The Importance of Diversity

Hello French Fries!

I hope you are all recovering well from a three day weekend undoubtedly full of too much food and great family memories. What is family without knowing that love is unconditional? I spent my relatively low-key Christmas day ordering Chinese food which never arrived, arguing with the proprietor on the phone four hours after it was supposed to be delivered to cancel my order, and binge watching season 9 of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. If you haven’t seen Curb Your Enthusiasm, I highly recommend it. It’s a great satirical look at the egotistical, self-righteous neurosis that is Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Larry David is a comic genius, and this show is his masterpiece. It’s basically Seinfeld on steroids.

 

Speaking of Hollywood and it’s self-righteous neurosis, my rant of today is about an issue confronting Hollywood, as well as many industries within America including the tech industry: Diversity. Tinseltown’s casting choices have been in the news in recent years, particularly in the early part of the year in January and February (which is coming up fast) because that’s when award nominations are released.  In a previous post, I focused on the sexism and sexual assault issues in Hollywood and America as a whole, so I am going to skip over that in this post in favor of focusing on racial, religious and ethnic perspectives to diversity here. Despite the variety of willing actors and actresses, and many indie and foreign films that do a better job at casting diverse casts, Hollywood has been quick to nominate films featuring mostly white, male dominated casts for their most prestigious awards leading to the now famous OscarSoWhite campaign. Even last year, when an African-American produced film involving issues prevalent to the black and the LGTBQ communities with a predominately African-American cast won the best picture award, Hollywood still managed to find a way to delegitimize that recognition and take the focus off of the literary achievements of Moonlight. Even with such a generational and groundbreaking movie like Moonlight winning the Oscars, there is an underlying culture of white male dominance that prevails in Hollywood. Hollywood has been known to be a bit of a straight white men’s club, which has led to these movers and shakers to create movies that would mostly appeal to them, and those like them, namely straight white men. It’s hard to cast a diverse cast when a movie is focused on white roles, less you get ridiculously misplaced castings known as Black Vikings. The term Black Viking is due to the late NFL Hall-of-Famer Deacon Jones’s role as an 11th century Norse viking in the Norseman despite Jones being an African American man himself (it may have made some sense if he had played for the Minnesota Vikings, but he was a Los Angeles Ram). Hollywood is starting to discover that the way to combat the lack of diversity in their films is not to cast Black Vikings, but to write films and roles that focus on a more diverse culture by creating characters that either require non-white actors to portray them or are racially and ethnically ambiguous so anybody could play them. The latest Star Wars films have been an excellent example of the latter option, with characters such as Finn, Poe and Rose being written in a way that anybody could play them without regard to race and ethnicity, and Disney has done a great job at casting a diverse cast to fill those roles. There are examples of diversely written roles in mainstream Hollywood films coming to the fore as well, such as The Big Sick. Of course, you will also sometimes get a phenomenal thespian who transcends his or her physical appearance, such as Peter Dinklage’s villainous role as Bolivar Trask in X-Men Days of Future Past despite the comic version of Bolivar Trask being an average 5’10” while Peter Dinklage was born with dwarfism.

While Hollywood has been suffering a very public backlash against it’s diversity practices, and has thus been forced by public pressure to adapt to a 21st century multicultural society, it is not the only industry that has diversity issues. The Tech industry has also rather publicly dealt with a moment of crisis regarding it’s diversity. Despite the high demand by tech companies for H1-B visas for high-skilled tech immigrants predominantly from Asia, Silicon Valley (and the San Jose metropolitan area) is one of the whitest metropolitan areas in America.  Now, the Trump administration is not doing any favors to help diversify Silicon Valley,  but the lack of incoming diverse talent into the tech industry presents an existential crisis. There is an underlying culture of sexism, racism and bullying in the tech industry related to the traditional white male dominance that is feeling threatened by the waves of change. This structural harassment culture is forcing many qualified and valuable individuals to leave the industry in disgust, and with the lack of a deep talent pool of qualified individuals, coupled with the curtailing of availability of H1-B visas, creates a talent gap that could derail the entire industry. Bullying away talented programmers due to the minority status of their race, gender, religion, etc. is just not good practice.

