We’ve all heard it before: Technology companies are under immense scrutiny to exercise ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ (D&I) as they pledge their allegiance to equitable workplaces. Why? Because increasing number of employees expect a fair, equitable workplace and believe D&I will get them there. In a series of studies conducted by Deloitte, D&I has repeatedly emerged as a topic of global importance (with emerging economies rating it higher than their established counterparts).

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Percentage of respondents rating D&I as either ‘important’ or ‘very important’

Despite the expectations, organizations’ response can at best be described as underwhelming. Solutions often include creation of a new department called ‘Diversity & Inclusion’, typically headed by a Chief Diversity Officer. Also typically sitting under the the aegis of HR, this department often invites diversity experts for talks and holds mandatory trainings for people managers. It also regularly sends blasts of D&I information and equitable workplace regulation trainings (in addition to the existing pile of Ethics, Gifting, Software Coding, Harassment and Privacy policies’ trainings). In addition to that, the department also pro-actively sponsors more female employees to women-empowering conferences, works to have a visible organization representation on pride parades and pushes upper management to create a pro-D&I image on social media. And yet, employees don’t feel their workplace is inclusive. …

Approximately 17.5 million Americans fall in the same category as Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba and the likes — the category conventionally tagged as ‘developing’ or ‘third world’

Before you start reading this post, I ask that you note down whatever comes to your mind as an example for each of the two terms : ‘Developed Region’ and ‘Developing Region’. Now, match your picks against World Bank’s Income Inequality Map, assuming that your definition of Developed is represented by High Income and Developing is represented by rest of the pool (Upper Middle, Lower Middle and Low Income) of countries :

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Based on those assumptions, chances are your choices are spot-on! We all know that United States is developed and Guatemala isn’t. The only problem? This ‘knowledge’ is factually incorrect and heavily outdated. While selecting those countries, not only was reality squeezed from the levels of high, upper-middle, lower-middle & low income countries into a binary world version but there was also no question asked as to what a ‘region’ is. …

Living in fear, poverty and loneliness, India’s seniors are being kept from the benefits of the booming economy

If you’ve ever read any microeconomics, or simply observed the workings of rural-urban migration, you know that the economy of any country revolves around one key factor: labor market. Typically, labor drives a country’s economy up or down; most policies are either labor-centric or pro-preparation of a future workforce. Economics doesn’t have room for seniors who have exited the labor market. While industrialization helped western societies eventually realize the importance of their elderly, economies that are leapfrogging on the wings of technology are yet to get there. …

The positivity-focused chants and talks disgust me

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Photo by lucia on Unsplash

Towards the final few minutes of a tech-talk at a conference supporting women entrepreneurs, the speaker told everyone in the room to get up and repeat after her “I’m amazing, I’m strong, I’m resilient”. My knees gave up at the sound of that. My worst nightmares of deciding to go to a ‘Women-Focused’ event were coming true. I closed my eyes, slowly sank in my chair and prayed that the universe swallowed me whole. This was the second talk of a 2-day conference — A humiliating chant to set the course of a very long nightmare.

At my lunch table, an hour later, there were 5 other women. No men. Perhaps, it was ignorant of me to expect that. Nevertheless, the conversation centered around how it is so difficult for women entrepreneurs to get funding (which is true), how men don’t take women seriously at workplace (which is also true) and that women should support each other. While all of these were important topics, talking about this amongst women only made us look like Gossiping Housewives. Unless men, influential men at that, were to be pulled in on that table, talking about it felt like 2017. Had this been a heterosexual conference for entrepreneurs with a special mention or emphasis on minority founders (women, diverse groups of color, disability, sexual orientation etc), perhaps the message would have not only travelled far, the community as a whole would have celebrated the successes and struggles of minorities. A chant for a better future of our minority group grossly missed the point of ‘ Unity in Diversity’. …

