Diversity in the workplace is a hot topic — one that brings to the forefront a lot of contradictory viewpoints, as highlighted in the first “Diversity in the High-Tech Industry” report, published Tuesday by CompTIA.
In fact, the level of contradiction in the diversity discussion was top of mind for report author Carolyn April. senior director, industry analysis, who describes the report responses as, “all over the map.”
“One of the things we tried to do [in the survey] is put in front of our sample a number of either what could be conceived of as stereotypes or just facts, and ask whether they agreed or disagreed and to what degree. Those [results] are interesting because some of the responses just contradicted one another,” she told us.
April highlights the following data points: Nearly eight in 10 high-tech industry workers say they are satisfied with their organization’s diversity efforts. Forty-four percent say diversity is a high priority for their employers, and 87 percent say they’ve worked in a department comprised of a diverse group of employees in the last year. At the same time, nearly half (45 percent) of workers say that the industry has lagged in promoting diversity, while another third at least partially agree.
Carolyn April, CompTIA's senior director of industry analysis
There’s been no shortage of headlines that peg the high-tech industry as being largely white and male. Statistics from the U.S. Equal Employment Commission and other sources point out that the technology has fewer African Americans, Hispanics and women than other industries.
“I think it’s human nature that you want to believe that you work in a progressive environment that’s inclusive of people of all types, backgrounds and experiences, but there’s a disconnect between the psychological mind of the human and the reality ... if you look at the statistics,” said April, describing the contradictory nature of the survey's findings.
Less than a year ago, CompTIA announced the formation of the “Advanced Diversity in Technology Community," a member group tasked with supporting and promoting workforce diversity throughout the technology industry.
In January 2017, CompTIA acquired the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP). Eight months later, the association officially launched a new organization, the CompTIA AITP. Both moves put into focus the kickoff of the organization’s first diversity report.
“We are very cognizant of trying to diversify the types of people that get into technology careers. We’re very workforce-focused,” said April.
The CompTIA study actually consisted of two separate online surveys. One focused on 400 U.S. IT and business professionals employed at high-tech firms. The other surveyed 200 business workers outside of the high-tech industry. The “Diversity in the High-Tech Industry” report primarily is based on the tech-sector responses with some survey responses from the general-business sector brought in for contrast.
The differences in responses from the two groups show just how out of touch high-tech survey respondents are about diversity, or how much more evolved other industries are when queried on the same topic.
For example, at the executive job level, three in five (59 percent) high-tech workers said they personally believe a diverse workplace is critical to have and should be an organizational mandate. That compares with half (49 percent) of executives in the general business population. At the staff level, 28 percent of high-tech workers say diversity is critical to have, compared to 48 percent of those from the general business sector.
Why are a greater percentage of tech executives promoting diversity? The report suggests that as the pressure to be diverse falls on the high-tech industry and the pressure to act is great, executives are expected to promote diversity as a strategic organizational goal. At the same time, looking at the staff-level responses, the report author suggests that workers in the broader general business sector tend to be more diverse in their rank and file, and ight have a better appreciation of the benefits gained from working in a heterogeneous environment and therefore value it more.
On a positive note, April said that a key takeaway from the study is that there’s a greater awareness today that the tech industry needs to be better about diversity. More importantly, companies are taking positive steps to improve diversity in the workplace.
“Companies are realizing that they have to be much more sensitive to this issue. They have to do much more outreach in terms of recruiting and hiring from a diverse workforce pool — looking in new places to find employees, and making changes in the workplace culture,” she said.
Talk about hiring only addresses one piece of the equation associated with diversity in the workplace. Retention, or attrition, is the other piece. In many high-tech companies, the culture is not equipped to support a diverse employee base, resulting in people walking away.
The report looks at the main reasons employees say they would leave a job: pay inequity (52 percent), hostile work environment (46 percent), senior executives not supportive of diversity (42 percent), age discrimination (36 percent), culture not inclusive (35 percent), and diversity efforts too much of a priority (30 percent).
In the highly competitive technology industry, companies can't afford to turn their backs on employees, as having a diverse workforce is an asset that spurs innovation and competitive advantage. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of survey respondents agree that a heterogeneous employee base is likely to produce world-class innovation. Another 28 percent of respondents partially agreed with that premise; a scant 9 percent disagreed.
CompTIA’s Advancing Diversity in Technology community, as well as its Future Leaders and Advancing Women in Technology communities, put a high priority on raising awareness about diversity.
“Now that companies are becoming more aware of issues around diversity, we want to provide tools and resources to help them make the changes necessary to leverage a diverse workforce,” Yvette Steele, manager of the Advancing Diversity in Technology community, told us.