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Ways Tech, Channel Can Do More to Include Women and Racial Minorities

Gartner analyst Barika Pace provides guidance for partners interested in changing their hiring practices.

Kelly Teal

July 20, 2020

5 Min Read
Business Diversity
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2020 continues to stand out as a year of mass change. Not least among the shifts comes the arguably long overdue awareness that the technology industry still lacks significant representation among women and racial minorities.

To the point of gender, many California-based firms have bolstered the presence of women on their company boards. The state in 2018 passed a law mandating at least one female director serve on the board of publicly traded companies. And at least one private Los Angeles-headquartered managed service provider has followed suit, even without being legally bound to do so. The question lingers, however — if public Golden State corporations were not required to include more women, would they have done so on their own by now?

Regarding the aspect of racial representation, tech appears to be facing the reality that it does not look much like the nation, the world, it serves. Some of that is happening in shocking, harsh ways. Take the example of Michael Lofthouse, the now-former CEO of Solid8, who launched a verbal attack on an Asian family at a restaurant. While Lofthouse hopefully does not reflect popular thinking, his behavior indicates that views like his cannot stand — especially among people in positions of power.

Meanwhile, top tech names are, at long last, making pledges to support and encourage more diversity within their organizations; yet, at least one of those brands faces a lawsuit that it has not done enough to prevent racial harassment.

For its part, Channel Partners, along with its sister publication, Channel Futures, is creating an initiative around Black Lives Matter and greater racial and gender diversity in the channel.

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Gartner’s Barika Pace

The question of why tech has waited so long to address its inherent diversity disparities is a fair one. At the same time, it is important to look ahead and offer guidance the channel, in particular, may implement now. To that end, Barika Pace, senior director analyst at Gartner, speaks to the first issue and provides direction in this Q&A. A large part of Pace’s research focuses on diversity, inclusion and recruiting of women and minorities. Here, she gives MSPs, VARs, system integrators, telecom agents and other partners some core insights for spearheading positive change in the tech sector.

Channel Partners: What are some reasons the tech sector has remained so disproportionately un-diverse, even into 2020?

Barika Pace: Despite recruiting investments to support organizations’ diversity objectives, organizations fail to meet their targets for diversity recruitment for several key reasons:

  • Suboptimal recruiting channels.

  • High levels of dependence on employee referral systems.

  • Lack of diversity in recruiting teams.

  • Failing to define workplace flexibility, such as maternity leave, as a part of their employee value proposition (leading to limited diversity among senior management).

First, suboptimal recruiting channels and high levels of dependence on employee referral systems are problematic.

According to a 2018 PayScale study, the tech industry, which has been beleaguered for its lack of diversity, reported the highest percentage of organizations utilizing employee referral bonuses of any other industry. Companies facing a diversity debt and who maintain a high utilization of employee referral compound their diversity woes, as employees refer candidates that are similar to themselves.

Also, tech companies must recognize that recruiting channel usage differs between candidates. For example, in 2016, CareerBuilder and Indeed had higher user shares (almost double) among African-American respondents compared to LinkedIn. Tech companies must do a better job at …

… diversifying their recruiting channels. Tech companies also remain too limited in schools they recruit from and must start to target schools based on representation, not just reputation.

Second, when there is a lack of equity and diversity in the recruiting process, this often signals to underrepresented candidates that perhaps they are not welcomed. Conversely, the lack of equality in recruiting staff often leads to high levels of unconscious bias throughout the assessment and selection process.

Finally, representation of diverse talent decreases at every career step. The underrepresentation of diverse talent at higher career levels sends a message to more junior levels and puts a drag on the internal succession pipeline when it comes to diverse talent.

CP: What will it take for tech to better reflect the composition of the United States (in terms of women and minorities), and the world, at large?

BP: Tech companies must diversify their recruiting channels, improve the employee value proposition for women and underrepresented groups, and start by diversifying their senior management staff. Finally, they must break out of their location bubbles. For example, we know that percentages of women in the tech sector vary by city, so organizations must be willing to take advantages of locations that have more representative pools.

CP: What are some key ways channel partners can diversify their workforces over the next year, five years and into the long-term future? 

BP:

  • Define diversity objectives

  • Re-evaluate your hiring process, including:

    • Ensuring diversity among your selection team.

    • Removing demographic identifiers to level the playing field.

    • Adjusting sourcing channels to optimize talent supply.

  • Establish an employee value proposition that works equitably for groups.

  • Address diversity debt by sourcing talent from different regions and offer relocation assistance.

  • Partner long-term with communities to overcome the digital divide that places a drag on the STEM pipeline.

  • Reward inclusion and survey employees for feedback for opportunities for improvement.

CP: STEM outreach and education play a big role in tech’s ability to be diverse. What guidance can you offer to MSPs, VARs, etc., who are keen to encourage more young women and minorities from all kinds of backgrounds and help turn them into the tech workforce of the future?

BP: Overcoming the disparity of underrepresented groups in tech starts with early investment in addressing the limitations that disproportionately impact these groups. Now is an opportunity to become a brand of choice early by establishing community partnerships to provide access to technology, education and recruitment opportunities. Tech companies must think of young people as their customers first, if they are truly to fill the STEM pipeline for the future.

Note: In addition to taking advantage of Pace’s insight, partners also may refer to the following blogs from Gartner authors:

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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