While diversity in tech is improving, we have a long way to go.
Even when companies publish diversity reports highlighting their inclusivity efforts, they almost always have a big blind spot: women of color (WoC). Representation of non-white women in the tech workplace is usually nowhere to be seen, and the picture isn’t much better for other marginalized groups, like persons with disabilities.
But here’s the good news: the tech industry, as leaders of innovation and growth, can lead the way to ending racial, gender and other inequities in the workplace.
By this point, we shouldn’t need to explain why the tech community should care. But “how” is a more challenging question. At The Melanin Collective—a space for women of color to support their personal and professional growth—we’ve come up with 5 reasons why the tech community should be leading the charge.
Tech has the resources: capital and a bright and innovative community.
The tech industry employed an estimated 7.3 million workers in 2016 and growing. Tech companies are employing the best and brightest, and have the opportunity to invest in employees with a higher return than other industries. But what needs attention is how they are investing in recruiting, retaining, and promoting them. Currently, the statistics around women of color in tech are dismal and barriers are in the way for the those that are employed at tech firms—from imposter syndrome to lack of intersectional understanding of their needs. Invest in developing culturally competent hiring, recruiting and retention practices that are deeply embedded in a company’s psychology. It’s not enough to just have practices—they must be embraced and lived from the top down.
Companies already embrace a culture of change and uncertainty.
Tech companies thrive on innovation to drive products and revenue. So translate this expertise into human resources, too. Embrace and implement policies and procedures that can guarantee equal treatment and pay for all regardless of ability, gender identity or race. Make sure to include an escalation process to address any issues that may arise, like sexual harassment. Prove you are aware, alert and taking actionable steps to eliminate an unsafe and unfair workplace. Companies will probably make mistakes, and even fail, but are primed to take the lessons learned and do better next time.
If the future is tech, business is shaping the way the world is about to change.
Tech companies are used to transparency. If a potential partner seems insincere or not willing to be open about their expectations around a commitment, then a company must think twice about working with them. That same rule applies to racial and gender equity. Being transparent about salaries, bonuses, and equity will allow employees to know company values, what skills are invested in, and what it’s working towards.
Take advantage of a massive untapped labor pool.
Consider the broader opportunity here by looking closely at one important corner of this conversation: people with disabilities. According to the Institute on Disability, “if people with disabilities (PWD) were a formally recognized minority group, at 19 percent of the population, they would be the largest minority group in the United States.” But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment rates for persons with a disability were higher than for persons without a disability across all educational attainment groups. This means that even after overcoming adversity, maneuvering the higher education system, and attaining degrees, people with disabilities still find themselves unemployed. While many turn to entrepreneurship, that only adds to the reasons to hire them: resourcefulness, determination and work ethic.
The bottom line is that it will generate more dollars.
As impact investing continues to grow, more outside investors will consider a company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives in their decision-making process. According to the US SIF Foundation’s 2018 biennial Report on US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing (SRI) Trends, as of 2017, more than one out of every four dollars under professional management in the United States was invested, according to SRI strategies. Almost two-thirds of the criteria used by impact investors to evaluate companies is focused on the racial and gender equity of an organization. As more and more investors turn to SRI, a company can take the lead in creating recruiting, retaining, and promoting a diverse team at all ranks, and it will result in more investments from the outside world.
We know it sounds difficult, and like anything, the process will be a learning curve. But companies that invest in equity will see the impact. Want to lead the change? Learn how at TheMelaninCollective.org.
The Melanin Collective and High Caliber Events are currently hosting a series of conversations on topics like these. Join us for Breaking Bread Dinners: an engaging conversation for women of color, taking place in early 2019.
Thursday, January 24, 2019: Our relationship with Money and Building Generational Wealth. Purchase your tickets here.
Thursday, February 21, 2019: Decolonizing our Melanated Bodies: an engaging conversation on sex and sexuality
Thursday, March 21, 2019: Healing Intergenerational Trauma
Thursday, May 23, 2019: The Meaning of Abundance and Sisterhood-30-
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