AudioMob is one of the very few Black-owned technology companies in the industry. In recognition of Black History Month, CTO and Co-Founder Wilfrid Obeng shares his thoughts on the need for more diversity in tech.
According to a recent Evening Standard piece titled “The UK tech industry has a diversity problem — if we don’t close the gap, we will fall behind,” there were several disturbing statistics about the lack of diversity in tech. Only 5% of leadership positions in the UK tech sector are women, while 4% of the UK tech workforce are Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME).
Co-founding AudioMob with Christian Facey meant changing the digital advertising space for the better through our non-interrupting audio ads. It also meant switching notions of diversity as a scale-up tech company. Understanding the obstacles many women and people of colour face within the tech industry, we at AudioMob make it our mission to be the difference.
Companies with high levels of ethnic and cultural diversity were 33% more likely to outperform their competitors, according to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report. Being leaders within the in-game audio advertising sector of the gaming industry is one thing. Having that same leadership in how we form a diverse team of individuals from multiple backgrounds is just as important. We fulfil our goal for inclusion by utilising three pillars within our company.
A company is an amalgamation of society. Through no fault of their own sometimes, many executives at certain tech companies live in a professional bubble that excludes many women and ethnic minorities from their core foundation. Knowing everyday systemic biases allows us to be mindful of how those biases can fester within the professional world. Values and missions need to encompass a wider range of individuals.
On a practical level, the habits and cultures within a company need to be more inclusive. Make safe spaces for employees to embrace their individuality. Avoid communication that could be possibly interpreted as microaggressions. Understanding team members and their backgrounds can provide insight on how to utilise them better. You would also be surprised by the wealth of information gained from having a diverse team.
Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional. With that said, companies have to be better at how they communicate with their employees. It all starts with companies being self-aware of biases while doing everything possible to remove them.
Company culture also reflects individuals willingness to engage with them. According to studies, 33% of consumers choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social and environmental good.
When trying to build a global business, there has to be a team that reflects that. It’s human nature to feel safe around like-minded individuals. That can be problematic for business because a company needs diverse people. Having a diverse and inclusive team means individuals will likely challenge the status quo, which leads to innovation.
Most importantly, a company is going to need a team that reflects potential customers and clients.
What about issues with voice recognition failing to recognise dialects? We’ve seen examples of how the lack of diversity in company ranks can hurt brand recognition. Recruitment has to reflect the global business model. This means companies shouldn’t just recruit from one source.
AudioMob’s mentoring programme is a direct result of UK tech companies recruitment process. The programme’s design initially helps Black students aged 18 – 25 years old though we never refuse to help anyone from any background. Through mentoring, we hope to one day balance the recruitment scale and give everyone a chance to compete within the global tech industry.
Retention and progression
Once companies hire more women and ethnic minorities, it’s critical for them to retain them. Making sure honest practices or company policies apply to everyone helps in maintaining higher retention levels. No company wants to be a revolving door of employees making the same comments about microaggressions, lack of equal pay and problems with advancement. Having a lacklustre reputation in those areas can eventually hurt a company’s bottom line. It’s crucial to hold well qualified diverse candidates who work at their highest ability.
Progression is another area of retention. Entry-level roles can’t be the only opportunities available. Having women and ethnic minorities in senior leadership positions at a company really helps employees see their ability to progress. Therefore, they’re more likely to stay at the company instead of going somewhere else with better progression opportunities or leave the workforce entirely for entrepreneurship.
Diversity shouldn’t be considered an add on but an area integrated and baked within the company. Understanding and utilising the differences between people makes a company more successful and, in turn, will likely ensure that staff are retained and loyal.