It's Time To Prioritize Diversity Across Tech
By Lisa Winning,
There have been calls for more diversity across numerous industries lately: movies, TV, sports, publishing, and more. Discriminatory hiring practices are not a thing of the past, as many of us would like to believe. Although movements like to rectify discriminatory behavior and hiring practices, leaders across every industry must still spearhead new solutions to make their fields equal, accessible, and safe.
One industry where the need for diverse representation and hiring is apparent is technology. Technology impacts and is used by us every almost hour of every day. Currently, men hold 76% of technical jobs, and 95% of the tech workforce is white. There are so many new ideas and developments living in the brains of people who have not been given a chance to act on them, so why let technology be created by limited points of view? We need to add depth to the pool from which tech is born, for everyone’s benefit.
Tech companies control almost every facet of daily life, from how we communicate to the ways in which we travel and, even, how we buy our groceries. Their power is seemingly infinite, which is all the reason more why they must make a concerted effort to champion diverse voices from within. As pointed out in a recent Forbes piece, “The people creating this technology have the power to influence how it works, and that’s too big a responsibility for any single demographic to have full control. A lack of diverse ideas and representation could lead to further disparities between gender, race, and class.”
Diversity isn’t just important for the tech itself—it’s important for the people who make and use technology. According to Information is Beautiful, the population of the United States is roughly split evenly between genders (51% women to 49% men). However, when you look at the top tech companies, their employee gender ratios do not reflect this.
The same Information is Beautiful study expounded on some of the foremost tech companies’ gender gaps: Facebook, for example, consisted of 33% women in 2016. Some of the companies that were closer to 50/50 include LinkedIn (42% women) and Pinterest (44% women). In addition, only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs were women.
Ethnic diversity is another story. Asian people were represented well amongst these companies despite only comprising 4% of the overall US population, but not many businesses had Latino, Black, or other racial identities beyond 4% of their total employees. The data makes it difficult to account for intersectionality, though.
Why is this so? Some folks want to say it’s simply because fewer women or people of color apply to tech jobs. If so, we need to consider why less diverse groups of people apply to these positions, as it is likely they are deterred from even trying or discouraged along the way.
Not only is diversity morally important, it’s also useful. The National Center for Women & Information Technology conducted a study of 2,360 communities in multiple industries and found that “companies with women on their executive boards outperformed companies with all-male executive boards. Gender-diverse management teams showed superior returns on equity, debt/equity ratios, price/equity ratios, and average growth.” Women improved both productivity and team dynamics.
The study also mentions, “When European competitors have gained global market leadership, they have encouraged innovation by drawing on a diverse knowledge base. Researchers argue that innovative change is less likely to emerge from a group with a more homogenous knowledge base.” Diversifying the knowledge base from which ideas stem only leads to more good ideas, not less.
Next Big Thing, an IoT company-builder based in Germany, is working to spark real and lasting innovation by supporting a multitude of ideas and perspectives from innovators from a variety of backgrounds. Their hub enables entrepreneurs and developers from all professional backgrounds to learn from one another and collaborate on new initiatives.
The current NBT roster includes founders and team members from across the globe, including South Africa, Turkey, Poland, and Russia. As a hub that is hyper-focused on accelerating connected devices designed to improve the health, safety and overall quality of life of people across the globe, bringing together a chorus of voices from a range of backgrounds enables NBT's entrepreneurs to better understand how their ideas might be received by customers from a different corner of the globe.
As for racial and ethnic inclusion, Jenny Abramson, founder and Managing Director of Rethink Impact, notes, “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 30% more likely to perform above the mean in their industry.” If diversity helps companies be more innovative and profitable, it’s time a great deal of them stop putting it off.
It’s crucial for companies to be self-aware and conscious about diversity. Richard Werbe from Studypool, a micro tutoring platform, says, “One of the popular myths of globalization implies that it leads to a fairer distribution of wealth, resources, and job opportunities. Part of the problem created by globalization is economic polarization, driven by how technology has restructured financial and power hierarchies across developing and developed nations.”
So what is Studypool doing to address this? They are “attempting to bridge the gap by creating equal-access opportunities across multiple developing countries, hiring thousands of independent contractors across the globe and coordinating with a number of universities in Singapore to recruit, train, and develop talent.
The venture pairs up with startups embracing a similar mindset towards resolving this issue of increasing global inequality. Working with companies such as PartnerHero to hire associates from Honduras, Studypool aims to become a truly diverse and equitable organization.
In 2018, technology increasingly impacts us all, so it should be made more democratic through inclusion. How will you work to increase diversity in your business?
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