Engineering of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The following was first shared as my comments on another's post on social media on the subject of whether ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts being made in the world could benefit from tackling the problem from an engineering mindset.

It's a very interesting question. One that is difficult to write about critically without being misunderstood, but I'm going to try here. 

I've been a bit of a passive skeptic about all the talk on this subject and perhaps more so on the actions I've observed being taken which appear, in most cases, to be more concerned with the optics of what is being done than the outcomes of the efforts. One could argue that this is classic virtue signaling.

I like the article because it suggests that we ought to engineer a solution to the problem. I agree but wonder if we can engineer any solution to any problem without understanding the root causes of the problem.

Our challenge in this arena is that we often start with stereotypical assumptions about those causes, in part because exploring it further risks significant discomfort or even loss of standing in one's community or with one's employer.

Another challenge is that we assume that generalized reasons and rationale apply broadly to a wide spectrum of individuals without really knowing them as individuals, unique in so many ways beyond the meager identifiers of race, sex, age, ethnicity, sexual preference, gender identity, etc.

Individuals and interactions are far more complex than identities and equity. And nowhere in general DEI conversations have I noticed any interest in motives, desires, interests, and attraction to the things we often target for balance in diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

I wonder if we would have more success by focusing on individuals and attracting them to roles they might not have otherwise considered by better understanding their individuality than by their commonly identifiable identity markers.

And I wonder if we discover that the individual desires something else entirely that seems unattainable but does not align with our DEI goals, will we be just as interested in helping that one individual when it won't show up in our desired outcome statistics. Maybe that's the human element missing from our engineering mindset.

So what is to be done? Can we engineer ourselves out of this problem? As engineers, we tend to ignore the social visibility campaigns and try to solve the problem. It's the Dilbert Knack in all of us. 

My hope is that we'll learn how to fix the human side of things that, for what must be a variety of reasons, have left some populations behind in this digital new world we have created. 

And along the way, maybe those we've left behind can teach us a thing or two about what we've given up. That is my hope, that we will preserve humanity in the digital world.