In Dice’s new Equality in Tech Report, 17 percent of technologists who identify as women said they were “not at all impressed” with their company’s response to gender diversity. (Some 12 percent of male technologists said they felt the same way.)
The importance of allyship to the success of organizational programs focused on diversity, equity and inclusion cannot be understated. That’s especially true as more and more underrepresented groups across tech begin asking tough questions about companies’ diversity policies, as well as demanding transparency into hiring and equality practices.
Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others have made a habit of releasing diversity reports on a regular cadence, all of which tend to reveal one thing: the tech industry is largely White and male. There has been progress in diversifying workforces, but it’s often incremental. For some additional clarity, we spoke to several women in tech to find out if enough is really being done, and whether the tech industry has a shot at truly becoming diverse.
Dr. Sam Kline, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Galvanize, recently told Dice: “The tech industry has not done enough to encourage inclusion. Only 24 percent of computer scientists right now are women. That’s unacceptable. The majority of the tech industry is made up of white men, and the lack of diversity discourages potentially qualified workers from ever seeking a career in development. The tech industry should look more like America and less like a boys club.”
Anshu Agarwal, CEO and co-founder of serverless cloud platform Nimbella, said: “The time when we stop talking about this topic is the time I would say enough has been done. The fact that we are talking about it states that it is not enough.”
Pooja Malpani, Head of Engineering for Bloomberg Media, added: “It’s a sad reality that barriers do exist for women in technology, and I hope in my lifetime that these will fade away.”
Inequality Remains Difficult to Root Out
These technologists all have a dour stance—but a realistic one. According to Dice’s data, technologists who identify as women are nearly three times more likely to perceive gender inequality in the tech industry, and six times more likely to have experienced such inequality. A further examination of gender discrimination shows it runs the workplace gamut from salary and benefits to new opportunities.
Women also outpace men in the belief that diversity improves morale and innovation. None of the women we spoke to are under the illusion that gender parity in the workplace can be remedied overnight. Malpani made a salient point: “When scanning a random meeting of engineers, the odds are that there are fewer women than men. This only gets more extreme as you go up the leadership chain.”
Malpani added: “As we reflect on how far we’ve come in addressing the industry’s gender imbalances, we must also continue to look ahead. It’s not enough for organizations to continue to hire from the same pool of candidates: it’s clear that this approach needs to change. Businesses are making headway in having open conversations, but they must now nurture talent from as broad a spectrum as possible to help eliminate barriers.”
Rachel Roumeliotis, VP, Content Strategy, Data & AI at O'Reilly, reminds us the problem started decades ago. “In the eighties, companies started advertising coding and tech-based video games to boys exclusively,” she said. “From an enterprise perspective, organizations can’t just say they’re going to take on a diversity and inclusion initiative or simply ‘hire more women.’ They need to create concrete yet ambitious goals and make it part of their mission to achieve them.”
Generally speaking, the women we spoke to about gender diversity in tech acknowledge that a lot has been done—but not enough. Most view the talent pipeline itself as problematic. “There are plenty of women who are available to work in the tech industry and it’s time for us to be more invested in ensuring that we not only attract those individuals into tech but also that we retain them,” Kline said. “We need to make sure there are more women among the ranks of those who are teaching software development skills. We then need to encourage hiring partners to hire more women and minorities to diversify their ranks.”
Argawal said: “I often hear that there is a demand and supply issue in finding women for leadership positions, and some of it is true: There are more men applying to those positions than women. But sometimes these positions are only through references and women don't have as many sponsors just because their numbers are low and they don't get referrals. To solve this problem, more effort needs to be put in recruitment, so the companies hire the best candidate from the pool that is more inclusive.”
Ritika Gunnar, VP of Data and Artificial Intelligence Services and Learning at IBM, added that tech companies should “use technology to accelerate performance. That means hardwiring fairness into screening, use digital tools for communication and feedback to surface what’s working and what’s not, and invest in collaborative tools and teaming practices that allow women and men to engage effectively in physical and remote environments even after the pandemic abates.”
Forty-nine percent of women respondents to Dice’s study believe it’s “extremely important” for their company to change its policies to support gender diversity and inclusion. Among those we spoke to, the prevailing request was that companies improve the pipeline to teach, train, and hire more women into tech roles, then treat those women as equals. While there may not be enough women in tech, the women already in tech seem to enjoy what they do, despite the headwinds they encounter. Ironing out the creases along gender lines related to pay, opportunity, and overall respect would likely improve those statistics, too.