A lack of inclusion and diversity in the tech field has been a long-prevailing issue. In 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission acknowledged that despite the technology industry’s power in the economic sector, it lacked diversity and inclusion, which was becoming a significant dilemma.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
“The results were stark – in most job categories, the representation of women, African Americans, and Hispanics were significantly less than their representation in the overall workforce. For women, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latinos, their representation diminished markedly at higher levels in the organization.”
Since then, numerous studies have been conducted to become more aware of these prevailing issues that have plagued the industry and make improvements. However, more work is needed to truly promote diversity in the tech field.
A truly diverse workforce requires individuals not only to be aware that an issue — such as a lack of diversity — is prevalent but to actively learn about the complexities of social inequality and systemic racism. In this way, a more permanent and meaningful change can be implemented to allow people of all ethnicities, races, genders, ages, and abilities to thrive.
Promoting Diversity in Leadership Roles
Unfortunately, not much has changed in the technology industry since 2016. According to the 2020 Women in Workplace Report conducted by McKinsey and Company, only 19 percent of women have a C-suite level position in hardware technology and 21 percent in software technology.
It has been frequently said that a lack of diversity in top tech positions is due to a “pipeline problem” where there aren’t enough women or minorities applying for jobs in technology, let alone top executive positions.
However, a Pew Research report found that women and minorities who work in technology disagree with this argument completely. In workplaces that included more men, only 38 percent of women in STEM thought they were treated fairly when it came to opportunities for promotion and advancement. Furthermore, only 37 percent of Black people in STEM jobs reported that they felt like they received a fair opportunity to advance in their career, where 75 percent of White people thought they were given a fair chance.
These stark divisions, as well as the findings from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, show women and minorities are applying to higher positions — which contradicts the idea of the pipeline problem — but may not necessarily be promoted as often as other genders or races.
To resolve this, promoting practices need to be altered to better fit a wide array of applicants. Hiring managers and executives can undergo training to not only improve the application and hiring process but to help encourage and promote people of all genders, races, and abilities to apply.
Acknowledging the Pay Gap
Gender pay equality persists in the tech industry. According to the 2020 Gender Pay Gap in Tech Report from Dice, when it comes to different factors such as experience, roles, education, and location, men predominantly earn more than women.
For example, in terms of location, New York had one of the steepest pay gaps, where men earned an average of $8,914 more than women. When it came to specific occupations, women who had careers as data architects, data scientists, and software engineers were paid less than their male counterparts.
Reinforcing a workforce that acknowledges pay discrepancies and actively seeks to correct this is integral to maintaining a gender-diverse workforce. Furthermore, creating a better work culture that treats people fairly and allows the possibility of flexibility — for instance, working from home more as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — can help in retention.
Working Toward an Aware Culture
Discrimination and systemic racism have badly affected the U.S. for far too long. Creating an environment that is also more aware of existing issues that permeate larger society is the first step to taking action.
In 2020, Black women were greatly impacted by the pandemic and racial violence. As the 2020 McKinsey & Company report states,
“They [Black women] are more than twice as likely as women overall to say that the death of a loved one has been one of their biggest challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. And incidents of racial violence across the U.S. are exacting a heavy emotional toll.”
To better support Black women during this time, it’s important for all industries, including technology, to require people to understand Black experiences and the systemic barriers they face. Once this is done — in a truly meaningful and thoughtful manner — companies must change their work culture so that it values Black employees. They should be encouraged to apply for leadership roles and to feel comfortable in sharing thoughts and ideas with other people.
After everything that the United States has faced in the last year — the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd protests, staggering job losses, and more — one thing is clear: Americans have to acknowledge prevailing issues such as systemic racism and inequality across every industry. In acknowledging these dilemmas, solutions can be implemented and allow for job sectors to promote a positive environment where all people can thrive.
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.