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The Future of Tech is Intersectional

The Future of Tech is Intersectional

The rapid evolution of technology has had a profound impact on our society. Today, AI and emerging technologies are shaping our lived reality in ways we may never have imagined. As technology permeates our daily lifestyles, diversity in tech is crucial in creating solutions that are innovative, thoughtful, and ethical.

Intersectionality is the way in which different parts of our identities intersect to shape our experiences and opportunities. By taking an intersectional point of view, companies can more thoughtfully navigate complex scenarios and decision-making.

In this post, we’ll explore how diversity and intersectionality can be key factors for success in the tech industry. Read on to learn about the current state of diversity in tech, why diversity and intersectionality matter, and DEI best practices you can implement today!

In this post, you’ll find:

  • The current state of diversity in tech, including tech industry statistics on women and people of color
  • What is intersectionality – and why does it matter?
  • Challenges faced by marginalized groups in the tech industry
  • Best practices for inclusive recruiting and a diverse workforce
  • Actionable tips to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion on your team
  • How to measure and evaluate tech diversity initiatives

What Does Diversity Mean?

What Does Diversity Mean - A team of diverse people doing a group photo

Diversity refers to a group with a variety of characteristics. These characteristics might include race, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, educational background, country of origin, socioeconomic background, and more.

Generally speaking, diverse tech teams with varied life experiences will draw from differing perspectives. This can result in a more thoughtful and well-rounded decision-making process.

Whereas diversity means a presence of varying characteristics, inclusion refers to the welcoming and supporting of diverse people. Inclusion requires recognizing and acknowledging our differences so we can work toward equity, wherein everyone is supported to succeed.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are vital aspects of the modern tech sector. Together, they can be the pillars for both a more equitable workplace and your company’s growth.

The Current State of Diversity in Tech

A report from the Pew Research Center notes that Black and Hispanic workers are both underrepresented groups in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workforce. In fact, the data showed that 9% of all U.S. STEM jobs are held by Black workers (vs. 11% of jobs overall), while just 8% are held by Hispanic workers (vs. 17% of jobs overall).

Moreover, “Black students earned just 7% of STEM bachelor’s degrees as of  2018, the most recent year available…the share of Hispanic college graduates with a STEM degree – 12% – remains lower than that for all college graduates (15%)…”

The report also notes that while women are underrepresented in workforce fields such as physical sciences, computing, and engineering. For example, women earned only 22% of the bachelor’s degrees in engineering and women earned 19% of degrees in computer science.

Additionally, racial and gender pay gaps persist in the tech sector. Among all racial and ethnic groups, women in STEM earn less than their male counterparts. Black workers age 25 and older in full-time STEM jobs earn 78% of the median earnings of white workers in STEM – while the typical Hispanic worker earns about 83% of the typical white STEM worker.

Across all sectors, diversity in tech can be an essential tool in helping to prevent and address biases while creating a more equitable workplace and growing your company’s success.

The Importance of Intersectionality

The Importance of Intersectionality - Woman with curly hair laughing at desk next to colleague

Intersectionality means recognizing that different aspects of our identities are interconnected with each other in ways that impact our experiences and opportunities.

The term “intersectionality was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw. A pioneering legal scholar, Civil Rights activist and Black feminist, Crenshaw used the term in a University of Chicago Legal Forum paper to describe her simultaneous experiences navigating racism and sexism. Today, she is a Professor of Law at Columbia University as well as a Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The World Economic Forum notes that the effects of intersectionality can be felt in the workplace, “where employees who belong to two or more underrepresented categories experience oppression and lack of opportunity in unique ways.”

For instance, Pew Research Center shares that Black and Hispanic women experience the largest gender wage gap in the workforce, generally attributed to their overlapping status as both women and people of color.

Taking an intersectional approach can help your team navigate complex challenges with nuance, thoughtfulness, and intentionality, to ensure everyone is set up to succeed.

Challenges Faced by Marginalized Groups in Tech

The challenges of pay gaps and under-representation mentioned above are not the only challenges faced by marginalized groups and minorities in tech.

