Despite calls for inclusion and remote work making IT jobs more accessible, technology workers are still raising concerns about the lack of diversity in the industry.
Two-thirds (65%) of women and non-white tech workers say they have experienced a form of bias in the workplace, according to the Diversity in .TECH Report surveying 550 tech workers in the U.S. released in May.
While 45% of tech workers say they’ve seen an increased focus on diversity and inclusion within their teams in the last year, 55% believe their employers could be doing more, according to the survey. A stronger emphasis on tangible diversity, equity and inclusion efforts can boost innovation and make a company more attractive to job seekers.
Women and non-white workers see less room for career advancement in technology, according to the .TECH survey. While 22% of white males do not believe they have the same advancement opportunities as colleagues at the same level, the number increases to 32% for women and 38% for workers from underrepresented racial groups.
Innovation only works if there’s a culture of inclusivity where employees feel comfortable sharing ideas, discussing opportunities and tackling challenges, according to Laura Thiele, chief people officer at Optimizely, in an email to CIO Dive.
Eighty-six percent of digital leaders, individuals considered more effective at implementing the right technologies at the right time, foster an inclusive work environment, according to a TEKSystems survey released in March.
“We want people to be themselves and feel comfortable to share ideas and their experiences,” Thiele said. “Getting people to relate to each other and understand perspectives creates a shared understanding. When you have a shared understanding, you can respect each other[‘s] differences but still work towards a common goal.”
Ensuring every employee feels listened to and respected in the workplace falls on leadership. If, for example, someone is interrupted during a meeting, leadership can step in to make sure that individual has a chance to finish their comment.
Diversity and the talent gap
Engaging with diversity and inclusion initiatives can entice tech talent to join an organization and improve retention efforts.
“Competition for talent is fierce and we want to attract top talent,” Charlotte Streat, VP Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Liberty Mutual Insurance, said via email. “Candidates, in turn, want to work for a company with people who look like them represented at all levels of the company.”
Thirty-two percent of women in tech and 38% of tech workers from underrepresented racial groups say they do not believe they have the same advancement opportunities as their colleagues at the same level, according to the .TECH report.
A culture of inclusion supports candidates from diverse backgrounds to improve employee retention. When hiring, an open-mind toward candidates without technical backgrounds could also help fill the gaps.
Embracing the opportunity to build a diverse workforce may be a solution by reskilling candidates from non-traditional backgrounds, according to Kristi Lamar, managing director and U.S. leader for women in technology at Deloitte, in an interview with CIO Dive.
“This reskilling takes really qualified employees … [and] shows them that this job, this organization, these outcomes are accessible to all,” Lamar said. “They shouldn’t discount themselves, just because they don’t necessarily have the certificate in XYZ, but they have the opportunity to go learn and grow.”
Consider, for example, where companies are recruiting employees. If organizations only look on college campuses for top tech talent, they will “inherently eliminate great potential future employees because maybe they didn’t have the opportunity,” Lamar said. The business misses out on a massive pool of talent.
Lamar recommends searching in different pools and seeking out passion and curiosity for technology, not just technical qualifications.