Leaving behind the limits of binary thinking for full inclusiveness

Posted in: Business Insights


When Pythian became the first tech company in Canada to release gender-based metrics last November, we wanted to make a bold statement with the launch of the Pythia Program. And apparently it worked. We’ve already increased the amount of female applicants by more than 10% over just one quarter. Our internal Pythia Index has also risen 3% from 56% to 59%. And just this week, Pythian’s CEO Paul Vallée received the WCT Diversity Champion award in recognition of his leadership and efforts to promote diversity in the workplace, and a more inclusive tech industry that promotes men and women from all backgrounds.

Despite a clear case for gender parity, and research confirming the financial return for companies, full inclusion is still ‘controversial’ to implement. A lot of this has to do with the unconscious associations we still have with male and female roles which are placed in opposition. This kind of binary thinking is rampant, especially in our social constructions of what constitutes masculinity and femininity.

When the Pythia Program was in its early stages, we actually noticed a lot of binary, either/or thinking was shaping our assumptions. Off/On. 0/1. We can do this OR that. We can empower women technical professionals OR talk to employees about unconscious bias. We can take a stand on gender diversity OR maintain good relationships with male colleagues. Wait a minute…why can’t we do both?

If we had continued to believe our choices were that limited, it would have seriously eroded any impetus to act on our values of gender equity and inclusiveness. It was time to reframe our thinking, and that’s when we stopped compromising. A bolder stance emerged when we did away with limited, binary thinking that was trapping us in false dichotomies.

Let’s look at this from a data perspective, because that’s what we love and do best.

Current computer chips store information in electrical circuits as binary bits, either in a state of 0 or 1, so there’s a finite amount of data that can be processed. Quantum computer chips, or ‘qubits’ however, can be in the state of 0, 1, or both at the same time–giving quantum computers mind-blowing processing power.

So if we apply this idea of ‘binary’ vs. ‘quantum’ into a human context, could we potentially become quantum thinkers? Quantum thinking would be holistic, and enable the mind to function at a greater level of complexity. It’s an unlimited approach that ‘either/or’ binary thinking simply does not permit. Wouldn’t it be more exciting to break away from these limitations and move to a higher, more innovative level? Things look different when this binary thinking is disrupted. Start by replacing either/or with ‘and’.

We can help achieve gender parity AND we can achieve diversity in other important areas. Pythian can be inclusive, people-focused AND financially strong. Men can be powerful leaders AND feminist.

There is one big exception, one area where it’s either/or: whether you support the status quo of tech’s current ‘bro culture’, or inclusive leadership that embraces the value of multiple perspectives. Those two states cannot co-exist.

As he accepted his award for Diversity Champion at the WCT Gala on April 27, Pythian CEO Paul Vallée made his position clear “To the women who are working hard in high tech, and who are marginalized by bro culture — which is a real problem, we are in the midst of a culture war — I salute you and keep fighting the good fight because we will prevail. To the male leaders that have taken sides in this battle, the Pythia Index will help you keep score, whether you’re on my team [fighting to end bro culture] or the opposite team.”

As Einstein said, “you can’t solve problems with the same thinking used to create them.” And lack of gender diversity in the tech industry is a problem Pythian wants to help solve.


1 Comment. Leave new

Chantal Bisson-Krol
April 29, 2016 5:34 pm



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