Diversity in Tech: We’ve Got a Long Way to Go
If you recruit for or work in the technology industry, then you probably already know that most product teams can feel about as diverse as a box of Altoids. But do you know just how bad the numbers are? If not, there’s a good chance you’re actually underestimating the lack of diversity in tech. Not to mention that those stats are crucial context for effectively finding and vetting diverse talent.
In this post we’ll look at how pervasive the diversity problem really is at big tech companies, breaking the numbers down by gender, race, and age. It’s time to address the elephant in the room, and we’re going to start by measuring how big it is.
A Few Stats to Start
- Every month, the tech industry adds about 9,600 jobs to the U.S. economy.
- Between May 2009 and May 2015, over 800,000 net STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs were added to the U.S. economy.
- Between 2015 and 2024, it’s estimated that STEM jobs will continue to grow by another 8.9%.
And sure, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, but that’s STEM.” When it comes to STEM, the tech sector boasts a resounding majority of those jobs. If STEM jobs are going to grow, you can expect tech jobs to do a lot of that heavy lifting.
Diversity at Google
So, um…. Google’s not good at everything.
In 2014, Google released its employment diversity numbers, and they were nothing short of terrible. 83% of Google tech employees were men, with 60% of the entire tech workforce being white and another 34% being Asian. There was, however, one positive outcome from the release: After Google released its report, the rest of the tech community began making an effort to be more transparent as well. Needless to say, that wasn’t enough to keep Google from taking some heat for their results.
Luckily, a healthy public shaming is enough to make a company change their ways, right? Especially Google. After all, it’s Google — they’re good at everything. At least that’s what we thought until we saw the numbers for 2017. (Pay especially close attention to the ratios of black and hispanic employees.)
At the end of the day, confronting such a massive problem requires employers at the forefront of the industry to roll their sleeves up and do something about. If these numbers tell us anything, it’s that the sleeves are still rolled down over white, hairy, male arms. (Well, at least white and male.)
Diversity in tech by the numbers.
Gender in Tech
Looking at numbers across the board, it’s clear that gender is an industry-wide problem — one that’s finally being talked about openly. Women might make up 53% of the workforce, with the number coming in at about 50% for STEM fields. But of those STEM fields, tech and engineering lag far behind the rest of the crowd.
And when it comes to tech, it’s the only one of these fields where women are underrepresented more than they were in 1990. (No that’s not a typo.)
All of these numbers are capped off by terrible retention in the industry. Women are leaving tech at an alarming rate — but not because of the roles or responsibilities. It’s the culture.
Racial Diversity in Tech
Gender diversity might have you shaking your head, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. The percentage of black and Hispanic employees at major tech companies is especially low, making up just one to three percent of the tech workforce. In total, the ratio of African Americans and Hispanics to coworkers is about half in the tech sector of what it is in the rest of the private sector. Oh, and did we mention that 83% of all tech execs are white?
Stackoverflow can tell us plenty about the state of tech hiring.
Stackoverflow is a widely used developer tool who publishes an annual developer survey. That survey was a cause for alarm in 2016, when only 5.8% of 55,128 responses came from women. The number was so low that Stackoverflow even felt the need to qualify it, saying “Our survey results demonstrate a dramatic disparity in tech among men and women. In fact, we know women make up a more significant portion of the developer workforce than this suggests.”
They went on to state that the results of the survey weren’t accurately reflective of the larger portion of female developers in South Korea, India and China. One country they didn’t mention? The United States.
The same survey had a plenty to say about the average age in the tech world as well: The average age of developers is 29 years old, with the median coming in at 27.
So where do we go from here?
From all of these numbers it’s clear that tech companies are predominantly white, male and young. It’s an industry that very much reflects the same ratios of diversity it sees at the leadership level. And as it stands, it’s one that seems very much closed to “outsiders.”
Tech hiring still relies heavily on poaching and incentives. Who can offer the better perks? Dry cleaning? Hot breakfasts? Work from home? Travel stipend? Between all of this, the hiring process is ripe for disruption. As a recruiter it’s where you can have the most impact. In fact, it’s up to recruiters to begin that disruption at the job description, interview, and hiring phases, meeting an unsustainable ecosystem head on with new ideas, methodologies and practices.
Step one: Make your move.
Step two: Get leadership to buy in.
Step three: Watch the company culture follow.
Continue Your Learning
What we’ve just covered is merely the tip of the iceberg. We’ve created a handy Tech Cheat Sheet to be an additional resource for you. Our Tech Cheat Sheet goes more in depth on what tools engineers are using, definitions you should know, and how to apply your new tech know-how in conversations with candidates. Download our Tech Cheat Sheet and start making better tech placements today.
About Recruiting Innovation
Recruiting Innovation is an industry-leading online tech recruitment training platform. Focused on teaching the technical concepts and key roles in the software development lifecycle to tech recruiters and sales teams, Recruiting Innovation’s online training programs help teams make better tech hires, faster.