Technology

Report: Racial Diversity Remains a Problem for Tech Firms

By / Feb 14, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A new report from the diversity-focused nonprofit Open MIC finds that many racial groups remain underrepresented in the technology industry compared with their overall share of the workforce.

As the title of its new report states, the nonprofit Open MIC wants to break the mold of a tech industry that has struggled with diversity.

With tech defining every part of modern life, the group is hoping to highlight an issue that has dogged Silicon Valley giants and venture capitalists alike.

“Technology is too important and too embedded in our lives—from classrooms and cars to homes and hospitals—to leave so many behind when it comes to doing the stimulating work that makes all things digital possible,” states the Breaking the Mold report, which is targeted at investors.

And the divide, according to the report, is concerning. A few highlights:

A representation problem: The report found that blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans were underrepresented in the tech sector by 16 to 18 percentage points below their percentages in the workforce as a whole.

A promotion problem: While Asians are well-represented in the tech sector, they’re less likely to reach an executive rank than their white coworkers.

A day-to-day problem: People of color tend to leave their tech jobs at 3.5 times the rate of white men—and a big reason for that, according to the report, is that the work environments often aren’t friendly for minorities, who report isolation and discrimination on the job.

These figures are made more problematic by the fact that tech companies have struggled to properly address racial diversity issues, despite investing $1.2 billion to deal with the problem over the past five years.

According to an analysis of corporate filings with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, just one major tech company, Amazon, counts more than 10 percent of its employees as black, and just two, Amazon and Apple, have percentages of Latino employees that top 10 percent. In both cases, though, the story is complicated—Amazon’s numbers are pulled up by a significant warehouse business, which is noted for its low wages, while Apple’s retail business accounts for many of the company’s minority employees. In both cases, diversity is lacking among the firm’s high-skilled tech workers.

The report, which takes the stance that “less social inequality leads to a stronger economy for all,” suggests that investors should prioritize diversity in their funding decisions, that more detailed data on workplace demographics be released, that goals be set, and that executive compensation be tied to these goals.

The report also encourages white employees, particularly executives, to take a step forward and speak up on issues of diversity.

“Without real commitment to change from white executives who currently hold disproportionate power in tech companies, diversity and inclusion efforts can fall short,” the report says.

The full report can be read at the Open MIC website.

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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