Improving Diversity with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs


"Diversity" and "inclusion" have become popular buzzwords in the tech community. Many open source projects have made an effort to attract developers who are traditionally underrepresented in tech, but those efforts sometimes lack a systematic approach. Maslow's hierarchy of needs provides a better approach to improving diversity in a systematic way.

In his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation", Abraham Maslow defined a hierarchy of needs that must be met in order for a person to reach "self actualization". Each level of the hierarchy of needs must be met before a person can begin to address the needs of the next level. Maslow's hierarchy of needs are: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and finally, self-actualization.

In order for open source communities to improve diversity, they need to address the needs of underrepresented contributors systematically. For example, focusing on the human need for esteem and recognition by amplifying the diverse voices in your community and rewarding their achievements will fail if those same contributors must spend all their mental energy dealing with microaggressions, harassment, and other threats to their physical and mental safety.

This talk will introduce Maslow's hierarchy of needs, tie it into the needs of underrepresented members of the open source community, and provide concrete ways for open source contributors and leaders to address diversity issues in a systematic way.

Ballroom DE
Sunday, January 24, 2016 - 10:00 to 11:00