In 2014, President Obama organized the first White House Demo Day which focused on women and minority founders of US technology products, software and companies. This event caused a chain reaction of diversity and inclusion initiatives from some of the leading technology providers, including Google, Meta (then Facebook), Microsoft and Amazon. However, according to Harvard Business Review, many of these global technology giants have failed to deliver on their diversity promises and there remains a lack of diversity in tech to this day.
What is Diversity and Why is it Important in the Workplace
“Diversity” is a term business leaders, HR leaders, hiring managers – and everyone in between – have been hearing for many years now. It refers to the acceptance, support and inclusion of people from different backgrounds, genders, age groups, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation, education, and much more.
Diversity has gained importance as a positive force in the workplace as the differences in opinion, viewpoints and problem-solving methods have all been linked to higher productivity, better collaboration, more empathic products and services, happier customers and even lower staff turnover. All of which have a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line.
Why Diversity in Tech is Important
Diversity in the workplace is a global priority for most leading enterprises, however the lack of diversity in technology poses a problem beyond company profits and revenue. Having diversity in the technology sector is vital to continuing to create useful products, software and services that truly meet their customers’ needs.
One of the most beneficial elements to diversity in the workplace is that it allows you to understand the pain points and needs of the diverse customers, clients or audiences that use your services. Continued homogeny in technology could lead to biased facial recognition software, virtual reality headsets designed for men that could undermine gender equality, for example.
Diversity in Technology Statistics
According to Pew Research:
- The current US tech sector is made up of 67% Caucasians, 13% Asian Americans, 9% African Americans, and 8% LATINX Americans
- Native American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and people who identify with two or more racial groups account for 3% of tech workers
And the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
- The tech sector is currently made up of 64% men and 36% women
- 83.3% of executives in technology organizations are Caucasian
- Out of those executives, 71% are male and 29% are women
- Other groups are represented at much lower rates at executive level: African Americans 2%, LATINX 5%, and Asian Americans 10%
What’s Causing the Diversity Gap in Tech?
To explain the failures of diversity initiatives to attract a more diverse workforce, some tech and HR leaders have claimed a lack of diversity in the tech talent pipeline itself. They call it the ‘pipeline problem’. This is the idea that disparities in education, lack of opportunities and systemic failures have meant the overwhelming number of STEM and computer engineering graduates have been young, white and male. Meaning there just isn’t qualified diverse talent available to hire.
Whilst the ‘pipeline problem’ does have an impact – black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in college computer science programs relative to their share of the population – it cannot alone account for the lack of diversity in tech. Instead, tech companies must expand their talent pools, remove unconscious biases and work harder to standardize interviews.
Since the problem can’t be explained by a lack of diverse talent alone, tech leaders need to look at deeper issues within their recruitment processes and workplace culture to better attract and retain diverse talent.
How Can You Address Diversity Within Your Tech Teams?
By building a commitment to diversity and inclusion into your hiring processes, encouraging greater communication, and accepting feedback from minority groups and modelling diversity from the top down, tech employers can make themselves more attractive to and better able to retain diverse talent.
Concrete measures employers can take to address the lack of diversity in tech teams include:
Leverage Technology Solutions
Technology can now be leveraged at every step of the recruitment process to eliminate bias and introduce impartiality in the selection process. AI, machine learning and data science tools can be used for everything from removing biased language in job descriptions, selecting high-potential candidates, conducting impartial interviews, and fairly assessing salary and benefits packages.
Understand Your Diversity Data
Recruitment data and employee demographics can be incredibly useful in identifying what you are doing right as well as areas that need improvement.
Gathering feedback and data gives you a deeper understanding of how your employees experience working for you, identify any unconscious biases and provide positive actions that will provide the greatest impact. Collecting and analyzing data will also help with recruitment planning and talent mapping.
A recent study found that women are 45% more likely than men to leave tech careers and that over half of those women leave before the age of 35. This is mainly because women are often unfairly impacted by social expectations surrounding caregiving. However, a further study found that women are more likely to remain productive when working from home. Employees who have greater autonomy are also more productive, more creative, and healthier.
Offering more flexible ways of working like remote work and hybrid working models ensures that employees are better able to manage their work alongside other commitments such as caring responsibilities. Which ultimately allows those groups to stay in the workforce, improving diversity and means you spend less time and resources finding, hiring, and training replacements.
Offer Clear Opportunities for Career Development
McKinsey’s latest global employment survey found that 41% of those who left jobs this year cited a lack of career development and advancement as the main reason for their departure. Tech companies cannot begin to improve diversity unless they address the reasons behind poor retention.
Offering clear career development opportunities and paths for promotion will encourage talent to stick with you. Leadership development programs can also address the lack of diversity at executive levels and simultaneously provide visible role models to encourage more diverse applicants to consider tech careers.
Expand to New Talent Pools
Surprisingly for such an innovative and forward-thinking field, many companies are hampered when addressing a lack of diversity in tech by their rigidity when it comes to recruitment and by the concentration of tech companies geographically. Traditionally tech recruitment has focused on computer science and engineering graduates from elite institutions and tech innovation and growth in the 2010’s has been focused in just three states – New York, California and Massachusetts.
To improve diversity, companies need to work harder to widen their talent pools geographically and educationally. Expanding recruitment criteria can help you bring in new skills, new perspectives and address talent shortages.
Create a strategy to attract and crucially, retain, diverse talent with the skills and expertise you need to ensure business growth and success with Pierpoint. Talk to an expert today.