A close-up headshot of a smiling woman wearing a black hat against a bright turquoise background. She is Luvvie Ajayi.
Luvvie Ajayi. Image: Elton Anderson Jr

‘We can’t give the tech industry a pat on the back for the most basic things’

28 Jun 2019

Has the tech industry made efforts to improve diversity and inclusion? Of course. Should it be lauded for its efforts? Maybe not yet.

There is a lot of diversity being showcased in the tech industry and, of course, this progress is a great thing. The industry as a whole is becoming more aware, more vocal and more willing to change its problems around the areas of diversity and inclusion.

However, digital strategist Luvvie Ajayi said that we shouldn’t be doling out the medals to the tech industry just yet. “We can’t really give them a pat on the back for the most basic things because that’s what they’re supposed to do,” she said.

Though she originally studied psychology in college, Ajayi has been in marketing and communications since she graduated. As a digital strategist, she helps organisations implement successful social media strategies.

“I was an early adopter of the social platforms.” she said. “I was able to see how social media shifts, and the use has shifted over the years.”

Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, Ajayi said that while things have changed for women in tech over the years, progress is far too slow, and women themselves are already doing everything they can. “For women in general, we’re definitely being louder now about why we belong in the spaces we’re in,” she said. “The tech industry’s just so heavily male and the work that we do is one thing but we can’t be the ones to change it if we’re not the ones who are in power.”

Ajayi also said the industry doesn’t deserve a pat on the back when it can “figure out artificial intelligence but can’t seem to figure out how to be more inclusive”.

She also noted the major gaps that still occur even when tech leaders do make seemingly positive changes. “In tech, when they make progress and they talk about diversity, a lot of times they’re only talking about promoting white women, which in itself is problematic,” she said. “Diversity just means reflecting the world as it is, so it’s not just about women, it’s about colour, black people, it’s about trans people, it’s about Muslims.”

However, even with its problems, Ajayi praised technology and how it has improved the lives of many. “We can use this thing to connect to the world and connect to people that we might never ever connect to otherwise.”

Books and podcasts

Outside of her work as a digital strategist, Ajayi is also an author, having published I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual in 2016. “The book is a collection of essays on life, culture, social media and why we all need to be better,” she told Siliconrepublic.com.

When asked if any single event sparked the idea for the book, she said her work was plagiarised by someone. “After I talked about it publicly on social, he apologised and said: ‘I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do that.’ I was like, ‘Wow, is there not a limited edition handbook on how not to be terrible?’ and that’s how I got the idea.” She said the book is intended to turn the mirror on all of us to help us see if we can further commit to making our lives better.

Ajayi also has a podcast called Rants & Randomness in which she talks about things she loves and interviews interesting people. One particularly noteworthy guest was Yvette Noel Schure, best known for being Beyoncé’s publicist. “She has an amazing background, she has seen it all and it was one of the interviews that I know people really connected with the most that I’ve done,” said Ajayi.

Advice for budding digital strategists

When it comes to her work as a digital strategist, Ajayi said it’s about using social tools to help people with their mission, tell better stories online that cut through the noise and use online platforms for the greater good.

Is there anything she wishes she knew earlier in her career? “No, because I think all the learning curves were necessary. I think my career is strong now because I’ve learned so much. I’ve gotten to allow my work to evolve and I think every step has been necessary.”

However, she does have one bit of advice for those who want to follow in her career footsteps. “You have to know how people engage with content online; you have to be a forever student because you never stop learning,” she said. “This is a career that is punctuated by change constantly.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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