The tech industry is often held up as the classic example of an industry with a significant lack of diversity in the workplace. In fact, Silicon Valley has a reputation as a boy’s club made up predominantly of white or Asian workers where women and Black and brown employees often struggle to get ahead.
The strong spotlight on this cash-rich industry has led to many high-profile statements and promises of action within the industry, but results lag.
Female Tech Workers Identify Challenges
According to the results of a recent survey of female-identifying technology professionals about the challenges they face in the hiring and employee lifecycle conducted by Ensong for its third annual Speak Up campaign, there have been some improvements in tech with respect to gender equality in recent years. However, there is considerable room for further improvement.
For example, the report found that “while women report an improved level of support like increasing male allyship and greater accountability, one major finding in the survey shows that nearly half of women working in technology have seen an increase in workplace sexual harassment during the last 5 years, and 22% of US women have experienced verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and intimidation in the workplace.”
Other key findings from the report include:
A startling majority of women of color in tech have faced career setbacks: “91% of Latinx women and 72% of Black women say they’ve experienced discouragement or setbacks while pursuing their careers in technology. The rates are equally higher for American Indian/Alaska Native women and even higher for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women.”
Women say they have been discouraged from pursuing STEAM careers: “67% said they have experienced discouragement or setbacks while pursuing a career in technology. These setbacks range from discouragement in pursuing a STEAM career in high school or earlier (45%), feeling as if the career path was male-dominated (44%) and being told the career path was too challenging for women (36%).”
Women indicate that they’re interested in career growth, but feel they don’t have access to the training and education they need: “60% of women said they have heard from employers that a lack of skills holds them back, but in the U.S and U.K., only a third of women said their company offers training programs or academies. 23% of women in the US also say that learning and development opportunities are one of the most important factors they look for in a new job.”
Clearly change is needed.
New Approaches Needed to Generate New Results
Big Tech has made a lot of noise about and thrown a lot of money at the issue of gender inequality, but the industry still has a long way to go. As industries and the companies within them continue to compete aggressively for top talent in a tight labor market, crucial industries like tech simply can’t afford to plod along with its current workforce strategy.
As they say the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results. It’s time for tech—and other industries that suffer from poor representation of marginalized groups—to start doing something different.