Diversity Slots

slot machine 3 cherries

In a tangent from typical tabletop games, I want to talk about casino games – specifically slot machines.

If you have spent any time with a one-armed bandit, or its modern equivalent, you are probably familiar with the idea of a payout percentage. Meaning if you play money on the same machine over a period of time (usually a day), you could expect to recoup a percentage of that back. 

A lot of places even have exceptionally high payouts, upwards of 97%.  That sounds great until you realize you still lose over time. So why do so many of us continue to play?  The key is that payouts aren’t usually large jackpot sums on an infrequent basis, but rather small incremental “wins” that are cents on what you’ve paid in for that round.  Our brains take the dopamine hit and run with it… until we burn out frustrated and usually out a sizable chunk of cash.

Similarly, businesses have been pushed to make room for underrepresented communities.  Many build a section on their recruiting sites and tout their commitment to diversity in hiring.  

That sound?  Me yawning.  Because as a woman in tech, you can try to sell me on your diversity practices but when I work in a building with over 500 people and EVERY time I go to the restroom the motion light has timed out? I find it hard to believe.

So cool. Your hiring numbers look great.  What are you doing to retain us?  You have employee resource groups!  So we have company sanctioned time and resources to get together and talk about our unique issues.  This has done nothing to stem the declining rate of women since 1991.

With women making up only 20% of engineering graduates, the candidate pool is even further decimated with 41% leaving the field by mid-career vs 17% of men.

In effect, you’ve given us wins to make us feel like you’re really open to diversifying your employee base.  Yet we’re burned repeatedly with lower salary offerings and lower increases than our male peers.  If we have children, we lose on average 4% of potential earnings compounding with each child. We face toxic environments where we’re expected to be “one of the guys” to get ahead but to still be demure and deferential lest we be labeled as “difficult to work with”, “abrasive”, or “emotional”.  

The reason 24% of us who leave go on to work in non-tech fields?  Because the whistles and flashing lights are no longer enough to hold our interest. We are cutting our losses cashing out.

Diversity should be the floor of expectations.  Inclusion should be a default, otherwise you’ll only see high turn over among specific groups.  If you really want to be a change agent in the industry, think about how your business will address equity in your existing workforce, future hires, and how you will monitor yourself for accountability and adherence to the mission.

And if you accomplish all that, I’d love to send you my résumé .

The focus in this article is on my direct experience as a woman in tech but keep in mind as a white, secular, cis-woman in a hetero-normative marriage, I am at the top of the minority heap in terms of privilege.  Systemic change is needed for all underrepresented groups.  Something that is in the best interest of businesses that has been proven again, and again,  and again, and again, and again, and again, and again.

Subsequent articles will explore what Inclusion and Equity strategies may include.

Crystal Larsh is a strategic leader, fierce DEI advocate, and delivery professional leading global teams out of Austin, TX. She has been working in the project and product space since 2001 and has focused on organizational design and operational improvements over the last several years. She has earned an MBA in eCommerce, a Masters in Project Management, a number of certifications (NPDP, PMP, CSM), and actively pursues opportunities for growth (DEI Blueprint, SAFe SPC training, and more). She uses her education and over 20 years of experience to help bring up the next generation, particularly women in tech.

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