Diversity and Inclusion in the Technology Industry: Perception v. Reality

Diversity and Inclusion in the Technology Industry: Perception v. Reality

A Harvard Business Review titled “To increase diversity, U.S. Tech companies need to follow the talent,” published on 4th December 2020, addresses the tech industry’s inherent diversity and inclusion problem.

 It states that tech companies have constantly had similar promises to bridge the gap between minorities, yet little success has been attained in this light. At this preliminary stage, it should also be noted that the Gender rights activist, to a very large extent, spurred the recognition of the existence of a color and gender gap in various organizations. 

The homogeneity of the tech industry has had serious implications on justice and fairness. For instance, when one considers the unjust facial recognition technologies that discriminate against people of color or the virtual reality headsets that are designed by men and for themselves, it shows the extent to which these companies perpetuate the opposite of what they profess. 

To evidence, this is Google’s 2020 annual diversity report, where it showed that while 5.5% of its employees identify as Black or black and other race, 6.6% are Latinx while 32.5% are women. Also, between 2014 and 2020, the number of black and Hispanic technology people increased by just 2%. The general consensus is that if these gaps are not adequately balanced, it has the potential to create a negative reputation for these companies.

Also, despite the existence of a pipeline recruitment strategy that provides more entry points for minorities to pivot their way into technology institutions, getting into tech companies remains challenging. The challenges that arise are spurred by a number of things, such as the antiquated calendar that tertiary institutions use, the academic threshold set by recruiters, and the quest for students from a breed of school. 

These barriers in place indeed make it impossible for people in less developed countries to compete on an equal scale with their counterparts from more developed countries. The leveling field would have been a diverse and inclusive recruitment policy. But then, this is non-existent.

With respect to the leadership of technology companies, in a report by TechNation, about 77% of tech director roles are fulfilled by men, while women occupy 23%. This simply means that there is discrimination even at the level of leadership. These findings have great implications – for instance, it challenges our thoughts on how diversity is promoted. It is often averred that to promote better representation of underrepresented groups in the workforce, it is important that boards lead by example. 

However, the problem with this view is that it raises debates regarding how meritorious the appointment of directors is. Nonetheless, it should be recalled that the purpose of diversity and inclusion is to give underrepresented persons equal access to opportunities like those adequately represented. Hence, advocating for female-led leadership in tech companies is a step in the right direction.


The Improvement Strategy: What can be done

There is a need for the advocacy of an ecosystem where organizations promote the development of specialized higher institutions where companies can easily recruit from and trust in the institution’s products. Needless to say, the partnership between the public and private sectors could prove helpful in designing environments that would be inclusive from the time people commence their education to when they round off. Another great development that this partnership can bolster is the creation of tuition subsidies for students offering tech-related courses.

Another way diversity can be improved is by focusing on company culture to attract more diversity in tech. Companies need to actively cultivate safe, empathetic, and inclusive environments to build diversity. This can be done by appreciating and recognizing the public holidays of people. Thus, instead of focusing on the holidays of people in the majority of a company, the holidays of the minorities should also be included. The creation of employee resource groups can also be leveraged here. With these groups, underrepresented employees can get all the support that they need to thrive in the workplace.

In addition, the shortage of diversity in tech is also caused by the absence of exposure to positive role models by underrepresented groups. In a 2021 study by Kaspersky, it was reported that 19% of women working in tech were inspired to take up their profession by a female role model, while a sizable number said that the dominance of males made them assume that they were unfit for the profession.

Furthermore, the creation of a diversity recruiting strategy can be implemented for tech roles. This involves reaching out to organizations that support and develop tech talent. Companies can also create training programs for employees that desire a career shift to tech. Where employees realize that they have the ability to learn new skills and be educated about something that they desire, they feel included and appreciated.

Finally, it is not just sufficient to make proposals and pledges, but it is more important that the talk is walked. This can be done through the measurement of results. Companies need to have an intended goal and strategy for promoting diversity. They need to create a short-term and long-term diversity and inclusion target. 

To make sure that this is as efficacious as they desire, they can subject their target to public scrutiny. Now, where this is done and achieved, the gap between the represented and underrepresented will be bridged, and the company’s overall reputation will be promoted.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash