Is Lack of Diversity the Tech Industry’s Fault?

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Before Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicked off this week in San Francisco, CEO Tim Cook sat down with Mashable about diversity in the tech industry. And he didn’t have kind things to say, particularly with regard to the lack of women in tech.

“I think it’s our fault—’our’ meaning the whole tech community,” he told the publication. “I think in general we haven’t done enough to reach out and show young women that it’s cool to do it and how much fun it can be.”

He also suggested that an increase in diversity would translate directly into better hardware and software: “The most diverse group will produce the best product, I firmly believe that.”

Various tech-industry figures have pointed fingers at various causes for the tech industry’s perceived lack of diversity. Last year, Google executives cited the education system as the culprit, suggesting that women and minority groups earned only a small portion of the computer-science degrees issued in the United States, in turn limiting the pool of qualified applicants from which tech companies can pull workers.

But some researchers have claimed that tech companies aren’t aggressive enough in recruiting from computer-science departments that produce larger numbers of minority and women graduates. Others have blamed the culture within many tech companies; a sizable percentage of female respondents to a Fortune survey, for example, suggested they left the industry because they found their working environment “overtly or implicitly discriminatory.”

Some companies have moved aggressively to amend their hiring and onboarding practices. Google plans on expanding its hiring programs to more colleges, in addition to making computer-science classes available to more kids. It’s not the only company very publicly committing itself to diversity: Intel, Apple, and others have launched similarly wide-ranging programs. But if Google’s yearly numbers are any indication, any diversification will likely happen very slowly.

10 Responses to “Is Lack of Diversity the Tech Industry’s Fault?”

  1. steve

    What a bunch of nonsense. Why is this being pushed? There is a shortage, if you want work, learn to code, build something, show it off. If you can code, you will get hired. As to those women who left because they felt discriminated against or some other form of discomfort, grow up and quit lying. If you left most likely because you could not handle the accountability that coding requires. That’s why most people can’t or won’t do this work. You have to like doing this and have no problem being held accountable. Any woman who gets this and can back it up, will have the run of the place, and will most likely be paid more than the men she works with. Companies will stupidly fall all over themselves for a woman who can code well.

  2. I think its odd that we are constantly being told about “diversity” and at the same time companies are purposely discriminating between candidates so they can have the right mix of race.
    Am I missing something here? I don’t give a DAMN if somebody is blue, yellow, brown, or purple. They should be picked because they are the most QUALIFIED. I know its a bizarre concept but what happened to hiring the person for the job??

  3. @Mark – the article never suggested unqualified persons be hired.

    The issue is not just one of academic education, but also one of opportunities provided. I’ve seen many situations where white persons were given training opportunities to advance their skills while their non-white counterparts, with equal degrees, were not. This is not an uncommon practice.

    As a retired consultant, Ive been in the unique position to work at multiples companies and have also witnessed on numerous occasions, White persons (male and female) placed into roles or given projects for which they did not have the appropriate level of technical expertise. They were then provided training immediately prior to or immediately after being positioned. In some cases, my role was to help them figure out what they were doing.

    Most of these placements were internal, however, a minority candidate is expected to be an SME, plus some before even walking through the door. (shout out to Mark)

    Diversity efforts are better than nothing, however, it is naive of us to believe this is happenstance. It is not. There are, and have been, plenty of minority candidates with the same entry level potential as current seniors, who were hired as entry level workers with no experience ten years ago.

    None of these companies deserve a pat on the back for correcting a problem that should have never existed. Theyve always had the opportunity to reject government incentives, tax breaks etc, and hire whomever theyd like. To make use of everyone’s money while not hiring everyone equitably is abhorrent.

  4. At a recent middle-school robotics competition, one of the presenters, after his presentation, asked the kids questions to be awarded prizes. The mix of the kids was about 50%/50% male/female (both who attended and those who raised their hands to answer the questions). The presenter only called on boys to answer. After the session, I approached the gentleman and spent some time visiting with him and was surprised to find that he had two young daughters. He seemed not to be conscious of his bias. The diversity issue in the tech industry starts much earlier than most believe.

  5. As a woman who had the second highest GPA when I graduated with my BSCS and had won a number of coding competitions in school ( these were always “blind” competitions) I can tell you that my experience after being hired by one of the top high tech companies was down hill from there. I was assigned to a team and the lead automatically assumed that I should be given the least challenging assignments. Even doing those well didn’t make me a star on the team. I celebrated when I was moved to another team until I found out that the lead programmer there was rewriting my code. I looked at the work he had done and it was fine but not any better than my code; just different. I confronted him and he provided an incoherent reason so I went to my manager who’s corrective action was not to admonish the team lead but to assign me to a new team. I never was given the opportunity to create anything of the caliber I wanted to demonstrate. I did however receive recognition from a couple of our customers at a customer meeting who applauded the fact that I was the first developer who had ever checked with them multiple times to ensure that I understood the new features requested and a positive user experience. The men on the team told me that contacting customers was just a waste of time since customers never knew what they really wanted and as the creative genius’s that they were, they could come up with far better solutions without that input. Consequently, I was promoted to a position that involved more customer interaction and a bit of a more strategic planning role. Sounds pretty good, but I never became part of the boy’s club and I can assure you there is a “boys club” mentality even today as I observe development teams and when I interact with the “techies” who think they need to explain technology to me. Oh, and no peer ever asked me to lunch or to join them when they went out after work; small things that make a big difference. I tell young women to go deep in math and analysis courses; become a data scientist, Anyone can write code but few can create good products/services through sound architecture, well understood customer needs and solid design principles.

  6. TokenBlackGuy

    I agree with Fred Bosick, they are pushing the women equality agenda in order to hide away from the racial discrimination against non Indian and non white workers in tech.

    if they hire a workforce of 50% men 50% women and the women and men happen to almost all be Indian & white then what does that help.

    I’ve experienced racial discrimination first hand in the form of lower salary than white peers by one of the Top 25 tech firms so I know that tech firms have a long way to go.

    What a shame.

  7. Grace

    I have an Associate’s in IT, with a concentration in Network Administration and internship experience. It’s been almost three months since I’ve been looking for a job since my last (contract) position ended. I read all these articles lamenting the shortage of women and minorities in STEM fields, yet I don’t feel like anything is actively being done about it. I browse job boards, company websites (I had a LinkedIn page, and it did nothing for me) and all I see are positions requiring 3+ years experience, which I don’t have.
    What should I do? Go back to school, get a bachelor’s degree and tack on more student loan debt for a degree that isn’t a guarantee that I will get hired? The other woman I worked with at my last job, she has a 4-year degree which hasn’t done her any good (she’s in the same boat I am), since it seems like it all comes down to experience. Which I don’t have because companies won’t hire me.

    Technology is what I love and what I would like to build a career out of. I am not someone who quits when things get tough. I am willing to learn and hone my skills with a company that would allow me. I would like to work my way up and become a System Administrator. I apply to jobs, yet I don’t get any call-backs. I’ve had phone interviews over a month ago with a company, and so far I haven’t heard anything from them. It’s making me depressed, honestly. It makes me feel like no matter how many jobs I apply to, how much I edit my resume, how much I read, I will never be good enough. I get frustrated when I see entry-level positions that require more than I know. Catch-22 at its finest. I wonder if this is all there is? Are any other women out there going through this or something similar. Will I ever find a job in I.T. and achieve my dream? Any suggestions and/or advice is welcome. Please don’t judge me for stating my opinion and thank you in advance.

  8. Grace,

    There isn’t enough information in what you wrote for me to know what advice to give. I’ll try based on my common observations. First, have you spoken to your school’s placement office? They should be willing to help you at any point in your career. They are your best bet since they talk to employers constantly and you may want to find out when they have a job fair and attend it. Most schools have a STEM focus now for women and will be delighted to help you. If you didn’t go to school nearby you can call them. If you want to get your BS then go speak with the placement office of a school you could attend and ask if they can help you find positions to work while you attend school there.

    Other options are to network and attend local professional events. Develop a 2 minute pitch on you and why someone should be interested in hiring you and as you meet people tell them you are seeking a position and tell them about yourself with your 2 minute pitch. It’s not enough to be on Linked In you have to work it. Look for connections at companies you want to work for and ask them to submit you for job openings. Many companies pay a finders fee and there are people out there who want to help. Look for groups that are active, interesting and provide networking opportunities.

    It’s not easy. Keep in mind that recruiters are receiving hundreds of resumes for job posting and they may not even be reading yours. Be interested, enthusiastic and determined when you do hear from anyone and you will be noticed. Don’t let it get you down.

    Best wishes to you and keep your chin up. You will have a new job eventually.