“Acceptance of cultural diversity levels the playing field and removes barriers.”
by Margaret Wright, August 2013
When I look at the many different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds that make up the Oracle community today, I think about the great strides the IT industry has made in the last 10 to 15 years. Such an eclectic mix of individuals working together leads to diversity of thought, which leads to more strategic outcomes. This change did not happen overnight, but we have come a long way, and our industry will only continue to move forward with the scope of talent that now makes up the increasingly diverse Oracle community of users.
I can use my own personal experience to serve as a small-scale example of the bigger picture. My entrance into the IT field began almost 30 years ago when I started an internship my junior year of college as a technical writer at a Massachusetts-based IT company. At the time, I was the only female and the only minority working in this area of IT, and I was treated as such. It became clear that I was viewed by my colleagues as a little sister as opposed to a qualified professional. I had to work all the harder to be taken seriously and accepted as a peer. My next job was the same story. In actuality, I would say it was a similar story for the first 15 to 20 years of my career in IT.
Even in 2007, when I first became a leader in the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG), its board of directors was homogeneous. Today, well over half the board members are women, and the board is made up of a very smart group of men and women with varying races and ethnicities. With such a diverse group leading the organization, the board is able to use its collectively broader perspective to make strategic decisions. This is reflective of the Oracle community at large, which has also been undergoing its own evolution toward greater diversity.
This cultural shift is so important to the IT industry because it facilitates bringing new, fresh ideas to the table. Acceptance of cultural diversity levels the playing field and removes barriers and fears team members may have about bringing their specialized training and expertise to the team, project or organization. When everyone looks alike, acts alike and thinks alike, it can really stifle innovation. When everyone agrees to the same things, we can’t challenge one another to improve and grow. This is not a complacent industry that can thrive on staying within its comfort zone. This is an industry that thrives on creative, diverse perspectives.
I have found that it boils down to that one courageous hiring manager not afraid to stand out, step up, and do the right thing. One with the courage to evaluate, hire, promote, and develop people based on their capabilities. My courageous hiring manager back at my first job not only helped to jumpstart my career, but also changed the overall perception at the office. People saw value in my ideas and began to take me seriously. Others throughout the IT industry have shared the same experience, and we are all better off for it.
Our increasingly gender-blind and color-blind industry has fostered some of the most intelligent and forward-thinking individuals. It is with such balance of opinions that we can look ahead to a more well rounded, multi-faceted and successful future in IT.
Margaret Wright is the president of the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG).