Why Diversity and Inclusion is a Must for Every Tech Company
The undeniable benefits of a diverse workforce.
Businesses are beginning to accept the need for a more diverse and inclusive workforce as conventional wisdom. A series of company case studies have shown a clear connection between diversity and business outcomes. For example, one study conducted by Accenture found that companies with disabled persons well represented within the business experienced
- increased innovation,
- improved shareholder value,
- increased productivity,
- improved recruitment and retention,
- improved market share and
- improved reputations.
These same benefits have been reported in conjunction with hiring and retaining more racial minorities and women.
In fact, research has shown that companies with women in the C-Suite are 15% more profitable on average than companies with no women in the C-Suite. This is significant, particularly because there are far more companies with no women on the board or in C-level roles than companies with female board members or C-level executives.
Where tech companies are missing the mark.
The Tech Industry in the US has historically struggled with hiring and retaining women. This may sound like common knowledge, but there is a statistically significant perception gap between how tech company leaders view the success of their diversity and inclusion efforts and how the women who work for them view these efforts. Spectra Diversity’s diversity and inclusion assessment shows that, even in companies where leadership feels good about their inclusion efforts, women tend to feel that management is not “walking the talk” in terms of inclusion. This holds true across many industries and throughout the U.S, particularly the Tech Industry.
Engineering (including computer engineering) is a prime example. Data shows that the majority of women who graduate with a degree in engineering either never get hired as an engineer or become an engineer but leave the field within the first 5 years due to a lack of:
- opportunities for training and development that would have helped them advance,
- support from a supervisor or co-worker and
- support for balancing work and nonwork roles.
These women also reported the following undermining behaviors from supervisors that contributed to their decision to leave the field:
- having their ideas belittled,
- being insulted, talked down to, not defended, or given the silent treatment and
- generally having their efforts to be successful on the job undercut.
Chris Jones, Founding Partner at Spectra Diversity shared a personal story with us about her IT Consultant that is a perfect example of how women in tech are not feeling included, welcomed and encouraged:
“Our IT Consultant is transgender. She is at the top of her game nationwide. When she previously presented tech bugs and fixes as a man – the bugs were accepted and fixed immediately. When presenting the same information as a female, she often spent an extra half hour or more “proving” her expertise before the bug is logged and fixed. She also mentioned that she is now frequently interrupted and talked over – which didn’t happen before. It’s just one story – but it is supported by the research data.”
Many women are not receiving mentorships and invitations to join in on activities in the same way that men are, and women are still paid less than men to perform the same work.
And we’ve all seen those tech startups that overtly foster a “fraternity” like environment. Newly hired female employees see male team members drinking beer and playing ping-pong during and after work hours, which does not send a message to women that they are welcome and can even make some women feel uncomfortable.
These companies also hold events at times that are not conducive to people with family obligations, which not only excludes women but also excludes older workers. Company football leagues are another example of an activity that does not cater to female employees and may make female, disabled and older employees feel excluded.
Dalia Magdelena is an experienced Software Engineer for an eCommerce company in Tampa, Florida. She shared her perspective on how she was able to feel included as a woman in tech.
“Software Engineer (Programmer) is a career where most of the students are men. Since I graduated, I have been on teams where I have been the only woman or there have been just 2-3 of us. In my career, I learned to speak up and not allow people to treat me differently. But, honestly, I never experienced discrimination. From companies I have supported, I have always received help and guidance to improve my knowledge. I have always felt encouraged to grow professionally, and I continue doing so.
From my point of view (as a mom), women in engineering are in a tough spot when we have children. Women in other fields can easily become a stay-at-home mom. If an engineer takes a couple of years off, it can be hard to come back. Tough, not meaning impossible, but it is a reality that engineers need to be on top of technology to be able to provide an efficiency solution. So support in this area is also important.”
How do you make your workforce more diverse and inclusive?
Inclusion starts at the top. You can significantly improve your organization’s reputation and profitability through improved diversity and inclusion by doing the following:
- Engage female and minority board members. The people making critical decisions need to be representative of the population (i.e. your prospective customers and employees).
- Deliberately hire and promote more people from any group that may be underrepresented in your organization. Human Capital Agencies are a great resource for sourcing diverse tech talent. They collect EEO information on thousands of applicants and can find you excellent candidates who also happen to be senior, disabled, female, monitory status, veterans, etc.
- Identify diversity gaps, and share your plan to address them with staff. This is usually referred to as a voluntary affirmative action plan, and specialized HR consultants can put these together for you.
- Message how you value different backgrounds and perspectives both internally and externally. Show diverse people in your external ads and internal training content. Invest in community outreach and charities that support causes that matter to women, minorities, disabled people and veterans.
- Offer benefits that support work-life balance such as childcare, eldercare and financial wellness. Women in particular tend to make less due to the wage gap and spend more due to societal pressures. They are also more likely to be single parents or to be responsible for caring for an elderly family member.
- Make sure women and minorities are taking advantage of and benefiting from mentorship programs, and offer female and minority mentors, not just mentees.
- Offer reverse mentorships where recent college graduates at the associate level train older workers on the latest and greatest technologies.
- Hold events that everyone, not just the majority, in the company can enjoy.
- Pay women the same as their male counterparts, and be transparent with pay practices.