It’s Time to Flip the Script on Tech Diversity Efforts

When all the efforts at diversifying the tech workforce have failed, what’s next?

There’s the diversity workshops and affinity groups. Companies try in vain to adjust their hiring processes. Yet the tech sector shows little to no gains in diversity. Aside from the industry at large, the data reported by the companies that are actually working to make diversity a reality shows only a 1.2 percent increase year-over-year of women in technical roles and much less than 1 percent increase in mid level and senior roles. Most of that increase is going to white and Asian women. The results for women of color are truly dismaying. If the numbers are this low for tech companies who are reporting, it is safe to assume the actual percentages are much lower. Data-driven companies should realize what they are doing is not working. It’s time to try something new.

Brenda Darden Wilkerson is President and CEO of AnitaB.org, an organization that works to address the gender gap. She says that seeking diversity takes a lot of effort and also a willingness to appear vulnerable and admit your failures. To make any lasting change, diversity has to be present in all aspects of communities, not just the workplace.

That change first has to come from the very top, with a visionary CEO. Then the company must begin to develop policies that support inclusion and equity. Retention and promotion processes must be adjusted. Hiring practices must be reevaluated to attract a diversity of applicants. Candidates must be considered taking into account intersectionality (an analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society).

As technologists, solving problems is at the core of growth in the field. Disruption and innovation are excellent skills that can be focused on diversity, but it is work that must be done on a daily and ongoing basis. The ability to admit mistakes and continue to do the work is imperative to the health of the tech industry.

Read more here.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. If I asked you to think of someone who worked in tech, what is the first image you have?

Q2. What can you do to mitigate implicit bias in your profession?

Q3. What actions can you take to embrace diversity in your profession?

Comments
No. 1-1
CathieGamber
CathieGamber

So many initiatives, training, and procedures for hiring have already been implemented without any measurable success that it is undeniably clear that our current path which emphasizes spotlights focused on bias needs revamping. I do not have a great answer. But, as someone who has vetted and hired many tech employees I often had to discard applicants for reasons unrelated to the technical expertise on their resumes. Back in the late 70's it was acceptable and encouraged to hire someone we could "stick in a room and just toss in a few Twinkies every so often." I suppose that was actually the most unbiased time. As tech has evolved so have the position requirements. Technical proficiency is now required to be married with proficiency in mirroring the goals and objectives of an employer. This mirror, of course, is easiest for applicants from the same backgrounds. My current thought is that training our qualified minority workforce in techniques of mirroring may yield better results in terms diversity related to ethnicity and sex. The conundrum is that diversity of ideas is at risk in this scenario.