The tech industry needs to take a close look at its hiring practices and work culture. While the tech industry has known for decades that it needs to improve its balance of women and people of color, they have made little headway.
Even large companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, who have invested a great deal into diversity and inclusion initiatives, have found that their staff numbers have only slightly improved year after year. Currently, the tech industry is 70%, white males. This is not representative of the country and communities, so why is it this way in tech?
So what is happening? Why is the tech industry so lacking in much needed diversity?
Tech as a career path
When considering what career path to take, many women and non-white students choose non tech careers. It is overwhelmingly white men that choose to go to school or get certifications in tech. 58% of college students identify as white in IT in higher education and the amount of white men going to school in the field of computer science continues to grow each year. In contrast, “In 2017, only 9 percent of college students graduating with a degree in computer science were black, and only 10 percent were Latinx.”
One of the reasons for this is that schools and areas where it is predominantly students of color lack resources to promote computer science. Companies are actively trying to change this. Google recently invested $25 million to give more students of color exposure to computer science. They also created a one-year residency for Juniors at historically black colleges. Facebook, is also striving to reach more diverse students by investing in training programs, projects and internships. Apple similarly partners with multiple groups that target women and students of color. These companies are actively aiming to serve underrepresented populations and encourage tech as a career option.
Biased Hiring Practices
Revisiting job requirements, wordings, and descriptions of a job and company may also be necessary. Ensuring language does not exclude groups is a small step that can make a big impact.
Utilizing internal references will often bring in talent cut of the same cloth of the current workforce. Finding ways to tap into external networks may be necessary to have a pool of diverse candidates. Partner with others to increase your talent pipeline. Consider what schools you recruit from, what regions you invest in, and how your recruitment and marketing materials may skew your audience and reach.
When interviewing candidates, companies need to think about what faces and personalities the candidates are seeing. Do they already feel excluded by having a whole interview panel as white men? Were the candidates asked questions that could alienate them?
Internal Work Culture
Often the lack of diversity starts at the top of an organization and works its way down. When leadership is not diverse, it will not create a culture of belonging for those in the minority. White men are much more likely to be in executive level roles than other groups. Furthermore, men occupy 80% of executive roles compared to 20% for women in tech. The tech industry has a much larger disparity by race and gender than other non-tech sectors.
To remedy this situation, leadership development programs should be created to promote professionals of color and help them enhance their skills.
High Turn Over Rate
Company cultures are not always supportive of staff once they are hired. Many women and people of color in the tech industry feel that they were passed over for promotion, discriminated, or demeaned due to their gender or race. “If companies can’t change their culture, they’ll have a hard time hiring fast enough to move the numbers. And they probably won’t be able to keep new hires around for much longer than their predecessors.” A study from the Center for Talent Innovation found that women who work in technology fields leave their jobs at a 45% higher rate than men do. They explained that the reason the number of turnover is so high among women is due to “corporate culture issues, lack of inclusion, pay inequity or other forms of individual or institutional bias.” It is not just women who leave due to discrimination or inequality, 29% of non-white tech workers have quit due to diversity issues.
Furthermore, pay disparity is a real problem. “Women in STEM make $16,000 less on average than their male counterparts, and if you’re black or Hispanic, you might be making $14,000 less than your white coworker.”
If companies and education institutions can change their culture and break this cycle, organizations can see many positive results. Diverse workplaces spur innovation and the studies show that employees recognize that as well. 64% of respondents in a study said that heterogenous companies produce “world-class innovation” more likely than a homogenous group.
NRC’s Diversity Workforce Initiative
New Resources Consulting has created a program to support and train diverse local talent in the computer science field. It is our goal to help close the gap of inequality in workplaces by creating an opportunity for upskilling and specializing which will enhance existing talent. Our goals for this initiative are to:
- Work closely with universities, colleges and groups who offer IT certifications to highlight women and people of color
- Upskill these individuals to become successful IT professionals
- Train individuals on specific tools and processes to become an asset to the organization
- Foster a collaborative learning environment for professional development
CompTIA. (2018). Diversity in the high-tech industry. CompTIA. Retrieved from https://www.comptia.org/content/research/diversity-in-the-high-tech-industry
Harrison, Sara. (2019). Five years of tech diversity reports – and little progress. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/five-years-tech-diversity-reports-little-progress/
Myers, Blanca. (2018). Women and minorities in tech, by the numbers. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/computer-science-graduates-diversity/