As mass layoffs continue to plague the tech industry, a new report from tech career market Dice found that racism and sexism are growing problems in the profession.
According to the survey of nearly 2,500 tech professionals, 24 percent of tech workers experienced racial discrimination in 2022, compared to 18 percent in 2021. The percentage of tech professionals who said they experienced gender discrimination also increased, from 21 percent in 2021 to 26 percent in 2022.
“The findings are disappointing, especially considering the number of cases of tech professionals experiencing racial and gender discrimination has risen annually,” said Art Zeile, CEO of Dice. “With all the work that companies claim to do, the visibility of these numbers is increasing.”
The report also indicated that by 2022:
- More than half of black workers (54 percent) said they experience racial bias at work—a significantly higher percentage than for any other racial group.
- 73 percent of white tech professionals said they had no racial bias—significantly higher than for all other groups.
- Technical professionals with a disability or mental health condition were more likely than those without a disability to say that discrimination occurs often or very often in the workplace.
The findings also showed that only 15 percent of HR professionals said they believe racial inequality occurs often or very often at work, suggesting that HR may not be fully aware of the discrimination that occurs within their companies.
Laura Close, a Seattle-based tech influencer and co-founder of analytics company Included.ai, said the tech industry, like all professions, has a responsibility to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all employees.
“Having a diverse workforce is considered important to a company’s ‘brand’ so that we as employers can succeed in recruiting more and more top talent,” she explained. “How BIPOC (Black people, Indigenous people and other people of color) are treated after the ‘photo op’ is the question.”
Tech’s Lack of Diversity: By the Numbers
Zeile attributes the rise of discrimination to a lack of diversity in the tech industry.
“That, I believe, is the core of the issue with cases of discrimination increasing year-on-year,” he said.
According to recent research:
- Black employees make up 12 percent of the U.S. workforce but only 8 percent of workers in tech, according to a 2023 report by McKinsey and Co. – suite are Black.
- Women comprise 47 percent of the US workforce but only 28 percent of tech professionals, according to a report from the job site Zippia. They are most underrepresented in physical science (40 percent), computer (25 percent) and engineering (15 percent) jobs.
The diversity issues may continue to worsen with the ongoing tech layoffs, which have also led to the erosion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) efforts nationwide.
“When the majority of technical professionals have the same thoughts and experiences, it is natural that ideas outside of that ‘norm’ are not easily accepted and elevated,” said Zeile. “Right now, unfortunately, we’re seeing the exact opposite happening, where ideas—and the people who share them—are being actively rejected or ignored.”
5 Tips for reducing discrimination in Tech
The tech industry’s lack of diversity is only exacerbated by reports of discrimination, Zeile said.
“It makes attracting and retaining tech talent from underrepresented groups more difficult — and understandably so,” he said. “Why would anyone want to work for a company where discrimination is accepted as part of the culture? We’re sabotaging our own efforts here to make tech more diverse, equitable and inclusive by not improving our existing cultures first.”
Without diverse ideas feeding into the development of technology, Zeile explained, tech companies will continue to prioritize a homogenous society in which certain groups remain in control of what is accepted and what is not.
“At the employee level, as organizational leaders, we need to take care of our people and make them feel valued and included,” he added. “If that doesn’t happen, we see decreases in productivity and innovation and increases in waste.”
Having fewer Black workers is also linked to a reduction in innovation, product value to end users and market share, close noted. She added, “There’s a reason Fortune 500 CEOs are investing in DE&I strategies. Diverse workforce powers market dominance.”
Zeile said technology companies can reduce discrimination by:
- Auditing data and procedures to assess hiring processes and salaries.
- Ask for staff feedback through surveys to gauge the company’s culture and identify opportunities for improvement.
- Engage a third-party consultant to further identify opportunities for improvement.
- Forging a more inclusive candidate and leadership pipeline.
- Developing a long-term plan for improving DE&I efforts.
“Without a strong foundation, even if you attract diverse talent,” explained Zeile, “you won’t keep them long once they experience your company culture as an employee.”