The diversity dilemma in IT: A view from the pipeline

Diversity has been a problem in the tech industry and IT sectors for decades now, as businesses small and large struggle with finding and hiring workforces that vary in age, ethnicity and gender. While some companies may not think twice about who they hire in regard to demographics and diversity, this problem still plagues enterprise IT departments and impacts the perception of major tech industry leaders such as Facebook and Google.

Now, diversity is back in the news. Information Age recently reported on the story of Erica Baker, a female, black software engineer who left Google in May after nine years of employment. The source explained that Baker and her co-workers collated a spreadsheet of salaries, and she then shared this document on her social network accounts, causing quite a bit of uproar in the tech sector. After this incident, Google refused to award Baker bonuses, she alleged, so she confronted her manager and left the company, according to Information Age.

While the veracity of Baker’s story might be questioned, recent data released by Silicon Valley elites indicates that there is indeed a diversity issue in the tech industry. As The Washington Post reported, Yahoo itself disclosed that African Americans only make up 2 percent of its workforce, while Hispanics encompass 4 percent. Similarly, WIRED highlighted Facebook’s report, which found that only 15 percent of tech roles at the organization are filled by women, while 2 percent of its employees identify as black. The source called this “pathetic.”

“University tech programs aren’t diverse.”

The pipeline theory
But is it really that bad? Maxine Williams, head of diversity at Facebook, told WIRED that her team recruits from “historically black college campuses,” as well as creates targeted ads for females in an attempt to attract them to computer science degrees. The problem could lie in the fact that university tech programs in themselves aren’t diverse.

The Washington Post compiled an infographic based on industry reports submitted to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and this image indicated that in 2014, only 6 percent of tech students were black and 11 percent were Hispanic. When compared to employee pools at companies such as Microsoft, Google, Intel and Cisco, the lack of diversity is clearly not solely due to discrimination. There is certainly a problem in the tech professional pipeline, and that is making a contribution to the severity of this issue.

Let’s be honest
Either side of the argument, there is absolutely no denying that a diversity problem exists in the tech industry and IT sector. According to The New York Times, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, asserted in a statement that “more must be done.” Rev. Jackson went on to say that these major companies should try harder, set goals and benchmarks, and strive to achieve these this year.

By creating a standard and bars to clear, businesses can certainly introduce diversity, but hiring managers also need to consider who is best for a job, which poses an interesting dilemma. At the end of the day, HR departments should simply strive to make their tech teams more diverse. After all, many experts claim that a diverse workforce provides many benefits – but that’s a whole different blog post.

The diversity dilemma in IT: A view from the pipeline
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