The tech industry is fundamentally a business industry.  IT technicians, programmers, cyber security experts, entrepreneurs and everyone else are all fundamentally looking at how to solve problems, some harder than others. At the end of the day, we in the tech industry are seekers of solutions, that is the underlying goal of our jobs, careers and industry as a whole. When you have a diverse team or staff, you have a team of individuals with different backgrounds and experiences. Different language experiences, different cultural experiences, different religious experiences, different familial expectations and differing experiences with financial security all shape how an individual views the world. When you are trying to solve a complex problem, you need to attack it from all possible angles with as many options as possible. The lens with which an individual was raised and views the world will shape how that individual perceives the problem which in turn dictates the type of solutions they would be able to produce. Hence, if you have a diverse set of characters on a team attacking a problem, they will perceive the problem differently, and come up with diverging but complimentary solutions and innovations to fix the problem. I will use myself as an example: I’m from the suburbs of Atlanta, which is in the American Deep South. I consider myself to be a white male, I’m a 4th generation American at the minimum, and ethnically I’m a French-Swiss-Hungarian-Latvian Jew. While I grew up in a privileged Jewish household, I still grew up as a Jew in the deep south with it’s conservative politics and strict cultural loyalty to the Christian faith. This meant that security due to religious discrimination was always a (distant) concern. My parents and my community did a good job of sheltering me from that worry, but none of my Christian peers in school went to their church services with armed police guards carrying their guns visibly while protecting the front door. None of them experienced rings of reinforced concrete plant vases being built in front of all the access points to their house of worship in order to prevent someone from ramming their vehicle into worshipers. None of them really worried about KKK flyers being passed around their mailboxes. None of them were made to feel different and ostracized around Christmas time for lack of their Christian faith, or had to feel the discomfort of obligatory school prayers that go against their religious beliefs and of school trips and functions to churches where a faith not of their own was omnipresent. Furthermore, school age kids are by nature collectively mean, so the difference was reinforced a lot by kids calling me ‘Jew’ or even more benignly their token ‘Jewish friend’. Now, I’m not saying that I had an unhappy childhood, in fact it’s quite the contrary, but this collection of childhood experiences had on a subconscious level affected me to become a cautious and reserved individual when it comes to focusing on tech problems, where I always focus on a security first ideology. I’m always seeking a malicious program or malcontent user hiding in the code, and finding ways to curb their influence. My experience would be vastly different than say a Christian from my same community, or an Arab Muslim from Dubai, or a Hindu from India, or an Agnostic from a formerly Communist Eastern Bloc country like the Ukraine where decades of collective communal thinking shapes their perception in a different way than individualistic societies like where I grew up in the United States.

The example I give above to demonstrate how cultural and personal experiences affect problem solving is part of a phenomenon that is well documented. It’s also not a secret. For years the major players in Finance and Business world has banked on this diversity to be a competitive asset. In the age of huge multinationals corporations, it’s by nature a structural necessity. When it comes to the culture of the United States, diversity is an underlying national hallmark and identity, even with the checkered pass. It’s not for nothing that American society has often been referred to a melting pot or, more accurately, a tossed salad.  While or society and culture has a long way to go to even out representation and diversity in our businesses and professional experiences, and despite the roadblocks set up by the current political culture, it is a goal to strive for because the benefits of diverse experiences and representation are honestly a necessity to compete in a global market. This is why I find disturbing the trend of rising Xenophobia, Islamophobia, Racism and Antisemitism in 2017’s America.  I realize that politics is a pendulum, and the rapid pace of progress under the Obama administration inevitably meant the other shoe would drop as resistance and counter forces took hold. Hence as traditionalist and conservative forces paved the way for Trump’s administration, those who prospered and succeeded under Obama faced the wrath of those who’s traditional privilege and power lost their relative prominence under Obama. The problem is that a lack of humanity and civility has permeated today’s political culture, and the leadership in Washington now sets a terrible example of how to act for the impressionable amongst us.  When politics becomes divisive and tribalistic, it becomes imperative that our business and tech industry leadership become the adults in the room and set a positive example to lead.  It is in this spirit that I call upon the tech industry to work in collectively educating the younger generations across the globe in STEM, and focus on hiring a more diverse cast and crew to shepherd the industry into a brighter future and be the light upon which the American economy shines.

 

On my last standard post, I detailed the most common and useful hotkeys in a windows environment to help you navigate your machine. On this post, I am going to detail the most common and useful Apple hotkeys to help you navigate your Macintosh machine.

Cut: Cmd + X

Copy: Cmd + C

Paste: Cmd + V

Undo: Cmd + Z

Select all: Cmd + A

Open find search bar: Cmd + F

Find next occurrence of searched for term (Find Again): Cmd + G

Find previous occurrence of searched for term: Cmd+Shift+G

Hide Topmost Open Window: Cmd+H

Hide all windows but topmost open window: Cmd+Option+H

Minimize topmost open window: Cmd+M

Minimize all open windows: Cmd+Option+M

Open new document or window: Cmd+N

Open the open file menu: Cmd+O

Print: Cmd+P

Save: Cmd+S

Screenshot: Shift+Cmd+3

Shutdown: Power

Forced Restart: Ctl+Cmd+Power

Logout: Shift+Cmd+Q

Forced Logout (bypasses warning prompt): Option+Shift+Cmd+Q

Quit Application: Cmd+Q

Force Quit: Option+Cmd+Escape

Toggle open applications: Cmd+Tab

 

I bid everyone good luck from waking up from their post feast slumbers.  I hope none of my readers got coal (or solar panels) in their stocking yesterday. Until next time…

…the Ketchup is in the Sauce.

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