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Narrowing the Diversity Gap in Tech

By 3p Contributor

By Virgilia Kaur Pruthi and Kristine Gloria

A number of major tech companies have released information on the racial and gender makeup of their employees, especially during the past year. This stirred a debate surrounding the tactics tech companies should employ in order to increase diversity (and not just the big four: Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple).

The Verge cited some key takeaways on the state of diversity in tech:

  • Amazon sets the bar for female employment with 37 percent of its U.S. workforce. Microsoft lags the pack with just 24 percent (sampled average is 29 percent female) — far below the 47 percent of the U.S. workforce that’s female.

  • Apple employs a higher percentage of people claiming Hispanic/Latino origin than its peers in the U.S. At 12 percent of its U.S. workforce, Apple is well ahead of Twitter’s 2 percent (sampled average is 8 percent Hispanic or Latino).

  • Amazon employs far more people who identify as black or African American than the other companies sampled. At 15 percent, it is well ahead of Facebook’s 1 percent and the 2 percent employed by Google and Twitter (sampled average is 7 percent).

  • Amazon (13 percent) and Apple (16 percent) lag behind the others in the percentage of employees who identify as Asian (sampled average is 23 percent).

  • The sampled average for people who identify as Asian is 23 percent of the workforce, even though they compromise just 4.7 percent of the U.S. population.
Instead of regurgitating the typical spiel of ‘leaning in,’ we propose that instilling both a proactive and reflexive approach will help make diversity programs sustainable.

Proactive refers to identifying and increasing involvement with employees, organizations and events, while changing the company culture to enable true diversity. Reflexive means taking a look at the proactive tactics and reflecting on the progress, measuring accountability, and ensuring that there are checks and balances.

Be proactive

  • Recruit with community groups that align with diversity initiatives

    • Why recreate the wheel when you can build on what others have already figured out? Examples include Girls Who Code and Technovation.

  • Engage local school groups

    • Look to high schools and colleges in diverse areas that would also benefit from their students engaging with those who can potentially mentor them. It’s a win-win scenario.

  • Internal digital literacy events

    • Look to an internal education team that can discuss issues/concerns related to the company, its practices, industry issues etc.

    • Train your leadership to use vocabulary that doesn’t distance any of your employees.

  • Executive town hall meetings

    • Ensure open communication between the executive floor and the rest of the company through quarterly town hall-like meetings that provide updates and future roadmaps.  

  • Enable the influencer mentality

    • Have your employees be your spokespeople.

Be reflexive

  • Measure accountability

    • Some argue that it’s tough to measure diversity since it is incredibly vague. However, measurement practices need not be wedded to only statistics. Companies can also employ alternative of measurements like work satisfaction or employment involvement with the team/community.

  • Reflect on the progress as a company

    • Is there a need for an internal audit?

    • What does the C-suite look like? Would you consider it to be “diverse”?

    • Who is the devil’s advocate? You always need to have someone pose the opposing view.
What best practices has your organization employed to narrow the diversity gap? How do you define diversity?

Image credit: Flickr/Marcin Wichary

Virgilia Kaur Pruthi is an entrepreneur, community builder and writer. She is the Founder of the practice management tool Practice Well, organization dedicated to enabling personal development for millennial women called Network of Women, and author of the top selling book “An Immigrant’s Guide To Making It In America.” Virgilia has over 8 years of experience building and scaling technology products across the e-commerce, SaaS, health and government sectors.

Kristine Gloria is a Ph.D. student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, pursing her degree in Cognitive Science. She has also joined the Cybersecurity Policy Initiative at CSAIL at MIT. Her research falls in the intersection of technology, policy and culture. She is most interested in understanding the interplay among all three within the context of privacy. Key research areas: web science, privacy, OpenGovt. intellectual property, knowledge integration, ontologies, data and information visualization, and knowledge provenance.

3p Contributor

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