The evidence is clear: A more diverse workforce leads to higher revenues and more creative teams. But despite funnelling millions of dollars into well-intentioned diversity initiatives, white men remain overrepresented in the industry compared to the private sector as a whole.
The issue is difficult to address for a variety of reasons, including the fact that "the diversity problems of each race are different," Buck Gee, an executive advisor at the nonprofit Ascend, told TechRepublic. "In Silicon Valley for blacks and Hispanics, the basic problem is getting in the door. The problem with Asian Americans in Silicon Valley is upper mobility to management. You need different strategies for each race, and you can't just throw it in as a diversity program, because not all diversity programs are apt for all the races or genders."
The lack of diverse hiring is usually not malicious, Gee said. "By and large, the executives I've dealt with in Silicon Valley and tech all want to do the right thing," he added. "I don't believe there's an attempt to not be diverse. They're so busy in their day-to-day priorities of hitting the numbers and running the business that unless there's somebody inside the company pushing this and making it priority, it doesn't get enough attention."
SEE: How CXOs can develop a diverse workforce (Tech Pro Research)
Here are five statistics about minorities in tech that highlight why the problem is worth paying attention to.
1. There are half as many African Americans and Hispanics in tech as in the rest of the private sector
Compared to overall private industry, the high-tech sector in 2014 employed a larger share of whites (68.5% tech vs. 63.5% private sector), Asian Americans (14% tech vs. 5.8% private sector) and men (64% tech vs. 52% private sector). It also employed a smaller share of African Americans (7.4% tech vs. 14.4% private sector), Hispanics (8% tech vs. 13.9% private sector), and women (36% tech vs. 48% private sector), according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
2. 83% of tech executives are white
White people are represented at a higher rate in the tech sector's executives category than the rest of the private sector, at 83%—more than 15% higher than their representation in the professionals category, which includes jobs like computer programming, according to the EEOC. Other groups are represented at significantly lower rates in the executive category than in the professionals, including African Americans (2% to 5.3%), Hispanics (3.1% to 5.3%), and Asian Americans (10.6% to 19.5%).
3. More than 50% of employees at Apple and Google are still white
Apple's most recent diversity report, out in November 2017, highlighted an interesting fact: Underrepresented minorities employed at the company grew from just 19% in 2014 to 23% in 2017. While the tech giant claims that 50% of its new hires in the US this year were from historically underrepresented groups in tech, the meager results mirror the industry at large.
The numbers for all employees break down as follows: 21% of Apple employees are Asian, 9% are black, 13% are hispanic, and 3% are multiracial. Some 54% are white. Women only make up 23% of workers in tech roles, and 32% of employees overall, according to Apple.
Google found similar results in their diversity report: In 2016, black candidates made up 3% of all new hires, while Latinx candidates made up 4%. Google's overall workforce is 56% white, 35% Asian, 4% two or more races, 4% Hispanic or Latinx, 2% black, and less than 1% American Indian or Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
SEE: Hostile workplace prevention policy (Tech Pro Research)
4. Unfair treatment and turnover costs companies $16 billion per year
Unfair treatment in the workplace is the single largest driver of turnover in the tech industry, costing companies more than $16 billion per year in employee replacement costs, according to a 2017 study from the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll examining why people leave tech jobs.
Unfairness or mistreatment within a work environment was cited as the No. 1 reason for leaving a tech job by 37% of respondents. It was named more frequently than actively seeking a better opportunity (35%), dissatisfaction with the work environment (25%), being recruited away (22%), or dissatisfaction with their job duties/responsibilities (19%), the study found.
5. Diversity efforts could net the IT industry an extra $400 billion in revenue each year
"Financially a one percentage point move toward representative diversity leads to a three-point increase in revenue," Thibodeaux said during a keynote address at CompTIA's 2017 ChannelCon. "Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and gender diversity are more likely to surpass industry norms for revenue and operating margin. Companies in the bottom quartile for diversity aren't just lagging behind, they are rapidly losing ground."
- IT leader's guide to achieving workplace diversity (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Solving Silicon Valley's diversity problem (ZDNet)
- 6 ways to include more women of color in tech (TechRepublic)
- Want tech diversity? Think information systems majors over computer science (ZDNet)
- 10 tools to help your company improve diversity (TechRepublic)
Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.