Over the past few years, many tech companies have proactively sought to diversify their workforces to improve their stance on diversity issues and to improve their competitiveness by broadening inclusion and stretching the nets that snare great tech talent.
Salesforce hired a chief diversity and equality officer in late 2016, joining Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and others that have taken similar steps.
For tech CEOs, this active embrace of diversity is about more than social justice. A Harvard Business Review study revealed that employees of companies with diverse leadership are “45% likelier to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.” In short, a company with a diverse workforce and a diverse management team sends a clear message out to the global market: that everyone is (or can be) a part of this company.
However, now that the new administration in Washington has taken aim at diversity with restrictive immigration policies, worldwide rebukes are coming in. And at the state level, fears are emerging concerning the potential economic impact of the ban.
One example is the state of Michigan, where 25% of employees in the state’s computer systems design industry are foreign-born, and roughly 56% of Michigan’s immigrants have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 27% of native-born Michiganders. We also don’t know if even more executive orders from the White House could be forthcoming that revoke prior executive orders issued by the Obama Administration promoting workplace diversity.
Together, these developments have altered priorities for tech CEOs, who are realizing the necessity of getting directly involved with workforce diversity–and recognizing that it will not be sufficient to delegate those efforts.
What steps are tech CEOs taking?
1: Reassuring employees of the company’s diversity commitment
The fear and uncertainty that has been introduced into the tech workforce is palpable and real. It has compelled many tech CEOs to take up the pen, issuing letters to their employees. Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in an open letter to employees, “We have a very diverse team of employees, including supporters of each of the candidates. Regardless of which candidate each of us supported as individuals, the only way to move forward is to move forward together.” Grubhub’s CEO Matt Maloney assured employees in an email that the company would fight on behalf of anyone who felt exposed in the aftermath of the election.
2: Continuing to diversify the corporate workforce
US tech companies already know that they are disproportionately white and disproportionately male. This was one of the reasons that led many tech CEOs to hire chief diversity officers in the first place. Since then, many tech companies have actively recruited and promoted deserving talents, regardless of gender or ethnic identification.
3: Sensitizing managers to intercept incidents before they happen
Given the current state of elevated emotions and division in the country, tech CEOs should also be working with their chief diversity officers, their HR executives, and their management teams to ensure that workforce employee relations are well monitored and proactively managed. If you can detect and intercept a potential trouble spot before it develops into something more, you’re ahead of the game.
4: Looking at outsourcing again
It is too early to forecast what (if any) impact there will be to US technology companies when it comes to attracting international talent. The most highly skilled tech talent in the world is also sought by tech companies in Europe, Asia, Canada, Australia, and emerging countries. These countries could be perceived in the future as more attractive destinations by entrepreneurs and tech gurus who have to consider the wellbeing of their families and themselves. Consequently, US-based companies with global footprints might have to consider doing more of their R&D offshore if they want to maintain their access to international talent.
Where’s that coffee?
We have come a long way since the day when, as a technology executive, I attended a meeting of business leaders held by a major software vendor. I was the only woman in the room, and the presenter assumed I was a concierge and asked me if I could fetch the coffee.
Today’s tech companies understand that diversity in the workforce is crucial to growth, market share, and creativity. They will continue to pursue it, even if it means that CEOs have to get directly involved with the issue.