Diverse racial and gender representation in STEM fields—specifically in the technology sector—is noticeably lacking and has been for some time. Due to a number of reasons, diversity and inclusion policies and strategies in the technology landscape are being explored on multiple levels. The bottom line for a more diverse playing field in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics industries is that inclusion begins with strategic recruitment and hiring. This article will discuss diversity and inclusion strategic recruitment efforts post-COVID-19, challenges to strategic diverse staffing, and how to ensure diversity and inclusion remain a priority in strategic recruitment long-term.
Where we are now
This year, the world was turned upside down by the novel coronavirus outbreak. Across the globe, COVID-19 has impacted small and large corporations, private businesses, and nonprofit organizations.
In the midst of it all, the largest civil rights movement since the 1960s commenced in the U.S., and gradually broadened to other parts of the world. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others, combined with the startling disproportionate rate at which People of Color have been affected by coronavirus, has exposed pre-existing disparities in health and health care. At the crossroads of the global pandemic and social injustice, communities and organizations have arrived at a juncture to consider where else disparities exist—from education and broadband access to housing and employment.
Moreover, as a result of these complex crises, multiple industries across the globe are investigating diverse representation—or lack thereof—in their enterprise, and are seeking where gaps of inclusion exist throughout their business. Now, employers across the world are asking how they can build a more diverse and inclusive organization.
In STEM, there are multiple barriers that block a fair and just playing field. In the technology sector specifically, diverse and inclusive organizations are sparse. In a study by the National Center for Women in Technology in 2015, research found that 25% of professional computing occupations in the U.S. were held by women, 3% were held by Black women, and only 1% were held by Hispanic women—despite women holding 57% of professional occupations in the U.S. workforce (NCWIT).
Why diversity and inclusion in technology failed in the past
Diverse racial and gender representation in the computer science, software, and technology industry has always been absent. The foundation of a robust and successful staff, no matter how large or small the business may be, begins with recruitment. Diverse hiring and role fulfillment at tech corporations intersects with misplaced diversity in multiple ways—all of which are complex and evolving. Here are four:
Education is not equitable. Across the globe, STEM education in K-12 schools is underprovided. There are limited standardized programs for school-aged children. In a study published by Research Gate, authors Freeman, Marginson, and Tytler, discover that over a four-year period, student engagement in STEM programs in the UK increased by only 3% from 2015-2019; in Finland by only 1%; in Denmark by 2%; and in both France and Sweden the percentage of engagement did not change (Freeman, Marginson and Tytler).
Lack of access. In an article published by Wired titled “Women and Minorities in Tech, By the Numbers,” the authors illustrate how access plays a huge role in tech disparities for the future generation. Here, a 2016 report from Google found that Black and Hispanic students in the U.S. were 1.5 and 1.7 times more likely to have an interest in learning Computer Sciences, however Black and Hispanic students are less likely to have access to those resources in their schools. “They’re also at a disadvantage outside of the classroom: two-thirds of white students report using computers at home, whereas only half of black and Hispanic students do” (Myers).
Data is lacking. Though we can look at statistics of the jobs held by minority and underrepresented populations, there are hardly enough measurable statistics to show where diversity and inclusion efforts fail across the board. There are certainly quantifiable gaps in degrees acquired and roles filled, but we do not have enough data to understand where problems stem in hiring and staffing. We can, however, speculate that there are significant barriers to both recruitment managers and job applicants, as well as a lack of resources for middle-managers and administrative staff on diversity and inclusion best practices.
Unconscious bias. No matter where we find ourselves across the globe, one thing is common: training on bias and prejudice in the workplace is important, but not utilized nearly enough. As Laurence Bradford from Forbes puts it, “In the tech world, there’s often an unconscious bias in the workplace. Women are still underpaid compared to male coworkers, and worry about becoming “mommy-tracked” after pregnancy. Plus, there’s still a lack of minority representation in tech that has yet to be overcome” (Bradford). Unconscious bias is often a root cause of despairing statistics in the tech workforce. These biases have a tendency to inform hiring managers’ decisions before applicants get their foot in the door.
Applying good data for success
While we may not have enough assessable data to draw a straight line from the problem of recruitment to a solution, there are several ongoing studies to aid diversity and inclusion hiring policies in the future. One company is studying how successful a vigorous diversity and inclusion policy can be for the technology and computer science industry.
In a 2019 analysis performed by McKinsey, experts found that companies in the “top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21% in 2017 and 15% in 2014.” They noticed that the greater diverse representation, the higher likelihood of outperformance across the company (Dixon-Fyle, Dolan and Prince).
McKinsey sought to understand how their data changed and evolved over a five year period. They found “an importance, not just of inclusion overall, but also of specific aspects of inclusion. Even relatively diverse companies face significant challenges in creating work environments characterized by inclusive leadership and accountability among managers, equality and fairness of opportunity, and openness and freedom from bias and discrimination.”
The technology sector can look to McKinsey for insight and begin employing a few simple strategies to increase overall diversity and inclusion in recruitment and staffing.
3 tips to implement diversity and inclusion in recruitment efforts
Enroll in unconscious bias training: It’s tough to take action without knowing where improvements can be made. Unconscious bias education, training, and knowledge is great place to start. Whether enrolling leadership teams, specific departments, or the entire company, training can help begin conversations in the workplace.
Consider grassroots hiring: Work with local community, local government, and key stakeholders to invest in minority talent. Networking with local leadership helps develop relationships now and in the future to ensure a more diverse staff. Moreover, consider involving current employees in recruitment efforts. Staffing does not have to be exclusive to Human Resources, and involving team members from other departments may help outcomes long-term.
Work with a diversity and inclusion recruitment expert: Most often, technology companies are stumped on where to begin incorporating diversity and inclusion efforts in strategic recruitment. One of the biggest issues today is that companies want to employ a diversity and inclusion strategy, but do not know best practices. Working with an experienced consultant can alleviate unnecessary hurdles. A consultant can answer questions such as: what is an effective strategy for diversity recruitment; how can companies implement a diversity and inclusion policy throughout the company; how can technology companies advocate for diverse hiring; and so much more. Additionally, experienced consultants can help bridge the gap between Human Resources and diversity policies with strategic implementation. Working with a consultant who has ample experience in diversity recruitment in multiple STEM industries across the globe is essential.
Critical discussion and research is absolutely necessary to start evoking change—action that the generations before us did not necessarily engage with on a wide-scale. If your company is ready to implement a diversity and inclusion policy in strategic recruitment efforts and drastically increase success in hiring efforts, reach out today.
Bradford, Laurence. How These 4 Tech Companies Are Tackling Unconscious Bias. 19 September 2018. <https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurencebradford/2018/09/19/how-these-4-tech-companies-are-tackling-unconscious-bias/#681eacec4a96>.
Dixon-Fyle, Sundiatu, Kevin Dolan and Sara Prince. Diversity wins: How inclusion matters. 19 May 2020. Web. <https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters>.
Freeman, Brigid, Simon Marginson and Russell Tytler. “An international view of STEM education.” 2019. <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335551705_An_international_view_of_STEM_education>.
Myers, Blanca. Wired. 27 March 2018. Web. <https://www.wired.com/story/computer-science-graduates-diversity/>.
Technology, National Center for Women and Information. “Women and Information Technology by the Numbers.” 2015.