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 as well as 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. (Read more here.)
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.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. If I asked you to think of someone who worked in tech, what is the first image you have?
2. What can you do to mitigate implicit bias in your profession?
3. What actions can you take to embrace diversity in your profession?