Main image of article The Evolving Future of DEIB in Tech: Strategies for Year-Round Progress

During this and every Pride Month, organizations around the globe post rainbow versions of brand logos and issue words of support and encouragement for members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. These are great steps to take to highlight diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) but true commitment and support requires more than a few quick checklist items and one month of the year. Genuine, meaningful commitment to DEIB should be an embodiment of company values that are proven through year-round action. While it’s important to elevate LGBTQIA2S+ voices during Pride Month, consistent dedication to fostering a more inclusive world is a necessary part of any successful DEIB strategy — and this is especially true when it comes to recruiting in industries slow to reflect the diversity of the working population. 

In the tech world, diversity is notoriously lagging. Significant gaps persist in gender and ethnic group representation. As of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s last special report on Diversity in High Tech (2014), the tech sector employed a larger share of whites, Asian Americans, and men as compared to overall private industry. Unsurprisingly, Black, Hispanic and women professionals were significantly underrepresented. While there have likely been some gains over the past several years, there is surely still a long way to go. 

There are a host of organizations working hard to shrink the tech diversity gaps, largely by supporting early and mid-career professionals through scholarships and training opportunities, along with networking and recruiting opportunities. No doubt, these types of organizations can make a substantial difference in the experiences of the people they touch. But without more tech employers embracing and prioritizing DEIB initiatives and practices throughout the talent acquisition process — and throughout the year — industry diversity figures are likely to continue moving at a glacial pace and may never catch up. 

Here’s a look at the state of DEIB in tech recruiting today, along with suggestions for practical actions that anyone who works in recruiting can take to improve DEIB outcomes for their organization.

Why DEIB in Recruiting Still Matters and Always Will

The tech industry operates amid continued disparity in representation — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. While demographic categories reflect the “D” in DEIB and are somewhat easily measured, the other three components are often difficult to quantify and many organizations are not even trying. Given how far the sector is from equitable representation, not to mention opportunity, it’s incumbent on tech organizations to keep DEIB in high priority and bake it into the entire talent acquisition process.

That said, organizations can’t ‘fix’ DEIB problems through hiring alone — culture and internal mobility matter just as much, if not more. But, recruiting teams do play an essential role in forward progress by creating thriving pipelines of diverse talent, improving the employer brand, and rooting out unconscious bias throughout the hiring process. 

One of the key reasons DEIB still matters so much in recruiting is because it’s a growing priority among tech professionals. Younger generations in the workforce, who are primed to take over as the majority within the next few years, overwhelmingly demand a strong employer commitment to DEIB. ManpowerGroup’s 2023 Workforce Trends report revealed that two thirds (68%) of Gen Z employees are dissatisfied with their organization’s progress in creating a diverse and inclusive work environment and more than half (56%) would reject a role in an organization without diverse leadership. And it’s not just the youngest professionals: Pew Research found that more than half (56%) of all employed U.S. adults say DEIB at work is “a good thing.”

Committing to DEIB progress throughout the talent acquisition process is not only the right thing to do — it’s good for employees and business outcomes at the same time. According to researchers at the University of Colorado-Denver, organizations with gender wage equity and work-life balance supports (two key signifiers of the “EIB” in DEIB) see better productivity. Most likely, employee engagement and satisfaction are also higher. And in late 2023, McKinsey reported that, for the first time since their analyses began, higher levels of gender and ethnic diversity at the board level was significantly correlated to outperforming competitors financially. 

DEIB Challenges in Tech Recruiting

In the broader HR space over the past few years, there has been a marked drop off in attention to DEIB. The New York Times reports that this decrease has been shown in both a dropoff in hiring for DEIB related roles, as well as a reduction in how many quarterly investor calls mention DEIB. This shift has evolved largely in response to what are perceived as more urgent issues, namely around shrinking budgets and economic uncertainty. But it’s also clear that some organizations have intentionally backed off on DEIB initiatives out of fear of a backlash, while still others might suggest that DEIB is a problem that businesses have already ‘solved’ and therefore needs no further special attention. We can recognize that there are a wide swath of possible reasons that organizations might move DEIB to the back burner and, at the same time, we can build a case for putting DEIB back in the spotlight, not just during Pride Month but throughout the year.

