The lack of diversity in the tech industry has been a high-profile problem for years. Black workers make up only 7.4 percent of talent in the sector (compared to 14 percent in private industry as a whole), and Hispanic workers only 8 percent (compared to 14 percent of all private industries). Even more dismal, African Americans and Hispanics occupy only 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively, of executive, senior official and management positions
Today, technology industry association CompTIA announced the debut of a program with the goal of helping tech companies become more inclusive. The Advancing Diversity in Technology Community will help companies create work environments inclusive of all people, with a special emphasis on serving as an advocate for the advancement of African-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos within the industry.
“We can develop strategies on how to open up more training opportunities for different segments of the population who do not have access to training,” said Nathan Archer, chairman of the new Advancing Diversity in Technology Community. “We want to prepare them for the corporate environment; not just to be able to survive, but to thrive. I believe this group can change the entire landscape, one company and one person at a time.”
There are solid numbers to support initiatives to make employee workforces and corporate leadership teams more ethnically diverse. In the 2016 edition of its governance principles, the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives of U.S.-based companies, found a strong link between racial and ethnic diversity in boards and the creation of long-term shareholder value.
As technology becomes an ever-increasing part of the broader business landscape, forming more diverse teams means better returns for the industry and the economy at large. But tech company workforces remain notoriously homogenous.
Apple’s leadership is 82 percent white, for example. Despite two years and $265 million spent on inclusion programs, the number of white Googlers sat at 59 percent in 2016, while only 2 percent were African American, and 3 percent are Hispanic. And at Microsoft, the problem is so evident that late last year it announced it will tie executive bonuses to workforce diversity goals, after the increase in the number of racial minorities it employed remained so low year-over-year as to be virtually zero; the percentage of African American and Hispanic employees saw gains of 0.2 percent to 3.7 percent of Microsoft’s total workforce and 0.1 percent to 5.5 percent of employees, respectively.
The new CompTIA community hopes to use its resources in support of inclusion efforts in the industry. In the spirit of its announcement, here are five ways companies can increase diversity right now.
Get executive commitment
There’s really no substitute for senior leadership and corporate board support of inclusion efforts. If commitment to diversity is written into your corporate goals and embedded into established criteria for success, it becomes an unavoidable facet of company culture. Get your c-suite or board to outline a plan, including where to focus recruitment efforts, what training programs to offer and which goals the company is expected to reach.
Be publicly accountable
From weight loss efforts to quitting smoking, experts agree that stating individual goals publicly, such as on social media or within a support group, holds people accountable and increases the chances for success. The same rings true for businesses. Include your diversity goals in governance documents, and publicize them on your blog or online newsroom.
Find tenure trap workarounds
One of the things that’s hampered tech’s efforts to increase diversity within executive leadership and board positions is that employees often reach these positions after long stints working their way up a company’s ladder. To get around this, rethink and expand your selection criteria. As the industry changes, so does the need for certain c-suite positions, such as the emerging trend for Chief Security Officers. Also consider untraditional talent pools in recruitment processes such as academia or other industries that aren’t strictly tech. Most of the key attributes of candidates will be the same.
Open the lines of communication
Race is an explosive topic, especially in the current political climate. It can often be difficult to measure whether a corporate culture is truly inclusive. If only white men are deciding what it means for a business and company culture to be diverse, it misses the whole point. Encourage employees to talk about their background and customs, and to share the things they’d like to see in your culture.
There are a multitude of resources available to help companies along the road to diversity. In addition to CompTIA, associations like the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, Black Data Processing Associates, and Hispanic IT Executive Council are eager to help tech companies be more inclusive.