Tech (still) has a diversity problem. Here’s how leaders can take action to fix it
From transforming how we interact to how we work, the tech industry is changing and growing at a rapid pace. The world is being digitized right before our eyes — and while everyone will feel the ripple effect of AI and big tech, not everyone has a seat at the table.
Today, the representation of women of color is dire at just over 6% of the tech workforce, according to data from tech training nonprofit NPower and Lightcast. Amid existing societal and institutional barriers to entry, a lack of trust in company DEI initiatives alongside the recent repeal of affirmative action policies by SCOTUS has hindered many from pursuing the industry at all.
Even with criticisms and legislation working against diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, the data shows businesses with diverse workforces are not only happier and healthier, but they are also boosting revenue and improving the bottom line.
So why isn’t the tech industry doubling down on fulfilling its DEI commitments? Perhaps it is because new data also tells us that more than one-fourth of Americans also do not know what actions companies should take to honor and improve their current DE&I strategies.
The message is clear: Americans are ready for action, but how do we get started? I lead NPower’s Command Shift coalition, a national movement of women, allies, advocates, and others focused on increasing economic opportunity for women of color through tech jobs, and what we’ve learned is that there are numerous ways to get started, regardless of what stage of your DE&I journey you are. That is why Command Shift is providing actionable strategies for tech leaders in the newly unveiled Diversity Directive.
Through the Diversity Directive, companies can explore how to:
1. Measure your organization’s current DE&I efforts
To begin a DEI journey, it is crucial to start with the numbers. Without keeping a pulse on the diversity of your workforce over time, how can you measure progress? Without such metrics helping to guide your strategy, even the most well-intentioned effort can fall short. Leaders must first assess where their organizations are at in their DEI journey. Accurately measuring the makeup of the organization will help define the organization’s long-term DEI goals and provide clarity and accountability for all company leaders and business units. Because it is not about just checking a box.
2. Remove biases in hiring
A history of bias in hiring has kept marginalized groups, especially women of color, out of the tech workplace. Removing these biases starts with changing what it means to be “qualified.” There are numerous ways that organizations can act to remove bias today is to expand their hiring practices by placing value on technical skills and industry certifications over pedigree, removing degree requirements, and ensuring job descriptions free of gendered and biased language.
3. Invest in women of color
Recent data from Emsi Burning Glass uncovered that 2.7 million women of color across the country have foundational tech skills from various industries like healthcare, supply chain, and even retail, and further, that women of color are capable of learning more specific programs and skills with proper training. The time is now for tech to put their dollars behind these women. Investments in certification and alternative training programs such as NPower, community colleges, and other nontraditional pathways can make tech roles more attainable for diverse populations.
4. Retain women of color
It is not enough to just hire diverse candidates. Too often, women of color enter a workforce that does not listen to them or their needs. Inadequate support systems, lack of mentorship, inequities, and microaggressions too often push women of color out. Half of young women who choose tech jobs leave by age 35 — a troubling statistic indicating the need for a major tech culture shift. To break the pattern, it is up to companies to provide spaces where women of color feel not only able to, but empowered to speak up, where they feel heard and can develop into the tech leaders of tomorrow.