Are Tech Companies’ Diversity Initiatives Really Working?
Over the past couple of years, there has been an influx of diversity initiatives among companies, media and advertising riding the inclusivity trend. Much like the impact of the women’s movement in the ’70s, it seems like brands are making a more conscious effort to include many different races of people and also women within their campaigns. It’s no secret that there is a noticeable inequality issue among men and women in the tech industry. Men have an overwhelming hold on the direction of the tech sphere that doesn’t seem to place women and people of color at the forefront. Tech companies were no different in this sense and had proclaimed to adopt the same ideology and improve on their demographics. But, are these companies getting any closer to a more inclusive work environment or was it all just smoke and mirrors for the public?
Though the intentions were there, many tech companies have abandoned efforts to maximize on their initiative promises. There could be a myriad of reasons but Aubrey Blanche, the head of diversity and inclusion at Atlassian, believes that it can largely be because of exhaustion. The topic of inclusion and figuring out ways to bring on competent, diversified candidates has been a large task for some companies. There are plenty of people who want to see this change happen, but it is not enough to combat the number of people who actively don’t want it or just don’t care enough. “For those who advocated for diversity within their companies, the fatigue comes from pushing for change for so many years and seeing so little of it” (LA Times). It’s a frustrating burden to take on because the obstacles to overcome are not just unique to the tech industry. These issues span across mediums, all the way down to how we are conditioned from grade school. Consciously grouping individuals based on sex and skin color are ideals not foreign to this country, so tackling the issues in one developed ecosystem, like Silicon Valley, can be like beating a dead horse. There are less and fewer participants actively engaging in diversity training and wanting to find a solution. Another aspect of the problem “is that companies aren’t talking enough about what works, and instead get hung up on what doesn’t” (LA Times). There isn’t just one way to solve the inequality problem, especially if the work culture is different, so there has to be an element of trial and error. Companies are just not taking the time to research and use those failures to explore other options that could work. There have been small, incremental changes in percentages of women and people of color within the industry, but the growth might as well be stagnant compared to other industries.
Through her findings, Blanche has also offered some advice on addressing the problem head-on. Language is very important, and CEO’s of tech companies have to be careful to not create a divide amongst employees and a hostile working environment. Emphasizing working together as a team and do not single out individuals within a group should be the first step. There needs to be a collective effort where the pressure is not placed on solely women or people of color. “Other common mistakes include a lack of specific goals, such as increasing promotions among people from underrepresented groups versus simply having more women at the company” (LA Times). Think about it. Why would a company want to bring on more minorities when they haven’t even addressed those that are presently working there? Inherently they will be hiring individuals who are signing up to be treated unfairly, possibly leading to high turnover and maybe even lawsuits. There has to be a focus on recruitment without neglecting retention. “Finally, companies need to be incentivized to pursue strategies that work” (LA Times). In the tech world numbers are everything and when a goal is not met, it can be detrimental to its survival. The same priority needs to be placed on diversity initiatives. There have to be numerical and realistic goals set in place so that the company is held accountable, possibly affecting their bottom line. Initiatives need to be taken just as seriously as profit margins and the like.
Equality is possible, but not without hard work. It will take convincing some nay-sayers and doing the research to put the correct programs in place that push forward change. The tech industry can see a massive overhaul in the near future if the efforts match the desires.