Diversity and Inclusion

The Product

CSC491, University of Toronto

height:300px legend:White hand under soap dispenser

This is a soap dispenser. It dispenses soap without touching the dispenser.

Resitent bacteria can spread, despite the immediate hand washing, this prevents that. This is especially useful in hospitals.

What an innovation! What is the problem with this?

It's racist!

Well, it's not racist, but it was clearly made by a team who only tested it on light skin.

height:300px legend:Black hand under soap dispenser

legend:Spacesuit height:400px

The space suit is an engineering marvel. Allowing a human to survive in the vacuum of space, it allows us to take a step where no man has gone before.

Why only men?

Because space suits don't fit women

legend:Anne McClain height:300px

Anne McClain is an astronaut that had to give up her seat on a mission into space because there was not enough space suits at NASA to fit two women at once.

Diversity & Inclusion

Workplaces that are not diverse & inclusive can have detrimental effects on your products, create discriminatory environments, and have effects such as hand soap dispensers not working and career opportunities being suppressed (spacesuit incident).

Diversity & Inclusion

On the other hand, they can literally kill people.

Let's explore and discuss this topic in more depth.

Diversity & Inclusion

width:300 legend:A car accident || Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

Cars in the mid 20th century were designed for the 50th percentile of men. This means that cars were unsafe for women (and especially pregnant women).

Diversity & Inclusion

width:300 legend:A car accident || Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

It wasn't until 2011 that companies started testing with female-sized crash test dummies. Many vehicles still aren't as safe due to decades-established prejudist design practices.

Diversity & Inclusion

Other examples of potential problems include:

  • AI being trained on men
    • AI robots used for operations in hospitals couldn't respond to a woman's voice
    • Hello Barbie! barbie doll couldn't respond to a child's voice
  • Google's Image labelling AI labelled black people as gorillas
  • Apple Health Kit failed to include a feature for ~50% of the population until iOS 9... period tracking
    • They finally added it to Apple Watch in 2019

Diversity & Inclusion

Other examples of potential problems include:

  • Youtube, when it first started, had an issue where 5-10% of their videos were uploaded upside down due to left handed users
    • Their team was mostly right-handed people
  • In the 1950s, Kodak developed a colour calibration card with a white woman
    • Took until the 1970s until the realized it had an impact on dark-skinned users
    • Took until the 1990s to address the issue

Diversity & Inclusion

So why can't we just train the people we have to understand these issues?

  • When white men were presented with a crowd of people that was 17% women, they thought it was an even 50/50 split
    • When it was 33% women, they thought it was majority female
    • This is a good example of how it's hard to sympathize and see another's perspective

Diversity & Inclusion

So why can't we just train the people we have to understand these issues?

  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity outperform competitors by 15%
    • Companies with ethnic diversity outperform by 35%
  • Studies have found that diverse work forces:
    • are 10x more effective
    • are 9x more innovative
    • provide 5x better customer service

Diversity & Inclusion

Why is that?

  • Multiple viewpoints lead to more innovations
  • First hand experience is better than conceptual teachings, which leads to more culturally aware products

Resources