The tech sector must become more diverse, suggests a new report
from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). “Discussion of the lack of gender, racial and ethnic diversity in the high tech industries generally divides into two themes: the ‘pipeline’ problem—STEM occupations attracting white men—and the inhospitable culture in relevant industries and occupations,” the report stated. That inhospitable culture, in turn, forces “women and minorities to tolerate the environment or leave the field." The report goes on to suggest that the technology industry’s high rate of change could hamper diversity efforts: “Firms are facing more opportunities for change, requiring more adjustments to the workforce. When skills need to be adjusted, firms may find that it pays to buy the skills instead of developing them.” In other words, although Google and other tech firms claim that tinkering with the educational pipeline will increase the diversity of the tech workforce, that’s potentially a very long-term solution to a short-term problem. The report also isolated a number of “concerning” trends:
- Among tech executives, 80 percent were men, noticeably higher than the rate outside the technology industry: “Within the overall private sector, 71 percent of Executive positions are men and about 29 percent are women.”
- Other groups are also underrepresented in the tech industry’s executive category, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.
- When compared to the overall private sector, the report continued, “the high tech sector employed a larger share of whites (63.5 percent to 68.5 percent), Asian Americans (5.8 percent to 14 percent) and men (52 percent to 64 percent), and a smaller share of African Americans (14.4 percent to 7.4 percent), Hispanics (13.9 percent to 8 percent), and women (48 percent to 36 percent).”
Over the past few years, the tech industry has engaged in an ample amount of hand-wringing over its diversity numbers, with a number of prominent firms—including Apple and Google—releasing annual reports that break down their respective workforces’ diversity. Several have instituted policies designed to make their employee base more diverse, although it could be years before such efforts bear fruit. In the meantime, according to the EEOC, the lack of diversity among tech workers, as well as ensuring that all workers have the skills and credentials they need, “have become central public policy concerns.”