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Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

Aug 26, 2020

Diversity and inclusion in technology fields: an uphill battle.

If you walk into Google, Apple, or Facebook headquarters you probably won’t be too surprised to see that the majority of the employees there are white men. The average percentage of women working in these kinds of organizations hovers at around 28 percent, while the average percentage of employees of color is sitting at about 48 percent. 

At these booming tech companies, the stories are nearly identical when it comes to diverse culture and demographics. The majority of employees in these tech workplaces are white, followed by a comparatively large percentage of Asian employees (roughly 30 percent), then a smaller percentage of Latinx employees (average 7 percent), then black employees (6 percent), and the rest of the organization is rounded out by a tiny number of multiracial, Native American, Pacific Islander, or Middle Eastern employees. And because the majority of these employees are men, the percentages of women of color working in technology workplaces are even lower.

These diverse workforce numbers have only grown slightly over time, seeing about 7 percent growth over a seven-year period. While some diverse groups have been able to make incredible strides—Facebook boasting it has increased the number of black women at the organization 25 times and black men 10 times in the last five years—the reality is that the progress of adding women and employees from diverse races or cultures into these tech companies is slow at best. 

It’s a tale as old as time, which is why we see so many school programs encouraging women to enter STEM fields, scholarships and mentorship programs that help women learn to code and be prepared for a tech future. But are these inclusive programs working? Are they truly opening doors and encouraging diversity and inclusion of gender and race inside the technology workforce? While workplace improvements are being made, it may seem that it isn’t working quite the way we’d like.

So what is causing all this lack of diversity, and how is it impacting organizations? Perhaps the larger question is, what is being done about it? Learn more about diversity in technology, and how the industry is working to improve inclusion and equity for everyone.

Underlying causes of the lack of diversity in tech.

So why is there a lack of diversity in the technology workforce today? There are so many factors that can impact this workplace gap, including:

  • Discrimination. One of the largest factors for workplace diversity in technology is discrimination. Discrimination can be done on purpose or it can be subconscious. It can be seen by the top executive or the newest employee. Discrimination can be based on gender, culture, sexual orientation, race, and many other factors. Whatever form it takes, discrimination is unacceptable and should be fought. While discrimination exists, there will be a lack of equality and representation, which is desperately needed.

  • Resistance to change. Individuals in an organization may be hesitant for innovation and change of their company culture, which can create a resistance to workplace policy shifts to include a more diverse workforce. This can lead to hiring mangers and executives feeling uncertain about hiring diverse people, no matter what the benefit may be, as they may disrupt the current workplace and lead to employee resistance.

  • Cultural perceptions. Unfortunately, cultural perceptions can have a hand in the lack of workplace diversity in technology. Sometimes, people are concerned or feel anxious about people who are different from them, so someone who looks and acts different can cause concerns and lead to discrimination in hiring.

  • Unequal opportunity. Women and people of color often lack the same resources and opportunities that white men enjoy. This means that they may not have all the same qualifications, or even hear about the same jobs, creating a gap in workplace diversity in an organization.

  • Experiences. For women and people of color, the field of technology is seen as male dominated. In school, students often learn about white, male scientists and professionals who have made critical discoveries and contributions to our society. By not similarly examining the contributions of women or people of color, students may get the impression that they would not be welcomed or encouraged in those fields. Teachers are key in helping improve classroom diversity so more students feel empowered and confident in their career path.

Why does workplace diversity matter?

In the every industry, including tech, workplace diversity is critical. A lack of workplace diversity can impact industries like tech more than we realize. Some of the top consequences include:

  • Social injustice. When there is a lack of diversity, it is usually connected to social injustice for either women or people of color. This hurts a company by giving them less valuable opinions and insights, a negative reputation, and missed opportunities for growth.

  • Flaws in technology. When there is a lack of diversity, decisions are made and technology implemented that isn’t beneficial for everyone. For example, AI that was created without women or people of color in the room doesn’t take into account hair, skin color, or cultural elements. It’s commonly known that facial recognition software is deeply flawed in its ability to recognize people of color, and that can be attributed to the fact that the majority of technology professionals are white. 

  • Lack of creativity. Diversity in an organization can help propel more creative solutions. Innovation thrives when women, men, people of color, those with different sexual orientations, and those with cultural differences can all come together to create new solutions. People from different walks of life give unique opinions and insights in brainstorming sessions, bring their own experiences to the table, and overall generate more creativity and better solutions to problems. A lack of diversity can lead to one-dimensional products that don’t really help solve the problems that they profess to fix.

Why is workplace diversity good?

There are so many benefits to introducing more diversity and representation into an organization, particularly in the tech industry. A more inclusive workplace that welcomes women, men, different races, cultures, etc. can be critical to finding success. Some of these benefits include:

  • Improved company culture. One valuable benefit of increasing diversity in an organization is improved company culture. Organizations that have more diversity end up attracting more diversity. They create an environment that shows it is welcoming and accepting. This makes employees feel more comfortable and happy in their work environment.

  • Enhanced productivity. Diversity in the workplace can lead to a wider set of skills and techniques in an organization, which is a huge benefit for everyone. This can directly impact the bottom line of a company. Organizations that have diversity in their leadership teams also see employees who are more forthcoming and open with suggestions and insights, which can lead to better productivity and improved bottom lines. Women in tech also are proven to create enhanced productivity, great communication, and improved functionality in the workplace.

  • Better examples for the future. When organizations improve their diversity, it gives greater examples for students and professionals to use in the future. This creates a lasting benefit where everyone, from children to the next employee, can see the rewards. Students who see diversity in their teachers and learn from diverse classroom examples are inspired and motivated for their own futures.

How to promote workplace diversity.

There are many initiatives in place that are helping to make the tech sector, and organizations in general, more diverse and inclusive. Some important initiatives in place include:

  • Affirmative action

  • Scholarships that help students from diverse backgrounds to be qualified and credentialed for positions

  • Diversity initiatives and trainings that encourage organizations to welcome change

  • Organizations focused on changing the way recruiting happens

  • Organizations devoted to creating a diversity and inclusion mission statement

These programs are aimed at helping women and people of color in the workplace be able to find success and thrive. Women and men of any race need to be able to work together in a workplace setting so they are on the same page, doing their work in a professional and efficient way.

There are also resources that help children and young adults be prepared for positions, encouraging them to be qualified for tech positions in the future. These organizations include:

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in technology, understanding how to enhance diversity in that field is key. Whether you’re a man, woman, white, or person of color, everyone has a role to play in helping enhance diversity. WGU is a critical first step for preparing you for a career in tech and supports the mission of increasing diversity in the technology field. We offer resources for more students than ever to be able to earn college degrees, preparing them for the technology field and the career paths ahead of them.

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