Despite repeated tech industry pledges to do better when it comes to racial discrimination (defined as the practice of letting a person’s race or skin color unfairly become a factor in everything from hiring to promotions and other employment benefits), it remains a major issue within tech, according to technologists.
Perception of inequalities
More than half of Black technologist respondents (57%) said that racial inequality occurs frequently or very frequently in the tech industry, a slight increase from last year (when it stood at 55%). Some 35% of Hispanic/Latino(a) respondents, 31% of White respondents, 29% of Asian/Pacific Islander and 25% of Asian Indian respondents felt the same way.
Experienced racial discrimination
The number of Black technologists who reported experiencing racial discrimination also rose year-over-year, from 48% in 2020 to 50% in 2021. That’s significantly ahead of the racial discrimination experienced by other groups, including Asian/Pacific Islander respondents (28%), Hispanic/Latino(a) respondents (25%), Asian Indian respondents (21%) and White respondents (10%).
Witnessed racial discrimination
Discrimination occurs in many different forms. For Black technologists, for example, discrimination was most commonly perceived in the form of a lack of leadership opportunities (53%), while Hispanic/Latino(a) respondents most often witnessed salary and hiring discrimination (both 31%). Asian Indians most often witnessed discrimination in leadership and promotional opportunities (38%), while Asian/Pacific Islanders saw it most with promotional opportunities (35%). Among Whites, hiring (23%) was the most common response.
While many companies have pledged to tackle inequity and discrimination, their policies have often resulted in incremental (or no) discernible progress, at least when it comes to the perception of technologists. Whether you’re a technologist wanting to become a better ally or a recruiter seeking to help diversify the tech industry, the common experiences of discrimination listed above provide a good place to start when evaluating workplace policies and culture.
Compensation and Race
Levels of satisfaction with current compensation remained similar to last year’s breakdown, with more White technologists indicating they were “very satisfied” with their current compensation (more than members of any other group) and Black and Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists being the most likely to be dissatisfied with their current compensation.
How satisfied are you with the compensation in your current position?
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Satisfaction with current compensation
While most White technologists (61%) were satisfied with their current compensation, the next two groups, Black technologists and Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists, lagged behind significantly at 48%. Asian/Pacific Islander technologists and Asian Indian technologists were even less satisfied with their compensation at 46% and 47%, respectively.
Do you think that you are underpaid relative to other people with your same occupation and skill level in your current job?
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Perception of compensation equity
A perception of being underpaid prevails in most technologists’ minds despite promises made by organizations to close the racial wage gap. Black, Asian Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists are more likely than White technologists to feel they are underpaid compared to others with the same occupation and skill level.
Asian Indian technologists had the highest levels of perceived income inequality (56%), followed by Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists at 54% and Black and Asian/Pacific Islander technologists at 52%, while 45% of White technologists felt underpaid. While the disparity between ethnicities is notable, the fact that the lowest number still represents nearly half speaks to compensation continuing to be a major issue in tech. The perception of being underpaid, paired with the extraordinarily high demand for tech talent across industries and verticals, is only fueling technologists’ openness to new opportunities (read more on this in How Career Perception Differs by Race).
However, when it comes to negotiating for a higher salary both within and outside their current organizations, most technologists still report not initiating a negotiation.
Negotiating for salary
As noted, in an environment of historic demand (tech unemployment hit 1.7% in January 2022), technologists with the right combination of skills and experience have leverage to negotiate for higher salaries right now. However, less than half (48%) of technologists from all races and ethnicities surveyed negotiated their most recent salary at a new company in 2021.
There was movement in both directions from technologists who negotiated their most recent salary for a new job at a new company in all racial groups, except Black technologists who remained at 40%. Technologists who were more likely to negotiate their salary in 2021 were Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists at 47% (up from 43% in 2020) and Asian Indian technologists at 45% in 2021 (up from 39% in 2020). Racial groups less likely to have negotiated their most recent salary in 2021 were White technologists at 48% (down from 51%) and Asian/Pacific Islander technologists at 42% (down from 45%). Percentages dropped even lower for technologists who negotiated their salary for a new job at their same company and those who negotiated their salary for their same job.
