ community does butt heads with the belief of data being intrinsically objective.[ii] Much of the time, the reluctance to factor in this autonomy into data science comes from a place of logistics or cost, but what many leaders fail to see is that, in many instances, this will undermine the value of the data to the business. Beyond it being morally the right path to pursue, data equity and data inclusivity will help build information which is more representative, accurate and useful.
How does representation add value to data sector?
1. Diversity of thought
It has become clear across all industries that an increase in diversity contributes to a broader range of skills, talents and perspectives within business teams. This increase allows for more ideas and processes, leading to increased productivity.
2. Comprehensive Development
An issue that has become increasingly apparent is the failure for data and technology to be comprehensive when working with a homogenous team, creating discriminatory algorithms and non-inclusive AI as a result. [i] It is pertinent that LGBTQI+ Data Scientists be present in the development of these new technologies in order to ensure that these developments are meeting the interests of the community and that the product is fit for purpose.
3. Building Relationships
By recruiting more from the LGBTQI+ community, the resultant promotion of inclusivity will help in building a workplace which is more tolerant and culturally aware. The trust built through demonstrating strong ethics will result in potential employees viewing employers more favourably, leading to a greater talent pool for a business to access.
4. Social Good
Data science is essential in drawing attention to the under-examined issues faced globally by the LGBTQI+ community. In order to facilitate this increase in visibility, it is crucial for business leaders to help develop LGBTQI+ employees so that their skills can be used to support data-driven research which can result in expanded outlooks and better understanding of the community.
What can business leaders do?
In promoting inclusivity, it is important to tackle the idea of a cis-normative society in which assumptions are made about how someone identifies. Putting your pronouns in your email signature, zoom and LinkedIn helps build a workplace based around identity over presumption.
It is your duty as a leader to ensure you and all your employees are fully educated on matters surrounding the LGBTQI+ community. Where you can, ensure members of the community have the space and platform to communicate key ideas surrounding different genders and sexualities in order to normalise diversity in the workplace.
Seek out members of your workforce to provide a clear point of representation for the community and to provide feedback on the views of your LGBTQI+ employees. By building these channels, you can work to build a more inclusive company in a way which is based on information instead of conjecture.
About the author
Jayanti Popkin (He/Him/His) is a Data Management consultant at Kubrick, currently working to support one of our clients in the financial services. He is a member of the Kubrick Diversity Champions, a working group dedicated to improving policy and providing confidential advice for colleagues on a breadth of topics within DEI. As a member of the LGBTQI+ community, Jayanti is passionate about improving representation in the workforce to drive inclusion, utilising his platform within both Kubrick and his client organisation.