For instance, in Women in Tech Statistics, CIO author Sarah K. White discusses “the promotion gap” for women in technology. Citing a McKinsey report, she shares that just 52 women in technology are promoted to manager for every 100 men.  She also notes, “Women in technology roles have some of the lowest numbers of of representation at every level.”  Moreover, a report from Accenture shares that 50% of women in tech roles leave them by the age of 35.

For LGBTQ+ individuals, one study found an interesting dichotomy between employee perceptions. While 86% of surveyed technologists felt their workplace was safe for LGBTQ+ people, only 76% of LGBQ individuals actually felt safe. For trans or gender non-conforming employees, that number was 64%. Out in Tech is one place where LGBTQ+ workers in tech can find solidarity and community.

People of color face are particularly under-represented in the c-suite. One McKinsey analysis of Fortune 500 executives found that just 3% of tech c-suite executives are Black. The Kapor Foundation notes that only 5% of executive tech leadership roles and 3% of tech company board members are held by Latine talent. Explore People of Color in Tech for helpful resources, articles, and job postings.

People with disabilities can experience unique challenges related to a lack of inclusion. For instance, uncaptioned videos can be a barrier to participation for someone deaf or hard of hearing. Rigid working times can hamper people with neurological differences who thrive on flexible schedules. Explore more with The Tech Disability Project, an organization “elevating people with disabilities in the tech industry through representation and community.”

The Impact of Intersectionality on Innovation

Taking an intersectional approach to diversity isn’t just the right thing to do – it can also lead to greater innovation and profitability within your tech company.

For instance, one Harvard Business Review study found that teams solve problems faster when they’re more cognitively diverse. (Note that cognitive diversity refer to diversity in thought – and this can be different than diversity in age, race, etc.!)

Additionally, McKinsey reports that companies in the top quartile for their executive teams’ gender diversity were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than those in the bottom quartile. For ethnic and cultural diversity, top-quartile companies outperformed bottom-quartile ones by 36% in profitability.

Moreover, there are important gaps when stakeholders are left out of the conversation in tech fields. For examples of how this has happened with regard to studies that ignore women and treat men as the norm, read the book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.

Best Practices for Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring

Best Practices Inclusive Recruitment -Young african american woman having conference video call via laptop in office

There are a variety of best practices your team should implement when it comes to inclusive recruitment and hiring. Below, we’ve shared some key tips and reminders to keep in mind.

Some strategies for creating more inclusive recruitment and hiring processes include:

  • Work with your HR department or a consultant to remove bias from job descriptions – for instance, removing gendered language.
  • Implement blind recruitment practices by hiding names and identifying information during early stages of application review.
  • Examine any AI or automatic screening tools for built-in bias during screening processes.
  • Share information about your company’s DEI initiatives, Employee Resource Groups, etc. on your company’s Careers webpage.
  • Engage diverse hiring panels to make hiring decisions together.
  • Provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training for recruiters and hiring managers, including unconscious bias training.

Resources to help you create a more equitable hiring process:

Strategies for Fostering Diversity and Intersectionality

There are a variety of practical steps companies can take to build a more diverse and intersectional workforce. These can include:

  • Work with other key stakeholders to establish your teams’s diversity and inclusion goals and metrics.
  • Consider creating Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and inclusion programs to support marginalized employees and create a culture of belonging.
  • Provide ongoing, year-round education and training on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) topics for all employees.
  • Implement virtual solutions, such as the interactive live programs from Unexpected Virtual Tours. Virtual programs remove barriers of geography and can remove some accessibility barriers, to allow for more full participation.

How to Address Bias and Discrimination

To address bias and discrimination at work, including microaggressions and systemic inequalities, it’s crucial to establish clear policies and procedures for reporting and addressing these issues. Employees should be educated on what constitutes discrimination and feel empowered to speak up without fear of retaliation.

Creating a supportive environment involves fostering open dialogue through regular discussions, training sessions, and anonymous reporting channels. Leadership should lead by example, demonstrating a commitment to equity and inclusion in all decisions and actions.

Your organization can achieve continuous improvement by regularly assessing workplace culture, listening to employee feedback, and implementing necessary changes to mitigate bias and promote diversity at every level of the organization.

The Role of Leadership in Driving Change

The Role of Leadership in Driving Change - Leader stands with arms crossed in a confident pose, in front of group

Your leadership team plays a pivotal role in fostering diversity and inclusion within tech companies. By championing these values, leaders set the tone for the entire organization.

