This past week, our nation experienced yet again another tragedy at the loss of George Floyd. How many lives need to be lost before we start taking racism seriously? How much injustice needs to be committed before every person in America wakes up and becomes intentional about doing their part? What about businesses and industries? When will they become serious about diversity and inclusion? Specifically, when will the tech industry as a whole, and not just a few large companies, start “doing” and stop “saying” that they’re going to even out the demographic of their workplaces?
From 2014–2019, data according to Wired.com showed that there was little gains in diversity in the tech industry, even though there’s been a greater awareness of the need for diversity. The industry is still predominantly made up of white or asian men.
While there have been some gains for women, it’s still not even close to being equal. With Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft all still having over 70% of their technical workers as men.
Why should companies take diversity seriously? Besides the obvious responsibility of equality, studies show that having a diverse workplace actually benefits a company in multiple ways, including:
- A richer vault of ideas and thoughts
- Quicker problem-solving
- Much more well-rounded product that appeals to a larger audience
- Higher profits
- Better solutions to problems
So, diversity not only helps minorities and women, but it actually benefits the company as a whole. You would think it’s a no-brainer for a company to value and aggressively diversify their workforce.
So, WHAT is currently being done by these companies to diversify and are they taking it seriously? According to Wired.com, “Google invested $25 million to give more black and Latinx students exposure to computer science, and created a one-year residency at Google for juniors at historically black colleges. Facebook, similarly, has invested in training programs, internships, and projects like TechPrep, meant to introduce the tech field to people from nontraditional backgrounds. Apple partners with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Girls Who Code, and educational institutions like community colleges that traditional serve minority students.” But is this translating to long term change in the industry?
Still, there’s a large attrition rate of minorities and women even after they are hired onto these companies. We have to ask why and we have to ask how it can be prevented? Many minorities are reporting that they are unfairly looked over for promotions while women report being harassed during interviews and on the job. Large attrition rates are a sign that companies have to do much more than just getting people in the door. They need an overhaul of their company culture and eliminate any systematic biases they may have.
So, what are some intentional actionable items that companies can put into place today that will truly change the makeup of the tech industry? What can we do, as workers or future workers in tech, to keep these companies accountable to their words? Many CEOs are vowing on LinkedIn and Twitter that they are not keeping silent anymore and are taking a stand against racism. That’s wonderful but will it result in actual change?
Here’s what you and I can do to keep them accountable:
- TODAY, ask them what are some actual steps they are going to take in their company all the way from top leadership down to the hiring process?
- Three, six, nine months from now, ask them if they are seeing a change in their company demographic and if their strategies are working? Point is, keep asking.
- Ask them, what have you done beyond just entry into the industry for minority groups?
- How are minorities and women given opportunities to progress further into management?
- Let’s ask for the actual numbers and factual data. What percentage of your company is male versus female or minority? What’s the pay scale for women and men at the same level? What percentage women and minorities are in leadership roles? Let’s demand transparency.
- And if you’re in the majority, be intentional. You have a voice and position that others do not. Speak up and speak loud and then put it into action.
All of America, and not just in the tech industry, has a wake up call. We each, individually, have a wake up call to be aware of the injustices around us toward people of color, women, and other minority groups. It’s time not to be passionate in simply word but also in deed. You and I, on an individual level, can enact change and we can start in the our own homes but we can also demand it in the workplace and in the tech industry.