Despite efforts to reduce inequity and bias in the workplace, technology professionals believe discrimination linked to race and gender is still a problem in the tech industry according to recent Dice survey data.
Though the data shows little change in sentiment year over year, this year’s data shows a deeper problem: a perception gap or disconnect between how tech employees and HR professionals perceive the occurrence of discrimination when it comes to hiring and selection, compensation and advancement.
For example, while 45% of HR professionals think racial discrimination rarely or very rarely occurs in their tech departments, only 24% of the tech professionals we surveyed shared this perspective.
How can you bridge the divide? While you and your team can’t be privy to every conversation, you can increase your awareness to recognize where bias and discrimination are emerging within current processes, then build attention to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) into those systems noted Joelle Emerson, CEO and co-founder of Paradigm Strategy, Inc., a company dedicated to helping companies build and cultivate cultures where employees from all backgrounds and identities can do their best work and thrive.
Where Discrimination and Inequality are Occurring:
The following are four key areas where discrimination is occurring in tech workplaces, according to our survey data.
Hiring and Selection
Data collected in our latest survey on discrimination in tech shows that hiring managers are still letting bias stand in the way of giving all tech candidates a fair shot.
Black (41%), Hispanic/Latinx (28%) and Asian Indian/Indian Subcontinent (25%) tech professionals reported witnessing racial discrimination in hiring while just 17% of HR professionals reported witnessing racial discrimination in hiring. The gap in perception occurs for gender discrimination too: 29% of tech professionals who identify as women reported witnessing gender discrimination while just 15% of HR professionals responded this way.
Salary and Benefits
Even for well-intentioned companies with structured compensation systems, pay equity remains elusive. Twenty-two percent of tech professionals said they have witnessed racial discrimination when it comes to salary and benefits – and occurrences increase for Black tech professionals (39%) and Hispanic/Latinx tech professionals (25%). Tech professionals who identify as women also reported witnessing gender discrimination at a higher rate (45%). Again, HR professionals seem to witness discrimination in salary and benefits less frequently: 14% said they have witnessed racial discrimination and 15%, gender discrimination.
With 52 percent of tech pros likely to change employers within the next year, HR professionals need to take the lead on treating compensation equity as a legal, ethical and business obligation.
Advancement and Promotions
Another disturbing trend is that tech companies are only focusing on half the problem. Jenny Silva, co-founder of the Racial Equity Playbook summed it up this way:
“You can hire all the diverse candidates you want, but you’re going to lose a lot of talent if you don’t have an inclusive environment where everyone feels respected and has access to the same opportunities.”
Case in point, the survey results show that underrepresented racial groups and tech professionals who identify as women witness discrimination in promotional opportunities more often than the average tech professional, while the percentage of HR pros witnessing this type of discrimination lags behind again.
Recognition and Respect
Respect is paramount to an inclusive culture and it’s lacking for tech professionals who identify as women. More than one third (38%) of women reported witnessing gender discrimination in “respect for one’s technical abilities” – more than any other group surveyed. And just 18% of HR professionals said they are aware of this type of gender discrimination in their tech/IT departments.
To build a culture of inclusivity and belonging, employees must feel respected. This is a fundamental requirement.
5 DEIB Strategies that Work
Now that you understand where discrimination is occurring, here are five ways to resolve the underlying causes, not just the symptoms.
The best way to eliminate unconscious bias and inequality is to make every evaluation process and every personnel and compensation decision as objective and standardized as possible, Silva noted.
From structured hiring processes to scorecards that rate applicants on the key qualifications for job offers, performance appraisals, promotions and project assignments, following a consistent process can help to eliminate bias, favoritism and politics from decisions.
Employees tend to refer people like themselves, so relying heavily on referred candidates can perpetuate homogeneity. Worse, referred candidates often get preferential treatment during the testing and evaluation process.
When referred candidates have been evaluated using the same standards as outside technical candidates, they haven’t fared as well Silva noted.
Make the Business Case
There is overwhelming evidence that companies with diverse workforces achieve higher levels of innovation and profits. Being prepared to present how the prioritization of DEIB in your organization will benefit the organization and result in ROI will result in stronger buy-in from leadership. A business case will help them see a focus on DEIB as an asset in addition to being the right thing to do.
Your business case should include overarching goals like employing a diverse technical workforce, how your team will achieve this tactically and the results you anticipate–better employee retention, improved bottom lines and more creative problem solving, for example.
Create More Inclusive Job Descriptions
The longer and more detailed the job description, the less likely it is to attract women or technology pros from historically underrepresented backgrounds. “Kitchen sink” job postings will turn off far more diverse candidates than they attract.
Empowerment vs. Control
According to research by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, companies get better results when they ease up on the control tactics. They conclude that it’s more effective to engage managers in solving the problem. Thinking back to the importance of respect, trust goes hand-in-hand with respect as being a critical element to the success of a truly inclusive organizational culture.
For a more detailed look at discrimination in tech and what you can do as recruiters and HR professionals to help eradicate it, check out Dice’s fact sheet: Discrimination in Tech.