Technology is a fast-growing sector that’s trickling its way into just about every industry. As new technology is created and implemented into everyday life, people get to utilize new tools that can improve the human experience.
However, there’s also another side to the coin. Creating new technology bears a great level of responsibility. While it can help make jobs more efficient and easier, technology can also have a harmful impact if variables like inherent gender or racial biases are ignored, especially when considering diversity in the tech sector itself.
Creating technology that is positive rather than harmful requires tech companies to make it a priority to promote and nurture diversity in the workplace. People of all races and genders need to be a part of every stage of the creation process so that technology contributions can be free from unconscious biases and understanding of multiple perspectives.
Biases in Technology
One issue that has become increasingly prevalent in the technology industry is that new creations aren’t always perfect. Sometimes inherent racial or gender biases seep through the hard work and muddy it.
For example, a study conducted by MIT and Stanford University researchers in 2018 analyzed facial-analysis technology and found skin-type and gender biases in the programs. According to the researchers, the error rate for determining the gender of a light-skinned man was about 0.8 percent. Meanwhile, dark-skinned women had an error rate of 20 percent in one scenario and 34 percent in the second and third instances.
The best way to overcome gender and racial biases in a business is to not only acknowledge the issue but to make improvements. If a company is lacking certain perspectives, then these perspectives should be sought after.
Furthermore, if you look at the technology industry as a whole, you’ll find that it is still lacking in diversity. According to the Brookings Institution, Black people consist of 11.9 percent of all workers but make up only 7.9 percent of technology workers. Meanwhile, Hispanics make up 16.7 percent of all workers, but only 6.8 percent of all technology workers. There have been some efforts to improve Hispanic and Black representation in technology, but these efforts have not been sufficient.
Ultimately, having a diverse workforce is important because a variety of perspectives are needed to understand other people’s experiences.
Black people, in particular, face unjust circumstances due to systemic racism and inherent biases that have been ingrained in the United States for centuries. If technology companies want to promote diversity in the workplace, then they have to actively listen and help provide opportunities that allow Black employees to thrive.
C-Suite Opportunities for Women and People Of Color
Diversity of the workplace should also be implemented among all levels of the company. Sadly, even though it is 2021, many technology companies do not have many people of color or women who are in C-suite level positions.
According to the 2020 McKinsey and Company Women and Workplace Report, only 12 percent of men of color hold C-suite level positions. The 2020 report also states that 19 percent of white women have C-suite level positions and 3 percent of women of color hold these executive positions.
Promoting diversity through the corporate pipeline is something that many technology companies need to work toward. It isn’t about treating things in quantity but quality. A diverse workforce isn’t about having a specific number of POC employed, it’s more so about creating a company culture that gives opportunities to those who often don’t get them. These opportunities have to allow people of color, and particularly women of color, to have a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making.
As President of Product Management at Procore, Ezinne Udezue explains in the Trust Radius 2020 People of Color in Tech Report, “Like women in tech, we have to be unrelenting about the changes required for equity. However, tech leaders have the power to create lasting change and must step up to get true results around inclusivity and diversity. Leaders must be educated about and understand the value of having diverse voices at the decision-making tables across the company.”
Why is Diversity in the Tech Sector Important?
The technology industry heavily impacts the world around it — pushing forward innovative ideas that can help revolutionize the way that we live. However, if technology companies truly want to push the needle forward in terms of innovation, then tech executives have to look beyond the obvious and get a good look at their workplace. Do their employees truly represent their audience? Is there someone who’s feeling underrepresented? Is diversity celebrated and are your employees feeling supported?
Each person lives through unique experiences due to their race and gender. Hence, a workplace that encompasses people of all races and genders can acknowledge everyone’s experiences. A tech company that encourages and promotes diversity in the workplace may find that they push forward groundbreaking ideas that are truly meaningful.
Sophia Acevedo is a journalist based in Southern California. She is a 2020 graduate from California State University, Fullerton, and a proud Daily Titan alum.