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Diversity in tech: Closing the gap in the modern industry

December 13, 2021 - 19 min read


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What exactly is diversity in tech? 

Why is diversity in tech important? 

The gender gap in tech 

Racial diversity in tech

6 ways to improve diversity in a tech company

Companies are finally recognizing why diversity in tech matters 

Diversity in tech is essential for businesses that want to stay relevant to their customers, and competitive in the talent market. An inclusive work environment offers opportunity for growth and achievement to a broader range of works. This is an important step towards creating more resilient communities and a more equitable world. 

Companies know the importance of diversity. In fact, Workforce Management estimates that collectively, companies are spending billions on diversity and inclusion efforts. Yet, 68% of business leaders report a lack of diversity in their tech workforce

There’s still a lot of work to be done to improve diversity both in the tech industry and in tech-based roles and professions in other industries. In this article, we’ll share why diversity in tech is so important, and what companies can do to improve it. 

What exactly is diversity in tech? 

Diversity in tech is all about bringing more perspectives to a traditionally homogeneous and often non-inclusive industry. Today, women and people of color lack representation — Google, for example, reported that just 5.5% of new hires in 2020 were Black+ (and just 6.6% were Latinx+). Diversity rates have been increasing over the years, but not quickly enough. 

Why is diversity in tech important? 

You may be wondering why diversity in tech is so important. There are moral reasons, such as increased equality, for emphasizing diversity in tech. However, there are also important business reasons for promoting diversity in the workplace. 

When a company has a diverse workforce, they can understand their customers better. Consumers today have higher expectations of products and services that meet their specific, and diverse, needs and preferences. At the same time, employees have higher expectations for workplaces that are inclusive of their needs and value the diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences they bring to the table.

The world itself is overflowing with diversity. Without diversity in tech, our tech-based world can’t tap into the full range and richness of that  diversity. 

There are many examples of companies who have created products without input from women or people of color. This is bad for business. Women alone, for example, control about $20 trillion in consumer spending. The most interesting part? Women report that they feel majorly underserved. This means there is a huge opportunity for companies who make diversity in tech a focus. 

That isn’t to say that only women can create products for women, or that only Black people can create products for Black people. However, more representation from women will inevitably lead to better products for women. More representation from people of color will lead to products that better serve the needs of their respective communities.

In addition, having a more diverse workforce means diverse opinions, backgrounds, and perspectives. With a team of diverse employees, you will have access to more creativity and wider skill sets. Plus, more diverse ideas for solving business problems, which will help your company grow. 

Another incredible benefit of diversity in tech is simply having more talent to choose from. Many tech companies focus recruiting on traditionally-tech heavy metropolitan areas. The problem with focusing a hiring search on cities like San Francisco or New York City is it severely limits your options. 

Companies who prioritize diversity in tech should widen their search across the United States. Many talented individuals have no desire to, or can’t afford, to live in traditionally tech-heavy cities. This means your company could be missing out on the very people who could bring incredible ideas, change, and growth to the company. In addition to these reasons, companies who have greater diversity in tech are shown to have more engaged employees and less turnover

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The gender gap in tech 

The tech industry is undeniably dominated by men. Diversity in tech statistics show that year after year, women are underpaid and underrepresented. Women make up only 25% of computer-science related jobs, according to the Pew Research Center. Women are even less represented in engineering, making up just 14% of the workforce. 

Things are even worse for women of color. Only 15% of entry-level positions are held by women of color, versus 35% for white men. In addition, women consistently do not receive promotions, leading to less happiness and satisfaction in their jobs over time. This “broken rung” effect makes success incredibly difficult for women in tech.

Women may also be concerned about discrimination in tech jobs, especially Hispanic and Black women. This, combined with the lack of female role models, make it clear why there is still a major gender gap in tech. Though the benefits to business of gender diversity in tech are clear, there is still a lot of work to be done to make the benefits to women compelling enough to bring more women into tech. 

Racial diversity in tech

Racial diversity in tech is also a big problem. At Facebook, only 2.1% of tech jobs are held by Black employees. At Microsoft, the numbers are slightly better, with Black individuals making up 4.7% of the workforce. Only 6.4% of jobs were held by Hispanic individuals at Microsoft. White and Asian individuals make up the majority of employees at these two companies. 

People of color are also often subject to discrimination against in the tech workforce. 62% of Black workers and 42% of Hispanic workers reported that they had experienced discrimination at work. This could range from being underpaid compared to a colleague doing the same job, to receiving less support from senior leaders or being passed over for growth and development opportunities. This makes tech jobs less accessible, and appealing, to people of color. 

Many companies, especially “Big Tech” companies, have repeatedly committed themselves to diversity. However, diversity statistics in tech have only improved slightly over the years. More work needs to be done to bring greater racial diversity to tech.

6 ways to improve diversity in a tech company

Many companies have stated that they value diversity and inclusion. However, to truly improve diversity in tech, companies need to show their commitment by taking action. Initiatives don’t have to be complicated, but they do need to be focused and make a real impact. 

Here’s how to promote diversity in the workplace:

  1. Be location-inclusive: welcome remote work or open satellite offices. 
  2. Focus on company culture: be empathetic and inclusive. 
  3. Create a diversity hiring strategy: be innovative and break your hiring pattern. 
  4. Develop diverse talent: find ways to lift up people within your company. 
  5. Be vocal about your diversity and inclusion: attract candidates by celebrating diversity as one of your company’s values. 
  6. Actually measure results: report on diversity statistics and get feedback from your employees. 