Hiring amid continued industry layoffs is another steep challenge for tech recruiting teams. These conditions may cause some tech professionals to take fewer risks in the hiring process and they may not be as direct about what belonging looks like for them. This might sound like a win for the organization, as it could make hiring appear easier. But even in a fluid talent market, it’s crucial to thoroughly evaluate each candidate for potential culture add, not just job fit. Many organizations that are ‘doing’ DEIB well have embraced the reality that their company is not for everybody, and they make progress by ensuring that new hires are aligned with company values, including a commitment to DEIB.

No discussion of HR-related obstacles would be complete without acknowledging the high rates of overwhelm and burnout plaguing HR teams. In general, HR professionals are experiencing burnout at higher rates than the general working population. A recent HR Executive survey found that three-quarters (76%) of HR leaders reported that their stress increased in 2023 and one-quarter of those professionals characterized the increase as dramatic. For anyone, chronic stress and burnout can interfere with strategic and critical thinking, contribute to absenteeism and turnover, and put a damper on efficiency and productivity.

Embedding DEIB Practices in the Recruiting Process

Changing DEIB outcomes in the tech industry is a long game and progress relies on many consistent steps in the right direction, both in policy and practices. While the largest gains come from organization-wide commitment to DEIB progress, especially when it’s baked into the culture, there are many specific actions that different people engaged in recruiting can take to bring about positive change. 

HR, TA, and Technology Leaders: 

  • Lead by example. Walking the walk is crucial.

  • Provide training for recruiting teams and hiring managers on inclusive language and unconscious bias. Awareness, along with the knowledge of best practices, can help educate some obstacles out of the process.

  • Direct team members to use inclusive language in job descriptions and ads.

  • Approve budget for hosting and attending DEIB-centric recruiting events (virtual and/or in-person).

  • Create a DEIB task force within the recruiting team that can review progress, research solutions, and make suggestions for additional improvements.

Recruiters and Hiring Managers:

  • Ask candidates for their pronouns and preferred names — and use them.

  • Talk about how DEIB shows up in work culture, beyond policies and programs.

  • Highlight the employee experience with featured speakers during DEIB-forward recruiting events and video testimonials on your career hub.

  • Offer candidates the opportunity to meet with members of their choice of employee resource groups (ERGs) for an ‘off the record’ conversation without recruiter/hiring manager involvement. 

Continuing the DEIB Journey Throughout the Year

Fostering a robust DEIB framework within the tech industry's recruitment processes is both an ethical imperative and a strategic advantage. The industry's historically inequitable demographic representation illustrates the need for persistent and genuine efforts. While recruitment is a critical entry point, the DEIB journey doesn't end there. True progress requires a holistic approach that permeates every level of the organization, from internal policies to day-to-day cultural practices.

For tech companies, embedding DEIB principles into the talent acquisition process demands a multifaceted strategy and every member of the recruiting team can make an impact. However, it’s important to recognize that addressing DEIB challenges is not solely the responsibility of HR and recruitment teams. Every employee, from senior executives to entry-level staff, has a role in nurturing an inclusive environment. By encouraging employee resource groups, promoting transparent communication, and providing platforms for diverse voices, organizations can create a culture where all employees feel valued and heard.

The stakes are high. Younger generations of tech professionals are increasingly prioritizing DEIB in their career choices, and their expectations will shape the future workforce. Companies that lag in these efforts risk not only losing top talent but also falling behind in innovation and market competitiveness. As research consistently shows, diverse teams drive better business outcomes, including higher productivity and profitability.

Ultimately, the commitment to DEIB must be unwavering and ingrained in the corporate ethos throughout the year, extending far beyond hiring practices to influence every aspect of the organization. By doing so, tech companies can pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future, fostering an industry that truly reflects the diverse world it serves.