Originally published in The San Diego Tribune – January 8, 2021
By Harsh Patel
Patel is the CEO at Galvanize. Unsworth is the career services manager for Galvanize’s remote campuses and is based in San Carlos.
Even in the wake of multiple protests against discrimination and racial injustice, the state of California has proved to us that it still has a long way to go when it comes to embracing diversity in the workforce. Voters in the state rejected a measure to reinstate affirmative action, Proposition 16, on Nov. 3.
This problem is not specific to California. Unfortunately, the same can be said across the tech industry. The truth is, to date, we have not done nearly enough to make our own industry more racially diverse and representative.
Six years of diversity reports confirm that this is the truth. Major industry players like Microsoft and Alphabet have disclosed that Black employees still make up less than 10 percent of their workforce, despite various diversity initiatives they put into practice over the years. The numbers are even more grim for women of color, who make up an even lower percentage. We cannot and should not continue to allow this to be some other industry’s or company’s problem to solve. The tech industry needs to take a leading role in improving its diversity and inclusion efforts.
We must be clear: The lack of diversity we see is not because of a lack of talent. The number of underrepresented graduates of color from bachelor’s and doctoral programs in science and engineering fields has increased over the last two decades. Despite this, these talented, qualified individuals face historic inequities when it comes to recruitment and career advancement. Even once they break into the industry, the status quo set in place back in the days of the old boys’ clubs lingers on. Social factors come into play as well — aspiring tech talent from underrepresented communities lack mentorship due to historic underrepresentation. All of this discourages these individuals from pursuing careers in tech or even considering them in the first place.
Without an intentional effort to diversify the technology workforce, we are not only leaving talent on the table, but we are also leaving potential customers behind. Project teams with only a singular point of view will yield products and make decisions that are, by nature, limited in their scope and fail to incorporate varied perspectives. As a result of their homogeneity, these project teams are unable to understand both the needs of diverse communities outside of their own and how to present their work in a way that will gain traction with a broader audience.
This is a pressing issue for those large tech companies like Microsoft and Alphabet, whose technologies have shaped our daily lives. More than 1 billion devices worldwide operate on Windows 10, and Google has become as ubiquitous as brands like Band-Aid, Kleenex and Jell-O. These companies must recognize their global impact and commit to making real change.
Large tech companies can start investing in a diverse and representative workforce today by reexamining their board rooms and leadership structures, providing scholarships and internship opportunities to underrepresented groups, and partnering with organizations that can introduce individuals to the skills, courses and mentorship needed to fill roles across our industry. Doing these things will allow us to begin tearing down the social and economic barriers that have been in place for far too long.
While they do play a significant role, this is not just for the big players to figure out. Start-ups are actually in a particularly advantageous spot to take the lead, too. Because many are in the early phases of building their teams, securing capital or reevaluating their business plans, they are better positioned to see the bigger picture and make a diverse talent pipeline a priority from the start. Starting from the ground up, these companies can gain a competitive edge by tapping into a talent pool that is more representative of the world we live in, and, as a result, more thoughtful about the customer experience.
As tech companies large and small gain a foothold in every industry, we are confronted with an incredible opportunity to lead. As natural entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators, we have built our companies by looking at the world’s greatest challenges in new ways, and by responding with creativity and solution-oriented thinking. Who better to take on the diversity crisis plaguing the American economy?
It is time that tech companies make workplace diversity a top priority, so that we may not only make better products, but build a better nation.
To learn more about Galvanize, visit galvanize.com