Workplace Diversity Impacts Us All
At our upcoming May event, Women Speak Tech and Culture Summit are joining forces to discuss best practices for putting people first in organizations, establishing a values-driven culture and attracting emotionally intelligent talent.
To truly prioritize people and culture, a more complete support of diversity in the workplace needs to be built across the board. Diversity in the workplace has been proven time and time again to bring invaluable benefits to employees, including: increased creativity, better problem-solving, and greater innovation. Despite these findings, diversity statistics for the technology industry, namely surrounding the inclusion of women, remain dismal. The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), an organization dedicated to spreading awareness of the diversity issue that plagues the industry, reports that women’s representation in tech has been steadily declining from its 1991 peak of 36% to its present day rate of 25%. This statistic is especially troubling given another fact presented in NCWIT’s 2015 – 2016 comprehensive report: 57% of all professional occupations in the U.S. are held by women (2015).
Upending the Unconscious Bias
If we believe in a tech culture that is open, inclusive, and values-driven, we need to address the many contributing factors to the low numbers of women in tech: job retention and attrition, representation in upper management, access to technical training or mentoring, and non-professional career roadblocks (i.e. harsher judgment of personality, questions about family life, unwanted sexual advances, feeling “stalled” in their careers due to lack of advancement opportunities, etc.).
The Atlantic‘s April 2017 issue also explores the unsettling phenomenon of declining women in tech, putting the heavily tech-saturated Silicon Valley under the microscope. In her article “Why is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” Liza Mundy ambitiously tackles addressing the elephant in the room that most women who work in tech are well-acquainted with: the unconscious bias.
Melinda Gates, prominent industry veteran and advocate of championing women’s contributions to tech, expands on this bias in a related Atlantic article, “The Tech Industry Needs to Fix its Gender Issue – Now.” Gates discusses the dangers consumers, and average citizens, could encounter if the tech industry continued to avoid systemically improving the diversity quotient: “I think we’ll have so much hidden bias coded into the system that we won’t even realize all the places that we have it. If you don’t have a diverse workforce programming artificial intelligence and thinking about the data sets to feed in, and how to look at a particular program, you’re going to have so much bias in the system, you’re going to have a hard time rolling it back later or taking it out.”
Ultimately, the pervasive bias ends up influencing recruitment practices, upper management demographics, company culture, and overall approach to diversity within an organization. It doesn’t simply affect day-to-day interactions in the workplace, or inconsequential aspects of company culture, but has power to significantly affect the decision-maker hierarchy, quality of innovations, and overall culture of the tech industry for decades to come.
The bias may not be able to change overnight, but acknowledging its existence and addressing the resulting challenges head-on will get the ball rolling. Cultural shifts are necessary and constant, paving the way for a more equal, more values-driven culture. However, the responsibility for making these shifts cannot rest solely on the shoulders of one group or gender.
Every individual working in the tech industry, regardless of gender, ethnicity or position, needs to make a conscious and systemic effort towards cultural improvement.
Join the conversation with us May 31st to delve deeper into ways you can take action and help facilitate success. Hear best practices organizations are using to establish a values-driven culture and attract/retain emotionally intelligent talent.
Author: Amy Drozdiak, Intern at Moxie Marketing
Cited Sources – To view the full statistical reports and articles cited, please visit the following links: