With the introduction of Kamala Harris as the first U.S. female black vice president, diversity and inclusion (D&I) movements across the country celebrated a progressive step forward. However, while this landmark moment was obviously a step forward, statistics prove that we still have a long ways to go in relation to our efforts. Per the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018 the median income of a woman was only $.79 to the dollar of a white male. Black ($.62) and Hispanic or Latino ($.54) women fared even worse. Surprisingly all of this occurs while we are at a peak of awareness of the need and importance for diversity. The CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion pledge, started in 2017, has obtained pledges from leaders of over 1,000 companies across 85 industries committed to change, including our own organization. Yet some industries, including technology, are seriously lagging behind and in need of increased focus.
According to a report from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, 83% of all executives in the technology industry are white. In addition, only approximately 25% of employees in cybersecurity self-identify as being a minority. The figures are staggering. To look at how the tech industry fares one need not look further than some of the largest firms in the Silicon Valley. At Apple and Google, white employees constituted 50% and 54% of the overall workforce. Black employees, meanwhile, made up less than 10% of the workforce.
So what’s the answer you ask? It’s obvious the solution is not a simple one. Many facets of change need to be implemented. Corporate cultures need to be reassessed. Recruiting, retention, and succession plans need a refresh. The pool of potential talent is broad enough that technology companies do not have to sacrifice diversity for best fit talent, and by making diversity a larger focus, you may find unexpected solutions to talent needs. Internal audit departments may also play an integral role in assisting to review D&I programs and benchmark progress.
In addition, reviews of HR policies and procedures may be a critical step in ensuring company initiatives are truly integrated as part of day-to-day practices. Voluntary programs, for example, may not be going far enough to change the culture at play; there may need to be additional steps to hold team members accountable to D&I efforts. Also, looking into how well the company has handled situations that may have arisen or been reported via the ethics hotline, is another benchmark for evaluation.
Getting back to practices specific to the technology industry, a keen focus must be clearly applied to building a more diverse talent pipeline. This is a process that begins in education, with creating the next talent pool and extends to the recruiting process and the hiring for executive positions. There is a ways to go on the education front, as this report from Educause points out, but the facets that are in a company’s control, such as establishing a companywide diversity program, can make a big difference in your organization today.
Benefits of D&I for the Technology Sector
Diversity and inclusion has implications for risk management. Social engineering attacks, where cyber criminals use various strategies to get employees to provide access to sensitive data is becoming a common form of network intrusion. It behooves companies to have diversified cyber teams that understand how hackers think. Will a team comprised solely of middle aged white males relate sufficiently to social engineering tactics of a younger and diversified generation? Arguably a company that fails to recognize the importance of a well-rounded and cultured cyber workforce may find itself more susceptible to attacks that may have been prevented.
Where Do You Start?
The road to a fully diversified workforce is sure to be long and arduous. That being said, with focused and dedicated efforts, companies can put into action plans that support what their cultures preach. For a list of some steps that could be employed to start the D&I process, check out some of the resources below:
For more information, please contact Scott Woznicki or another member of our Team.
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