The tech sector has a long-standing problem, and it has not dissipated over time. There’s a major lack of diversity, especially when it comes to technical jobs like coding, IT, development, and engineers.
Organizations like Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft began releasing diversity reports on their workforce in 2014. The data revealed huge gaps in diversity across all major tech companies. At the time, their workforces were leaning heavily white, Asian, and male, with a severe lack of Hispanic, Black, and Native representation.
Sadly, the numbers have not improved much in the years since the first reports. According to Wired, as of 2019, “At Google and Microsoft, the share of U.S. technical employees who are Black or Latinx rose by less than a percentage point since 2014.”
But this trend is not just happening at large tech companies like Google and Facebook. It’s seen across the tech industry, and even within IT departments at non-tech companies. Whether you work in tech or not, we can all do something to help infuse more diversity into the tech community. Here are some ideas.
Support minority tech education.
The lack of diversity in tech is a complicated and multi-faceted issue. But one major contributor is the lack of accessibility to tech throughout the educational pipeline. According to the Stanford PIT Lab, “Disparities in educational quality start from a young age and only widen as children continue through schooling and are given varying access to technology and digital tools.”
One way to help improve access to technology is by supporting organizations that focus on bringing technical education to minority and underserved audiences. A great example of this type of organization is Code Black Indy, which was recently highlighted in the Ripple Effect podcast episode Trailblazing a Tech Learning Culture for the Black Community.
These organizations create tech-centered education programs and bring them to schools, nonprofits, and community centers that serve minority communities. They remove many of the barriers that oftentimes limit access to tech, ensuring any child or student can access their services. Many use teachers, educators, and leaders who reflect the audiences they are trying to reach, providing children with a role model who looks like them—something that may have never happened before.
Get involved with diversity-focused tech nonprofits.
With a quick Google search, you’re likely to find an organization in your community you can support that has a mission of infusing more diversity into tech. There are many ways you can get involved, including donating money, volunteering your time, and advocating for their programming.
Mentor minority youth.
If you work within the tech industry, take this idea to heart, especially if you are part of the minority groups that are desperately underrepresented within tech. Whether you choose to mentor through a general mentorship program—like Big Brothers Big Sisters—or a more tech-focused organization—like Out in Tech U, TechWomen, or Hack.Diversity—any time devoted to helping mentor youth is time well spent.
You could even consider approaching your workplace about mentoring opportunities. Can employees take some time out of their workday to present on college career panels? Are there local schools you could partner with to do monthly or bi-monthly mentorship meetings? Do any internship opportunities exist within your IT department? These are all worthwhile mentorship opportunities you could explore.
Review hiring practices and recruiting strategies.
This tip is helpful across any industry or department. Many hiring practices can have a negative effect on the diversity within your organization by either limiting diverse hiring decisions or deterring diverse prospects from applying.
In fact, a Harvard Business Review survey found that half of all diverse employees experience bias in their day-to-day work experience. Reviewing hiring practices, recruiting strategies, and company culture can help eradicate bias and diversify the workplace.
Here are some ways to improve diversity through recruiting and hiring:
- Train hiring managers and interview teams on proper interviewing techniques
- Remove being a “culture fit” from hiring decisions
- Evaluate your leadership team to ensure diverse representation
- Participate in diversity-focused conferences, like AfroTech or Black is Tech
- Attend diverse recruiting events
- Encourage diverse representation through internal referrals
- Review language in job postings for bias; focus on inclusive language
Re-evaluate job requirements.
Diversity within a workforce covers many different realms, including age, gender, race, disability, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. One way to increase diversity within a workforce is by re-evaluating job requirements.
Make it a priority to review job requirements and adjust as necessary. Every job description should be reviewed for gendered language to ensure inclusivity before going live on your careers page. Consider items that may eliminate some amazing qualified candidates, such as degrees, education, and years of experience. If they are not hard requirements that directly impact the performance of the role, remove them. You’ll gain a wider range of candidates that can bring different perspectives to your team. Having too many or too strict job requirements will drastically cut down your eligible applicants, which leads to homogeneous applicant pools.
Start improving diversity today.
We can’t solve issues of diversity in the tech sector overnight, but making even small changes can have a large impact. If you take the time to do just one thing from the list above, you could start a chain reaction that leads to great outcomes. It will take many strategic decisions over time to truly bring change to the tech industry, but even the smallest adjustment can help bring a little more diversity to the table.
Interested in learning more about how to infuse diversity into tech? Listen to the Ripple Effect episode Trailblazing a Tech Learning Culture for the Black Community now to hear Kalvin Jones, founder of Code Black Indy, share how he is helping black and brown people from underserved communities break into the tech ecosystem.