Diversity in the Tech Industry: 6 Organizations that lead
According to an analysis from Wired, Black, Latinx and Native tech professionals make up less than 5% of the workforce at major tech companies. When it comes to diversity within the technology field, the industry has long lacked inclusive and diverse representation.
Diverse representation in any organization is beneficial for introducing diverse skills, talents, ideas, experiences, and perspectives to enhance overall productivity and innovation. Research from Gartner shows that average employee performance in diverse organizations is 12% higher than employee performance in non-diverse organizations.
Many organizations have been established with the sole purpose of bridging both the gender and race gaps in tech. Continue reading to learn more about six organizations who are challenging big tech to do better - but first - why are they so vital?
The Importance of Representation in the Tech Industry
While a McKinsey report showed that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed their counterparts by 36% profitability, there is much more at stake than the bottom line. Two particular instances of technology bias caused by lack of representation can be seen in two of 2021’s trending tech sectors: Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity.
Take, for example, Computer Scientist Joy Buolamwini’s TED Talk and subsequent research on fighting bias in Artificial Intelligence. While working with facial analysis software as a grad student at MIT, Buolamwini uncovered a huge flaw in the technology— the software didn’t recognize her face. Through her research, she presented evidence of the Coded Gaze and with it opened up an important discussion about the need for inclusivity in data, coding and product development.
The pandemic and the accelerated migration to a remote workforce has emphasized the importance of Cybersecurity - which AI plays an integral role in. In the first half of 2020 alone, 540 data breaches were reported in the USA with the average breach costing a whopping $3.86 million. As companies focus on building out their security teams, ignoring the importance of diverse hiring could cost them.
In an interview with SD Times, James Slaby, Director of Cyber Protection at Acronis, pointed out how a lack of diversity in tech can actually work in the favor of cybercriminals. Diverse viewpoints are a crucial part of identifying, understanding, and mitigating social engineering and ransomware attacks at a broad scope.
For instance, Cybersecurity AI requires data and context that is diverse to act effectively. Imagine creating a security system based on a bias like "older adults are less technology savvy and therefore riskier users," when the data actually shows that younger adults are more likely to share and reuse passwords. Similar biases can undermine cyber security measures greatly, but a diverse cyber team can recognize the subtle examples of bias in security algorithms.
As seen in the examples above, the importance of creating and maintaining a diverse tech workforce cannot be emphasized enough. As the tech industry’s influence on our society continues to grow, companies need to take steps to build inclusive workplaces - supporting organizations like the ones below is a great starting point.
Organizations Tackling Tech’s Diversity Gap
Reboot Representation | rebootrepresentation.org
Launched in 2018, Reboot Representation is a coalition of tech companies committed to doubling the number of Black, Latina, and Native American women receiving computing degrees by 2025. Though these companies have collectively committed $21.1 million to help achieve this goal, the partnership goes beyond monetary resources.
Members of the coalition, some from competing companies, meet regularly to share with and learn from one another about diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Reboot Representation believes that tech companies must work with their competitors in order to properly diversify the industry. The organization’s website also offers resources and actionable recommendations to help companies address the gender gap in tech by increasing their impact, reach and return on investment.
Black Girls CODE | blackgirlscode.org
Founded in 2011, Black Girls CODE is a San Francisco-based non-profit dedicated to increasing the number of women of color in STEM by introducing girls ages 7-17 to computer science and technology. The organization has done so through workshops, after school programs, code camps, and even field trips to places like Microsoft and Pixar. Since their launch, Black Girls CODE has served over 20,000 students through 15 chapters across the United States and South Africa.
Like many other organizations, BGC has transitioned to the virtual space as a result of the pandemic. This shift has expanded their reach, allowing them to connect with 8,900 students all over the world through 160+ virtual events, including tech career panels and coding workshops.
Re:work Training | reworktraining.org
In 2016, Chicago-based re:work Training launched with the goal of creating workplaces that reflected the city’s diverse communities. The organization aims to reshape hiring trends and empower untapped talent to jump start their career in the tech industry by providing free training. The 8-week training and placement program has no minimum education or professional experience requirements.
Program participants learn the foundations of entry-level software sales and are equipped with the knowledge they need to land a job and impress their future managers and colleagues from the start. By partnering with top tech companies who understand the importance of an inclusive workforce, the organization has helped connect 120+ candidates and employers.
Click here to see re:work CEO Sheldon Banks in Tech in Motion’s Disruption Through Diversity webinar recording.
Code2040 | code2040.org
Launched in 2012, Code2040 is a nonprofit dedicated to achieving racial equity in the tech industry. The organization focuses on connecting early-career Black and Latinx tech talent with a network of companies, mentors, and peers. Working with industry leaders, Code2040 crafts impactful partnerships and initiatives to help companies hire and retain diverse tech talent.
Through events, trainings, programs, and knowledge sharing sessions, Code2040 aims to provide professional resources for Black and Latinx technologists to set themselves up for successful careers in the industry.
/dev/color | devcolor.org
/dev/color started in 2015 as a small group of individuals coming together with one common goal: to build a community of Black software engineers who help each other reach their career ambitions. Since then, it has grown into a non-profit organization that has helped individuals find new jobs, learn new technologies, and even build their companies.
Through their programs and partnerships, /dev/color aims to empower Black technologists to overcome challenges, reach their full potential, and become industry leaders. They hope to transform the industry by providing a sense of belonging and support to their members and ultimately creating an opportunity for them to give back to their communities.
Blacks in Technology | blacksintechnology.net
Founded in 2008, Blacks in Technology (BIT) is now the largest global community and media organization dedicated to increasing the representation of Black people in the tech industry. BIT aims to “stomp the divide” between Black tech workers and to create change in an industry where they are underrepresented. The organization does so by providing resources, mentorship, networking opportunities and creating a space for members to share their expertise with one another to advance their careers.
Most recently, the organization’s non-profit partnered with the Linux Foundation to launch a new scholarship program to help more Black individuals launch their IT careers. Blacks in Technology will award 50 scholarships per quarter to promising individuals looking to get started in the open source community. Recipients will also receive one-on-one coaching from a BIT mentor throughout their training to help them prepare for exams.
Not only are diversity, equity and inclusion extremely important pillars for ensuring a collaborative, supportive, and successful work culture, 67% of candidates now actively seek out a company for its diverse practices; as diversity within a company is beneficial, a lack of diversity comes with detriments, including the perpetuation of technology bias. Please contact the above organizations via their website links to get involved, and let us know in the comments if we've missed any of your favorites. In the meantime, if you're looking for more ways to hire diverse talent at your own organization, you can pick up some ideas by reading "How to Hire and Attract Diverse Talent in Tech."