Diversity Should Be Selfish

One company's selfish motivations resonated with its global customer base.

What the h-e-double hockey sticks with this headline, right? Why on earth would I promote the idea that diversity should be selfish? What about inclusion? Unity? Collaboration? Equality? It all depends on who’s being selfish and why.

Earlier this month I found this article on Forbes.com. In it staffer Katheryn Thayer detailed the story of Dots, a 4-year-old mobile app gaming company helmed by co-founder and CEO Paul Murphy. According to the article, he built his company to “make something that would appeal to everyone, not just gamers.”

Since his primary customer base, or players are women, he hired a lot of them, building a 50-person company comprised mostly of women or racial or ethnic minorities. Unlike others in the tech industry, he said doing so wasn’t hard. He lured them in with a flexible work environment, opportunities for development, and deliberately reached out to anyone whose network included the female talent he was trying to acquire. Now, “at Dots, women hold leadership roles in the development, game design, product, marketing, operations and finance teams.”

After that initial wave of women was working, others followed, as like attracted like. Thayer wrote, “Dots also sought cultural diversity for what Murphy calls a ‘selfish reason.’ ”

diverse workplace

A team-first attitude can help unify a diverse workplace.

“Our game is played globally. It’s got a hundred million people that have downloaded and played our products and we think it’s really important that we have a team that reflects in some way the diversity of our player base.” So they’ve made an effort to hire employees from across Asia, Europe and the Americas. “We wouldn’t have been able to build the company without them here.”

We can infer three things from Murphy’s actions:

  1. If you look for and make them welcome, you can find female tech talent.
  2. The quickest way to make a successful diversity strategy work is to ensure top executives take an active role in its creation and execution.
  3. Being selfish is not always a bad thing.

This version of selfish is actually inclusive, unified, collaborative, and most importantly it’s diverse. Or, some facets of it are. I will admit that a primarily female staff might not pass the sniff test under conventional definitions for diversity, but contextually? That’s a different thing.

Bottom line? Diversity can be achieved. Even in industries where its presence has not historically been of value, if leaders believe in the business case and take talent-oriented steps to bring about its deliverance: networking to facilitate recruiting, creating the right culture to support business and talent goals, and ensuring that the global marketplace at large knows of the company’s position on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

According to the article Dots’ international staff were, shall we say, displeased with the recent travel ban. It “hit a nerve for us,” Murphy said. To make it crystal clear the company did not support the ban or that the actions reflected its values, Dots created an in-app pop-up to fundraise for the American Civil Liberties Union.

“In a single Saturday night, Murphy says the team developed a dozen translations of their message and worked out cultural nuances that might affect how players in specific regions, such as Taiwan versus mainland China, might interpret it.” Dots couldn’t track how much money players donated to the ACLU, but their reports showed their efforts drove 500,000 players to donation pages in a single weekend in late January.

I’m sure building Dots’ diverse workforce wasn’t quite as easy and straightforward as it seemed in this article. But it proves that with a little strategy and effort, it can be done.

Kellye Whitney is associate editorial director for Workforce. Comment below or email editor@workforce.com.