Why Do Tech Companies Struggle With Diversity and Inclusion?

Why Do Tech Companies Struggle With Diversity and Inclusion?

From a poor start in the job market to a shift in seeking better connections rather than accomplishments, here are insights into why tech companies struggle with diversity and inclusion.

A Fixation on Pedigree Instead of Skills

When tech companies look to diversify their teams, many fail to consider their own biased definitions of “good talent” in a society that does not create fair access to opportunity. While working in tech, I heard many leaders and hiring managers state strong preferences for talent from specific companies and schools. For example, a hiring manager might prefer ex-Google employees and Stanford graduates because they believe that’s where the best talent comes from.

Not only do historically marginalized people face more barriers to entry to these settings, but limiting your talent sources produces a homogeneous team. Additionally, some companies still insist on requiring college degrees, which are less attainable for people from low-income backgrounds and people with learning styles that don’t fit into the structure of higher education. Companies that adopt a skills-based approach to hiring can open more doors for historically marginalized candidates to be considered for roles.

Alex Lahmeyer
Founder and DEI Consultant, Boundless Arc

Job Requirements Are Not Inclusive

During the recruitment process, hiring managers include outdated requirements that knock out potential candidates.

For instance, if you are searching for a web developer who has obtained a college degree, you are automatically excluding those who have what it takes to perform the job, but only have an associate’s degree. Rather than posting gender-based or degree-based jobs, it is important to focus on skills and experience. While a college degree is vital to succeeding in life, overlooking a candidate’s accomplishments can also have a serious impact on the company.

Paw Vej
Chief Operating Officer, Financer.com

A Lack of Diversity in Tech Leadership

Got bias? Research has shown that even well-intentioned people can harbor implicit biases that affect their decision-making. For example, a study found that resumes with “white-sounding” names were 50% more likely to receive a callback for a job interview than resumes with “Black-sounding” names, even when qualifications were identical.

This bias can also be seen in the lack of diversity in tech leadership, where only 10% of executive positions in the top 50 tech companies are held by people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, despite making up 27% of the US population. Similarly, women only hold 21% of executive positions in these companies, despite comprising 51% of the population.

To address this issue, tech companies need to create more inclusive hiring and promotion processes, such as blind resume screening and diversity training for hiring managers with Kenston. By combating implicit bias, companies can promote a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture.

Kenston Henderson, Sr.
Chief Empowerment Officer, Live With Lyfe, LLC

Male-founded Companies Can Minimize Inherent Bias

The media has painted diversity in a terrible light, as though having a workforce that reflects the population is somehow a bad thing.

The issue is that males have historically formed most companies; no matter what country you live in, males have been setting the agenda for centuries. Males holding power means they follow their preferences. It’s not bashing men to say that we all have an inherent bias. Tech companies have traditionally been founded by males who come from an all-male course or background.

Any company that is serious about improving diversity and inclusion will act early to ensure they have diverse directors and heads of departments. This should ensure a more diverse set of inherent biases.

People who are part of a minority group will naturally want to ensure that people from that minority get the same opportunity they have had, and thus we get a workforce that reflects the place we live in. Candidates hired should still be brought in on merit, though.

Phil Gregory
MD, Peak District SEO

Overemphasis on Employee Referral Programs

“Birds of a feather flock together” is a famous quote used to describe how like-minded people tend to socialize with those similar to them. While there are pros and cons to this, I think tech companies that over-emphasize employee referral programs risk lacking diversity in hires since current employees refer their friends and/or people very similar to them.

This type of internal program should strike the balance of entertaining referred candidates, but also still fully consider candidates from all sources to make the applicant pool fair and provide diversity of thought, talent, and perspective.

Megan Dias
Career Services Coach, Parsity

Tech Companies Underfund Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Tech companies often struggle to meet diversity, equity and inclusion targets because they don’t have enough DEI funding. DEI activities without sufficient finance might quickly become superficial attempts to appear progressive rather than long-term systemic change.

Training programs, for instance, require highly qualified instructors who cost more than most tech companies are prepared to spend.

Several tech companies don’t invest enough in mentorship programs and networking events for underrepresented groups.

Additionally, tech businesses need to allocate money towards areas such as wage disparities or introducing policies that offer equal opportunities for advancement regardless of gender or racial background. Without employer funding, these initiatives will be difficult to implement and may increase workplace inequality.

IT companies must know that investing in their employees is crucial to DEI success. With a dedicated budget, DEI targets will be met.

Vivian Acquah
Certified Diversity Executive, Amplify DEI

Lack of Diversity in the Talent Pipeline

Employers in the technology sector are increasingly looking for candidates with specific sets of technical abilities and experience, and these traits have traditionally been more common among members of several groups, particularly white and Asian men.

It follows that tech companies don’t have access to a diverse pool of candidates, which can lead to a cycle of continued invisibility. Unconscious biases that encourage recruiters to favor candidates who are like them or suit the company culture intensify this issue.

Also, the culture of many tech firms places a premium on long hours of labor and has a narrow definition of what makes an employee a good “fit” for the company. Cultural norms might act as roadblocks for applicants with caregiving duties or who come from diverse socioeconomic or cultural backgrounds, thereby reducing the diversity of the talent pool.

Liam Liu
Co-founder and CMO, ParcelPanel

Prevalence of Homogeneous Networks Among Employees and Leadership

Professionals in the tech industry often rely on their personal and professional networks when recruiting new talent or making referrals, and these networks tend to consist of individuals with similar backgrounds, educational experiences and demographics, which can inadvertently lead to a less diverse candidate pool.

When companies mainly source candidates from these homogeneous networks, they may miss out on the broader range of skills, experiences, and perspectives that a diverse workforce can bring.

This perpetuates a lack of diversity within the organization and can hinder innovation, as diverse teams are more likely to generate creative solutions and effectively address a wide range of challenges.

Nick Zviadadze
Founder, MintSEO

Gender Misrepresentation

According to a Dice survey, 57% of women in the technology industry have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace. Although more men pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and math than women, this does not mean that the problem stems from a lack of skills.

It is gender bias that prevents the tech industry from promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Tech representation is leaning towards men, while women stay in the background.

Tech industries should start working towards developing a culture where leadership roles are open to all genders. Training and strategic programs will help fill the gap.

Companies should realize that equal representation is not a promotional thing, but a sound investment that yields favorable business outcomes.

Becky Moore
Founder, Global Grasshopper

Being Unaware of Their Own Bias

Diversity and inclusion in tech companies are challenges for many reasons. One of the key factors is unconscious bias; people may not be aware of their own biases, but they can still affect decisions made in hiring or internal promotions.

Traditional ways of networking and recruiting talent also play a significant role; if someone tends to recruit from similar places or sources, certain groups will probably be under-represented.

There’s often a lack of understanding among decision-makers as well—assuming all employees have equal access to resources or opportunities isn’t true when looking at discrepancies within different demographics. Furthermore, hiring processes don’t always assess candidates on an even playing field since such methods can be inherently biased because they rely heavily on subjective judgments which don’t necessarily prioritize diversity goals.

Ryan Gray
CEO, Name Hero

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