…a two-part narrative on where workplaces are today and where they could be

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Jeff Kepler on Unsplash

Part 1

2019, Current time-space continuum, 7 AM

You just woke up and crawled out of bed hoping that the day passes with as ease as your morning dump. While brushing your teeth with crude vigor, you’re sad that the weekend is over and that you need to face the nightmare of your boss. If you can afford the time, you sip that heavenly coffee/tea while you perform your morning ritual of a LinkedIn search for that dream company/job. As you get dressed you tell yourself how fortunate you are, to be able to pay your bills & plan that next vacation. So what, if getting to that sassy office location in the super deep heart of the city from your suburb home isn’t exactly a breeze. The salary, bonus and RSU’s pretty much put you in the top 20% of your city — and people say that’s a good thing. Armed with that statistic, you drown your senses in the noise of NPR — silently mulling over capitalism, racism, immigration, climate change & healthcare when a moron quickly cuts into your lane and brings the rage back on. You curse for a good 15 seconds and feel somewhat relieved. An hour later, you reach your brick and mortar office but it’s already 9:45am , finding parking will be a challenge. When you finally step out of your S-Class, its already 10:01 am. You pace your way to the daily scrum meeting room. Thankfully, with projector not cooperating again and someone typing on their keyboard over the conference call, your boss is pretty occupied. He doesn’t notice that you’re a few minutes behind. Another morning bullet dodged. Everyone goes over their status updates while you check random peoples’ status updates on Instagram and Twitter. Before you realize, it is your turn to speak.You do the usual — glorify what you’ve accomplished in the last 24 hours trying really hard to be the cool kid in the room (although you’re 31 now). Your boss isn’t happy though (typical) but your bestie at the other end of the room sends a glance & a text of re-assurance your way. As soon as the meeting gets over, your teammates shoot small-talk darts at each other discussing weather, weekend and traffic situation at lengths. You quietly slide past those attacks and hit your bestie with a blast of ‘WTF-is-wrong-with-the-world, episode#974183256’. …

..And that’s exactly why America’s democracy is broken

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Randy Colas on Unsplash

I came to the United States in 2010, for my Masters degree. I graduated the next year, got married, got a job, worked for 5 years, bought a house, got another Masters but every single time I cross the border to travel anywhere, I have to answer the question : “Why Do You Want To Go To The United States?”. I’m a legal, tax paying, law-abiding ‘alien’ in this country but the ‘us and them’ hasn’t stopped even after all these years.

Most days I don’t care — I earn enough, I own a pretty good house in California and my workplace never showed any signs of racism. Also, I do understand it’s difficult for any country to accept too many outsiders. But some days are just painful. Can’t I at least expect a little bit of respect since my hard-earned tax-money helps those immigration officers retain their jobs in the first place? Expect them to realize that my unprejudiced contribution towards their families doesn’t deserve prejudice in return? …

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Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

I couldn’t write or speak in English until I was 13 years old. Sure, my school was ‘English medium’ (which simply means all educational material was in English except the languages — Hindi, Punjabi and Sanskrit). Despite that, I couldn’t put together words to form sentences that made sense. I would memorize all material and write it as is during exams. And I was pretty good at it — 97+ % all the time (equivalent to a 4.0+ GPA). The fact that Indian education system then, allowed it to happen, was a sad reality we chose to ignore.

One day, a substitute English teacher came in. She asked us to use the time of the class to write a paragraph about how our day had been so far — an impromptu piece of writing. All of us were mortified — we didn’t know how to write on our own ! Usually our teachers gave us pre-baked essays that we memorized for tests. Obviously, all of us performed terribly. But it was a substitute teacher, so no one bothered. The top performer of the class — I, was however, in immense shock. I went home, prayed to my favorite deity, silently sobbed for my pathetic performance and charted a game plan “Learn How To Express Myself in English”…

It isn’t easy but you can learn to manage it better…

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In August 2015 my father was hospitalized for paralysis caused by cerebral venous thrombosis. My family and I could barely wrap our heads around the term or the situation. We were emotionally drained, unable to ease my father’s pain or help him get better. Not to forget, in my case, the distance of 9000 miles made it all the more impossible. When I finally reached home, my father had returned home from hospital. He had bruises all over his face from the fall after the paralytic attack. He could barely walk straight, talk or remember. I had prepared myself during my 36 hour journey, to be strong, to witness all of that. Watching him though, my knees went weak and a huge lump formed in my throat. …

I claim to be an environment friendly person. And I definitely try to make lifestyle changes that let me feel a sense of pride in being comfortably environmentally conscious. Despite all my social training as a vainly-principled individual who thinks she does right by the environment and lives ‘sustainably’, I find it difficult to stand behind: “Save The Planet”. For those of you who don’t recognize the words, perhaps a graphic would jog your memory. A very common way of visually depicting “Save The Planet” is a rather small-sized, immensely blue earth being held in hands by a human who almost always is wearing white for some reason. …


Preeti Syal

I innovate ’cause I’m lazy.

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