Executives can model inclusive behavior by actively seeking diverse perspectives when making decisions, ensuring equitable opportunities for all employees, and fostering a culture where everyone feels heard, valued, and respected.

For instance, leaders can implement inclusive hiring practices, establish mentorship programs for underrepresented groups, and provide diversity training for employees. Moreover, accountability and transparency are essential; leaders must hold themselves and others accountable for advancing diversity and inclusion goals, regularly communicate progress, and be open to feedback.

Ultimately, when leaders prioritize DEI initiatives, it not only enhances employee morale and innovation but also strengthens the company’s reputation and competitiveness in the industry.

How to Measure and Evaluate Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

In order to know whether your diversity and inclusion initiatives are effective, it’s important to set clear goals that you can measure over time. For instance, you might measure your organization’s hiring demographics and diversity in leadership over time. Or, you might focus on an anonymous, large-scale survey of employees’ outlooks and knowledge before and after a group DEI training session.

If you’re not sure where to get started, Harvard Business Review shares 7 Metrics to Measure Your Organization’s DEI Progress – including key metrics like attrition, pay equity, and leadership pipeline.

Tools and resources for tracking and reporting on diversity in tech:

  • Dedicated employee engagement platforms like Culture Amp that provide data insights and engagement tools.
  • HR Information Systems (HRIS) like BambooHR with modules for tracking workforce diversity data and employee demographics.
  • Survey tools like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms to gather data and employee feedback efficiently and easily.
  • Pay equity software, such as PayAnalytics and Trusaic, to see how your company’s salaries measure up.

Benefits of Collaborating with External Partnerships and Initiatives

Benefits of Collaborating for Diversity in Tech - Man in suit at desk shaking hand

Engaging with external organizations, networks, and initiatives focused on promoting diversity in tech offers numerous advantages for companies seeking to enhance their diversity and inclusion efforts.

Collaborating with others provides access to valuable resources, expertise, and networks that can help organizations develop and implement effective diversity strategies. For instance, partnering with diversity-focused nonprofits, industry associations, or educational institutions can facilitate recruitment pipelines for underrepresented talent, offer training and mentorship opportunities, and provide insights into best practices for fostering inclusive cultures.

Additionally, successful collaborations, like those between tech companies and diversity advocacy groups, have led to innovative programs, such as diversity scholarships, mentorship programs, and community outreach initiatives, which have significantly contributed to creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

To identify and engage with potential partners, companies can leverage networking events, workforce conferences, and online platforms dedicated to diversity and inclusion in tech, while also reaching out to organizations aligned with your values and objectives. By forging strategic partnerships, you can amplify your diversity and inclusion initiatives and drive meaningful change within your organizations and the industry.

Pro tip: when seeking a partner for your DEI training, look for a minority-owned business like Unexpected Virtual Tours & Training. Our live virtual programs combine workplace fun and bonding with important history and DEI lessons. Using a history-based approach, our expert guides lead teams from companies like Salesforce, Cardlytics, and Google through a wide variety of sessions!

Start Building an Intersectional Tech Future

Throughout this post, we shared the importance of adopting an intersectional approach to diversity in tech. By following the tips and guidance in this article, you’ll be on your way to creating a more equitable workplace where intersectionality is part of the decision-making process.

We encourage you to continue taking steps in your organization and community to advocate for and implement intersectional practices in technology.

Unexpected Virtual Tours and Training

For an engaging way to share DEI concepts with your team, book an experience Unexpected Virtual Tours & Training! Our live virtual sessions are loved by companies like Salesforce, Cardlytics, Google, Coca-Cola, and more.

Together with expert guides, your team will delve into DEI training topics like Black History and the Civil Rights movement, AAPI heritage, women’s history, LBGTQ+ Pride, and more. Explore our library of programs here!

Reach out below to connect with us about your Unexpected Virtual Tours & Training experience:

Looking for more resources to make the case for diversity, equity, and inclusion? Read our blog post: Why is diversity important in leadership for statistics and best practices on the topic of diversity in leadership roles. Plus, check out our post on the importance of promoting Diversity in the workplace – as well as ideas to promote Cultural diversity in the workplace!