Tech companies and the issue of diversity
Diversity in the workplace is something that all tech companies should strive for. When appropriately embraced in the tech sector, diversity has been shown to increase financial performance, increase employee retention, foster innovation, and help teams to develop better products. For example, data marketing teams that have equitable hiring practices in regards to gender exemplify this.
While the benefits of a diverse workplace can help any company thrive, figuring out how exactly to increase diversity in tech workplaces can be a challenge. However, employing a diverse team is not impossible, and the rewards make diversification efforts well worth it.
Diversity is less common than you might think
Though the tech industry is far more diverse today than it has been in the past, diversity still remains an issue across the sector. Even if those heading tech companies don’t engage in outright racism by fostering a hostile work environment towards people of color or discouraging the hiring of diverse groups, many tech companies still find themselves with teams that look and think alike. Homogeny creates complacency, insulates a workforce from outside perspectives, and ultimately prevents real innovation and creativity from taking place.
Tech companies can be complicit in racism through hiring practices, segregation of existing people of color employed by them (whether purposeful or not), or preventing employees from diverse backgrounds from conversing in their native tongue or practicing their cultural traditions.
Diversity in the tech field isn’t just about improving any one company’s performance, it’s crucial to the continued success of the entire tech sector. By 2020, there will be 1.4 million open computer science-related positions with only around 400,000 qualified candidates to fill them. This makes diversity and inclusion a pressing emergency that needs to be addressed, and quickly.
The gap in diversity is most noticeable in the tech field when looking at gender. Despite the fact that there are more women graduating with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) bachelor’s degrees than men, the bulk of the major companies in Silicon Valley hire far more men than women. With the undeniable fact that there are simply more qualified women than men who can drive success, ingenuity, and creativity, it just makes sense to increase diversity in the workplace by hiring more women.
Using internship programs, diversity initiatives, and scholarships
One effective way of combating the lack of diversity in tech workplaces is to implement diversity initiatives with the express purpose of finding qualified, diverse candidates who may have self-selected away from the tech field.
Tech companies that wish to increase diversity can articulate a company-wide diversity commitment from the highest levels of management, letting all employees know that diversity is a top priority. Then, companies can consider implementing mentor programs to bring in diverse applicants to become proteges, all but ensuring that diverse talent is retained.
Aside from creating a company culture that prioritizes diversity, tech companies can take things even further by becoming more proactive in getting underrepresented communities into the tech sector. Companies can develop afterschool STEM programs to foster the idea within these communities that the tech field is not only right for them but welcoming to them. Developing afterschool STEM programs directly impacts communities, with over 70% of students participating in afterschool STEM programs showing increased interest in STEM careers. Additionally, companies can offer up STEM-related college scholarships and internship programs to individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to enter the tech sector due to economic disadvantages.
Data scientists are in high demand, and companies that use their influence and financial abilities to help elevate underrepresented groups into those positions will send a powerful signal to future generations of tech workers. While any tech company can make promises to improve diversity in the workplace, those that actually go above and beyond to ensure that minorities have the opportunity and drive to join the tech field are actually walking the walk.
Diverse recruitment strategy
While encouraging a diverse workplace is all well and good, companies need to actually implement a recruitment strategy with the purpose of increasing diversity. Diversity strategies in the recruitment process need to make sure that diversity goals and business goals align so that business growth accompanies diverse hiring.
One problem that a lot of tech companies are facing is that diverse hires don’t necessarily see themselves within the company, which often simply extends from the fact that they aren’t represented culturally within the company. With nearly 70% of those seeking employment saying that a company’s diversity portfolio influences their decision about whether or not to work there, the lack of diversity within tech companies can hamstring their recruitment efforts. Getting over this hurdle can be difficult. One way to do it is by rebranding the company to appeal to marginalized groups.
Implementing big data analysis into your recruiting can also help to naturally foster a more diverse team. Big data can quickly find the most qualified candidates for any particular position completely free of bias, meaning that every applicant is given the same chance at landing an interview regardless of creed, gender, sexuality, or race. Though this approach doesn’t affect who is applying for a tech position, it certainly levels the playing field for those who do apply.
Even if a company doesn’t use big data in their hiring process, incorporating bias awareness into the recruiting and interview processes can help a company’s HR department improve the diversity within the company. HR can further assist in increasing diversity within the tech field by fostering a culture of inclusion within a company, helping employees to feel empowered and valued, which will allow them to do their best possible work.
In terms of building trust, big data can also be used to protect employee information. Because machine learning can detect unusual behavior, it can detect when employee data or personally identifiable information may be at risk. In fields where underrepresented people can already feel vulnerable, it’s essential that security measures are in place to allow them to work without fear of threats to their privacy or financial well-being. A good track record in this regard can drastically improve trust (and therefore representation) in the workplace.
Though diversity in tech workplaces is sorely lacking, there are many ways for companies to take positive steps to improve their diversity. Expanding the search for more diverse hires, developing community programs like after-school STEM programs and scholarships, and making sure that their HR department is approaching the hiring process with as little bias as possible are all great places to start. Tech companies with a diverse workforce recognize the inherent benefits of diversity, and those that don’t are sleeping on what could be the difference between success and failure.