We heard from technologists that they felt less comfortable negotiating for a higher salary during the pandemic, and it's clear this discomfort continued into 2021 for some groups. The lack of negotiation could also be a result of organizations offering higher salary and benefit packages due to increased demand, although if that were the case, we could expect the numbers of those who feel underpaid to be lower. Despite current economic conditions, it’s important to remember that fair compensation can be an important path to closing the prevailing racial wage gaps. To make certain you’re earning or paying marketing value for tech talent, check out the Dice 2022 Tech Salary Report for a breakdown on tech salaries by location, occupation, skill and more.
Did you negotiate your compensation for your…
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How Career Perception Differs by Race
Technologists who are more satisfied with their jobs and careers are more likely to stay at their current companies (and in tech). But as you can see in the following data, some groups are much happier than others.
Satisfaction with career
How would you rate your level of satisfaction with your overall career?
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Similar to last year’s data, White and Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists indicated they were more satisfied with their overall careers (at 69% each) than other demographic groups, including Asian/Pacific Islander (64%), Black (62%) and Asian Indian technologists (59%).
Satisfaction with job
How would you rate your level of satisfaction with your current job?
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Looking at these numbers through the most optimistic lens, one could make the case that the tech industry’s collective DEI policies are beginning to have an impact on different groups’ career perceptions. However, our data also shows that, similar to satisfaction with current compensation, White technologists are notably more satisfied than almost every other demographic in their current/most recent jobs. In a disquieting continuation of last year’s trend, significant percentages of Black and Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists remained actively dissatisfied with their current positions, at 20% and 22%, respectively, which is notably higher than other groups.
Satisfaction with manager
While it’s difficult to tease apart the roots of this dissatisfaction, some of it could hinge on compensation (see previous section). On a more positive note, while Black, White and Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists were significantly more satisfied with their managers than Asian/Pacific Islanders and Asian Indians, more than 50% of technologists from all racial groups indicated satisfaction with their manager. This continues yet another trend from last year’s report; as we mentioned then, relatively high rates of satisfaction with managers implies there’s enough trust and respect for DEI policies to really take hold. As we know, people tend to leave because of their managers/bosses more often than they leave because of other factors.
According to a recent study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, factors that managers have direct control over — such as toxic culture within teams, a refusal to promote DEI and a failure to recognize employees’ individual performance — were some of the top predictors of attrition during the “Great Resignation.” Asian/Pacific Islander and Asian Indian colleagues, however, were not as happy with management.
How would you rate your level of satisfaction with your current manager?
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Generally speaking, how burned out do you feel as it pertains to your job?
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Asian/Pacific Islander and Asian Indians also reported higher levels of burnout (34% and 37%, respectively) than their White, Black and Hispanic/Latino(a) colleagues; these groups were also far more impacted by longer hours and workload. Black, White and Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists also cited workload as the most common cause of burnout within their group. In a heartening change from last year, however, the percentage of technologists across all groups reporting pandemic-related stress has dipped considerably, suggesting that more of them have mastered the delicate art of balancing remote or hybrid work, family life and the uncertainties around returning to the office.
Reasons for burnout
What would you say are the two biggest reasons you feel burned out?
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For managers, these datapoints underscore the need to pay attention to the happiness and needs of all groups — and to their workloads and schedules. Although many technologists may have been less impacted by pandemic-tightened workloads, given the continued demand throughout, they’re still very much at risk of burnout due to long hours, difficult tasks and monotony. Catching these issues before they result in burnout starts with opening lines of effective communication with a team and making sure that all concerns are adequately discussed (or are being addressed through a tangible plan).
The shift in how employees perceive work in general, spurred by COVID, has thrown into even sharper relief that deploying consistent and well-thought-out methods for boosting morale, reducing stress and even making daily workloads more satisfying must be a top priority for anyone managing an individual or a team. If they don’t, their most valued technologists might walk right out the door. Forty-three percent of Asian Indian technologists said they were considering a switch in employers within the next year, along with 39% of their Black colleagues. High levels of Hispanic/Latino(a) (38%), Asian/Pacific Islander (33%) and White (26%) technologists likewise hinted at a desire to jump jobs. Given the current environment, technologists could leave for greener pastures regardless, but the data shows that the impact of a positive culture can be a difference-maker for both hiring and retention.
