Organizing diversity

Diversity and identities at work in tech startups

Society’s greatest challenges are ‘wicked problems’ that are characterized by being tremendously difficult to solve due to their complexity and interrelatedness. Climate change, pandemics and inequality are examples of wicked problems, and to solve these issues, we need to address them in new ways. A way to address them is through ‘social innovation’, the process of developing and deploying solutions to challenging social and environmental issues.

While the technology field plays an important role in developing solutions tackling ‘wicked problems’, it has its own problems. Among these is the field’s lack of diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity, a problem which has been addressed by members of the field itself and which a range of organizations in the technology are trying to tackle. The technology field is in a process of change, but the questions is, what kind of change.

This project uses multi-site ethnographic fieldwork to study how organizations committed to increasing diversity work to this end. The project is thus engaging with tech startups that have already made up their minds and are actively organizing themselves with diversity, equity, and inclusion in mind. What happens? How do tech startups work to increase diversity? What kind of diversity? How do members of tech startups make sense of diversity work? As the diversity agenda is currently unfolding throughout the technology field, the project is uniquely positioned to study organized transformation in sito and in vivo.

The empirical setting of the ethnographic study will be a tech startup that have committed to increasing diversity and is trying to solve wicked problems. The project will construct case studies that will contribute to our understanding of how tech startups work to increase diversity. The project will thus shed light on the everyday practice of organizing diversity in the technology field.


Thomas Burø
Assistant Professor
DTU Engineering Technology
+45 91 37 00 60