Be location inclusive to increase diversity in tech

As BetterUp CEO Alexi Robichaux puts it, follow the Little Mermaid principle and “go where the people are.”  

In a post-pandemic world, there’s no reason not to support remote work. For diverse candidates, remote work has opened up incredible opportunities. Companies should take advantage of this and be open to flexible work arrangements. 

A highly skilled employee in Atlanta may not want to uproot their family or life and move across the country to Silicon Valley. Yet many tech jobs are centered in pricey cities, which is why tech has lacked diversity for so long. In order to appeal to a wide range of diverse candidates, companies must be open to remote work. 

Another option is to open satellite offices for your company in other areas of the country. New tech hubs are popping up in affordable cities like Austin, Texas, Atlanta, Georgia, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Diverse employees are more likely to be found in these cities, rather than traditional tech hubs like Silicon Valley.

Focus on your company culture to attract more diversity in tech 

Diversity is less about the numbers than about what happens after you bring people through the door. Foster a sense of belonging on your teams.

Your company culture is the key to retaining and attracting diverse talent. Discrimination is widespread, especially in the tech industry. Companies must actively cultivate safe, empathetic, and inclusive environments to build diversity. 

Talking about diversity in one thing, but there are many proactive steps a company can take to develop an inclusive culture. One small step to start with is recognizing inclusive holidays. For example, instead of focusing on Christmas, celebrate the whole holiday season. Also make a point to honor months like Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Another way to develop a culture more attractive to diverse tech workers is by creating employee resource groups. These groups give underrepresented employees the support they need to thrive in the workplace. You can also require employees to participate in inclusivity or bias training. Addressing unconscious bias is an important way to improve your company’s culture.

Create a diversity recruiting strategy 

To create more diversity in tech, companies need to change up their recruiting and hiring practices. The way companies have been hiring clearly hasn’t been working for diverse candidates, so it’s time to make some changes. 

The first step is to create a diversity recruiting strategy for tech roles. Reach out to organizations that support and develop diverse tech talent, like Black Girls Who Code. Show up at conferences where diverse talent may be. Simply posting an ad on a job website won’t work for increasing diversity in tech. 

This takes intention and effort to get started.


Develop diverse talent within your company 

Your workforce might be diverse, but your board room probably isn’t. Companies with more diverse leaders at the top repeatedly show increased profitability. But there still aren't enough diverse company leaders.

You can start increasing diversity in tech by lifting up individuals within your company. Be deliberate in encouraging participation and supporting growth on your teams. 

For example, companies can create training programs for employees who want to make a career shift to tech. They can also develop a leadership training program for underrepresented groups. Employee development programs are key to having more diverse talent in leadership roles. 

Opportunities for employees to learn new skills and gain education on the job are also important for retention. Ultimately, development and education programs are key for recruiting and retaining diversity in tech. 

Increase diversity in tech at your company by showcasing your efforts 

When they apply for a job, a candidate may have no idea what your company is doing to support diverse employees. By showcasing your efforts and celebrating diverse employees, you can attract more diverse talent. Plus, you can show your appreciation for your employees at the same time. Focus on the employee experience told in their own words, not just the metrics.

Hosting events relevant to diversity and inclusion is a great way to do this. In addition, you can highlight diversity initiatives and employees on social media or a company blog. 

Just like any other business strategy, measure your results 

All of the above diversity and inclusion initiatives are exciting, but are they actually creating results at your company? In order to truly see an impact, make sure to have a plan for reporting on your company’s demographics. This includes the actual percentage of diverse tech workers at your company. 

Remember, absolute numbers of hiring say less than do the number at each level and in different functions and roles.

Beyond those statistics though, it’s a good idea to measure how your employees feel about diversity and inclusion efforts. Do they actually feel included? Are they happy with the way employee resource groups are being run? Are there ways you could be improving your culture? Survey employees regularly to hear their honest feedback and keep making improvements.


Companies are finally recognizing why diversity in tech matters 

Clearly, having diverse and inclusive leaders needs to be a priority for tech companies. McKinsey and Company reported that companies with high gender diversity on their executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profit. Diversity in tech statistics like this are capturing the attention of many “Big Tech” companies.

These companies are finally starting to realize that their diversity and inclusion efforts aren’t good enough. Some are even recognizing the need to make bold moves towards increasing diversity. For example, last year, Google announced a new commitment to diversity. CEO Sundar Pichai shared the company’s new goal to “improve leadership representation of underrepresented groups by 30 percent by 2025.” 

In 2021, Apple made $30 million in new commitments to their Racial Equity and Justice Initiative. Apple’s efforts have included everything from investing in education for underrepresented groups to supporting criminal justice reform. Their results show their program is working nearly 50% of their employees are from underrepresented groups

The bottom line on diversity in tech

Ultimately, there’s a long way to go with diversity in tech. Representation among women and people of color is disappointing. However, companies are starting to recognize the need for (and benefit of) a diverse workforce.

By committing to diversity and inclusion at the organizational level, developing inclusive leadership skills at the managerial level, and supporting belonging and resilience at the individual level, companies can make an impact on diversity in tech. BetterUp can help with this three-pronged approach.

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Published December 13, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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