15 September 2022 |

The Business Case for Inclusion


Diversity, equity, and inclusion in product design are about the moral and human case. 

I.e., it’s just the right thing to do. 

There’s also an opportunity on the business side of the table when we think about groups that have been historically marginalized. 

Research shows that people are more likely to act as you want them to when they see themselves reflected

When consumers see themselves reflected in marketing, commercials, or store ad, they start to take the action we want them to take

We have the opportunity to encourage many different groups to take the action that we want them to take if we show them a beautiful and positive representation of who they are

Annie Jean-Baptiste, the founder of Equity Army, author of Building for Everyone, and head of product inclusion at Google shared what this looks like in practice during Future Proof Festival this week

Working in tech for over a decade, Annie shared that product inclusion and equity design is really about thinking of the critical points in the product design and development process where we can bring that inclusive lens

We can start with team composition

So if you look around your team or office and everyone is similar, you will likely get very homogenous results and ideas

For example, if I have a team that all comes from New York and we all majored in journalism at NYU, we will probably think similarly. 

We have to start to bring different perspectives into our team composition. Now, there may be more friction when trying to reach an end goal

But what happens is you start reimagining all possibilities and getting better outcomes.

So team composition is the first place to start, but this cascades throughout the end-to-end process. 

Another factor Annie found in her research is that there are 4 main points in the process of inclusive and equitable design where you’re likely to have disproportionate output: 

  1. Ideation
  2. User research and design 
  3. User testing 
  4. User marketing 

Before you launch a new product or service, you will have some idea.

You’ll have to research to find out if there’s a product-market fit

You’re going to do some prototyping or testing, and then obviously, you have to have some storytelling around the product that you’ve created

So if you’re looking for a place to start thinking about inclusive and equitable design processes, you can begin with one of those 4 points. 

You can start to ask: “Who else needs to be in the room? Who’s being excluded?” and think about how you can bring those voices into the development process.

There are also plenty of receipts Annie shared in her research to show that this is a huge opportunity from a business standpoint: 

  • $1.6 Trillion in US Black spending power (2022)
  • $1.7 Trillion in spending power of US Latinx community (2020)
  • $18 Trillion in global women’s incomes (2020)
  • 1 billion people in the world with a disability 
  • Over 80% of Gen Z choose to shop with brands they ethically align with
  • 700 million users are coming online in the next few years 

We have to start a cognitive shift around why inclusion is essential

We have to lean in to authentically show that we care about groups that have historically been left out of the development and design process. 

There’s a new definition for the acronym ROI: Return on Influence

Today, many of these historically marginalized groups are leading the cultural zeitgeist

They’re leading the trends and how culture moves forward. So we want to ensure these groups understand that we care about them. 

Quick Pulse Check: Who has heard of the “curb effect?” 

Tbh, I hadn’t until Annie told us. 

It’s named after the cuts in the sidewalk, which started in the 70s in California. It was initially made for people with wheelchairs. 

But if you think about who uses that cut in the sidewalk now, it’s people with skateboards, strollers, shopping carts, and suitcases. 

We all use that cut on the sidewalk. 

So the curb cut effect means that when we build for the marginswe get the center for free.

That means that when we build for those who have been historically marginalized, the outcome is better for everyone. 

Look at this Master Card commercial to see how the finance industry implements these practices. 

It goes back to allowing everyone to feel seen and move through the world the way they want. 

Annie has a few tips and tricks to start thinking about this in your company processes:

  1. Communication: We want to communicate authentically. Think about “build for everyone with everyone.” We don’t want to assume we know what people need without asking them. 
  2. Humility: We all come with our own experiences and walks of life, so humility is essential. We don’t know everything. 
  3. Accessibility: Build with an accessible lens. Think about building products and processes that will benefit everyone, not just one type of person. 
  4. Education and confidence: How we can empower people is essential. People don’t want to feel like they’re a charity case or you’re doing it just because you have to do it. The trick is authentically showing up for people and helping them feel like this is your priority. 

As a fintech industry, we’re here to fill those financial gaps

There are tons of opportunities to let users know that we see them. 

It’s on us to take the responsibility of being up for the challenge of meeting customers where they are.