Leadership

Tech Industry Group Pledges Progress on Diversity Problem

By / Jul 18, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Amid a series of recent disclosures (and the subsequent backlash) that indicate tech companies have significant racial and gender gaps in their workforces, the CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council says that the industry is taking the problem seriously.

Recent reports about the tech industry’s lingering diversity problem—particularly at Silicon Valley stalwarts Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yahoo—have put a bright light on a significant staffing issue.

But the industry says it’s working hard on the issue—and, more importantly, owning up to the problem. That’s the take of one industry group that recently spoke out on the issue in USA Today. More details:

Mostly white or Asian, and mostly male: The recent disclosures of diversity statistics by tech giants have generally highlighted three things: Most tech companies are largely male (with Google and Facebook each having a rough 70/30 split) and tend to have mostly white employees, along with a large minority of Asian employees (in Yahoo’s case, Asian employees make up 39 percent of the workforce). As a result, blacks and Hispanics tend to be underrepresented in the workforces at major tech firms. This led to a series of critical responses, including one from the editorial board of USA Today, which noted that other industries have successfully dealt with similar diversity issues in the past by taking the public’s concerns seriously. “Beginning as early as the 1980s, other industries ranging from newspapers to financial services made diversity commitments. The most successful had strong, sustained leadership from the top,” editorial board members wrote. “It is time for tech to follow suit.”

No sugarcoating: In a response to USA Today‘s board, Information Technology Industry Council CEO Dean Garfield said that the industry fully accepts that there’s a big problem and wants to take steps to help fix it. In fact, Garfield writes, that’s why many of the companies have released their diversity numbers. But given the industry’s differences from already-established sectors—a tech company started in a basement can quickly grow into a massive endeavor—Garfield notes that it will be tougher to simply replicate things from a numbers standpoint. “Instead we can, and will, expand our definitions of merit to recognize the importance and value of diversity to our success,” he writes. “Moreover, our efforts will continue to go beyond just dealing with the surface issue of changing the numbers today to longer-term challenges.”

Garfield’s statement comes at a time when the technology industry is boosting its efforts to increase diversity, including Google’s push to get young girls to code and CompTIA’s effort to draw attention to the information technology field.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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