Reasons for changing employers
As a part of examining their management practices, compensation remains a critical factor. Among those technologists inclined to switch employers, many want higher pay. Across all groups, other top reasons included a desire for more responsibility/greater professional development (47%) and to seek better working conditions (39%). Money isn’t everything, but it must be part of the equation; essentially, if an organization is perceived to have the funds to pay higher salaries, conventional wisdom suggests that now is the time to make those allocations. Even more importantly, recruiters and employers must be very clear on policies around equal pay. A recent high-profile misstep by a recruiter (posting about how they made a candidate an offer $45,000 below budget because that’s what they asked for) sparked outrage and provided a reminder that fair compensation is a vital component in helping to close the wage gap (with happier employees and higher retention the most likely side effect). Very small percentages planned on leaving tech altogether, which is a positive sign for the future — and for organizations’ ability to secure the talent they need.
The Path to Racial Equality in Tech
Many organizations have made a concerted attempt to render internal policies, work environments and cultures more diverse, equitable and inclusive. Such efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by most technologists. Across the board, percentages of technologists who are impressed with their organization’s efforts improved in 2021.
Action to date
This year, 39% of Black technologists were moderately or extremely impressed with their company’s response to diversity and equity movements (up from 38% in 2020), 41% of Asian/Pacific Islander technologists were impressed (up from 38%), 48% of Asian Indian technologists were impressed (up from 46%), 40% of Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists were impressed (up from 35%) and the largest jump came from White technologists, 44% of whom were impressed with their company’s response (up from 36%).
An organization’s reputation for being diverse, equitable and inclusive is similarly important to technologists. Nearly half of respondents (48%) indicated that an organization’s reputation regarding DEI factors into their decision to work for that organization, although the range of perceived influence varies by racial group. More than two-thirds (69%) of Black technologists said an organization’s reputation factored into their decision (up from 65% last year), followed by Asian Indian technologists at 61% (up from 53% in 2020), Asian/Pacific Islander technologists at 55% (up from 51%), Hispanic/Latino(a) technologists at 57% (up from 50%) and White technologists at 45% (up from 41%). Importance was up year-over-year across all groups, suggesting an organization’s reputation regarding DEI is key to attracting and retaining tech talent.
While technologist sentiment around the importance of their company’s policies and practices supporting Black Lives Matter, anti-racist and other racial diversity and inclusion movements remains strong, with 51% of technologists indicating this is moderately or extremely important to them, the importance weighs differently for each demographic group.
Black technologists place the most importance on this at 70%, indicating moderate to extreme importance, which is nearly unchanged from 2020. All other racial and ethnic groups saw increases in responses indicating moderate to extreme importance: Asian Indian technologists at 62% (up from 57% in 2020), Hispanic/Latino(a) at 57% (up from 50%), Asian/Pacific Islander technologists at 56% (up from 48%) and White technologists at 49% (up from 43%).
Given technologist sentiment around the importance of DEI in the organizations they work for (and interview with), it’s evident that companies must continue to push forward toward their DEI goals.
It may take years for some of these efforts to truly move the needle. There’s a clear need for this work: Technologists believe that a diverse workforce yields positive effects, including a lift in company morale, collaboration and innovation. For example, diverse thinking can improve product development and spur the creation of products for new audiences. It can also enhance company culture, creating a standard of inclusion and belonging. And these benefits support the generation of 19-33% more revenue by inclusive organizations when compared to their peers, according to The Diversity Movement.
At a time when companies are competing fiercely for talent while also seeking any advantage over the competition, an effective program (or more impactful, an organization-wide commitment integrating DEI into every strategy, department and initiative) can have a substantial real-world impact on hiring the best people, improving the bottom line and ultimately ensuring company success. In the meantime, however, the tech industry must take a hard look at the data and consider how to best adjust policies to deliver better results. There may still be a dissonance in how organizations are viewing the impact of their efforts internally, and in how the most impacted groups are seeing the efforts play out in reality.