Tech’s Continuing Diversity Problem

The past two years have seen a surge of tech companies reporting their diversity statistics–and numbers aren’t good. Mid-year reports indicate that many tech giants are comprised of little more than 30 percent female employees worldwide, with an overwhelming number of U.S. employees being white. This includes companies like Google, Twitter, Apple, Facebook, and more. Honing in on tech giants’ technical employees, diversity numbers are even worse.

With this harsh reality more transparent than ever, “Director of Diversity and Inclusion” has become a new buzzword. Today, every major tech company seems to have one. But do these positions really work? Just last month Twitter announced that Jeffrey Siminoff is joining their team to lead its diversity program, prompting many to ask whether a white man is best-suited for the task of increasing diversity. Twitter user @MarkCCrowley summed up this sentiment:

And if history says anything to the question of how well a white man can increase diversity, it’s that the answer is, not much. With Siminoff holding a similar position at Apple last year, the company saw only a 1 percent increase in female employees worldwide and a 1 percent increase in underrepresented ethnic minorities in the U.S.

Yet Siminoff may not be the problem. Both Facebook and Google, who employ women of color as directors of their diversity teams, have faced similar stagnation. And Intel, despite also employing a woman of color in the position, isn’t even trying to balance numbers–instead aiming only to make its workforce “representative of the talent available in the U.S.” (Intel’s mid-year report indicates that for technical positions the available talent is only 23 percent women and less than 14 percent underrepresented ethnic minorities).

What history really tells us, it seems, is that nobody knows what to do. Few companies hold themselves accountable by publicly stating their diversity goals and those who do can face fierce backlash from angry followers (see the comments on Pinterest’s diversity goals). With this Catch-22, the prospect of seeing significant diversity increases anytime soon seems bleak.

But recent years have seen more employee diversity programs than ever before. The Amazon Women in Engineering program provides mentoring and career development opportunities for technical women at Amazon, while Microsoft offers Employee Resource Groups for various underrepresented minorities. Google’s Diversity Core program even allows employees to spend 20 percent of their time devising ways to make the company more welcoming to a diverse workforce. While numbers show that diversifying the tech industry is a slow process, there is hope that 2016 will give rise to more programs like these.


10 Responses to “Tech’s Continuing Diversity Problem”

  1. Shannon Erdell

    I wonder what the diversity hiring numbers would look like if we compared the last five years to the previous 5? My clients are aggressively trying to recruit for diversity, and we’re having some success as women and minorities enter the tech world. But more work still needs to be done in middle and high school to engage and encourage ALL youth to develop skills in math and science to prepare them for today’s workforce. This should not be left to the schools alone. Really great companies will “adopt” schools and partner up with public education to foster the workforce of tomorrow.

  2. steve sullivan

    What to do about the ‘problem’?

    How about just admit men on average are better capable and more motivated to do tech jobs. Therefore there will be more men in tech jobs.

    Political correctness demands we ignore the basic facts of life.

    • Anthony K

      Yep, men evolved with higher interest in systems and things. There are countless studies proving this in young children before “cultural influence” could have any role. I’m sick of people using such dumbed down mindset on this issue.

  3. So what you’re saying, is that companies (including tech companies) should just hire people just to fit the PC “diversity”? I thought hiring folks was bases on talent and skills? I know companies have quotas that they have to meet every month, but come on now, enough with the PC nonsense, and allow companies to hire the right people for the job and not just hire someone to fill the ‘diversity’ quotas.

  4. Shannon Erdell

    George and Steve,

    I understand your concern, but the problem goes even deeper than just hiring for diversity. We have a tech supply and demand problem…not enough well trained and educated youth in ALL race and genders.

    The statement about men being more suited is only valid is untrue and girls and boys are told this lie from a young age. Mentally and physically women are equally, capable in Science, IT and Engineering and they are graduating from both private and public colleges with honors in increasing numbers. Young men are falling behind in record numbers because, in many cases, they don’t want or can’t handle the academic rigor and pace.

  5. Shannon,
    I understand what you’re saying but it still goes back to hiring people to meet the quotas. The biggest issue is the outsourcing here in the states of IT jobs. I understand it happens, but why should anyone spend money on school and have the job they’re training for go to someone off shore for a lower salary? If everyone was giving an equal shot and the quotas are removed, I think you’d see more man getting back into IT, however, when companies get “credit” for hiring woman, minorities, regardless of experience, skills, etc. man will always lose out. This is really a no win situation for everyone across the board

  6. pooja @ mobile repairing course in uttam nagar


    So what we are stating is that we are employing taking into account race on not aptitudes. Enlist Black and female despite the fact that conceivable better competitors of different races


  7. AbrillaCo

    Hello Everyone,

    As a woman in technology and a high-achieving CIS student, I know all too well the common feeling or better put, the lack of tech diversity. The problem that most employers don’t see or some that refuse to see is both the pay-gap and women inequality standards.

    Yes there are women who have no interest in technology, this of course stems from traditional thinking and is passed from generation to generation. I am currently having the same problems like this myself, with women, who are NOT in technology attempting to side-track or make inappropriate comments of where I supposedly ‘stand’ or, the traditional ‘Get off the computer’ routine by someone completely in the left-field. Many are unsupportive, uncaring and simply want to ‘marry’ geeks or spazz out about websites and generally take up time and space.I grow tired of being surrounded by women who don’t have the same goal-sets of me, greedy, or are simply unsupportive period. There are constantly women who call themselves trying to challenge my tech knowledge and authority, that to which they don’t have and, most of the time, do NOT have a clear understanding of how mechanics work and are not in the degree or field.

    As an African American female I have employement but it is a low-paying Help-Desk position that is under-paying me as a student. I have skills in web-design and programming, yet sadly, most of the time I am stuck ‘baby-sitting’ people who are jobless or and have a series of serious mental problems. The employer of course, seems more interested in the customers than they do the employees, a situation I believe that will eventually be their own loss. I have also faced subtle racism from both sides of the fence, attempts of stalking incidents from ‘customers’, and all sorts of other fun things from working in a public sector. It was getting so bad at one point I had no choice but to switch to another college mid-way in order to deter a potential stalking incident from a so-called ‘student’ who was going to the same college as me and is NOT a USA Citizen.

    At times yes, it is frustrating and I feel as though my skills and talents are being ‘shelved’ and not used properly just for the sake of the ‘company’. Our boss is a System Administrator who gets paid $80,000 an hour and does not have to deal with what we as Front-Line staff deal with.

    Last time I simply asked them for a $3.84 dollar raise to help with books and supplies, they, knowing that I am involved in the Computer Club at my college denied and said that I was given a 0.78 “raise” which of course, is pennies under the dollar. This of course in return, has affected my ability to obtain the conferences I need in order to stay fresh in the industry.

    I pulled up the actual salary amount in the area. The starting amount is actually $15.69.

    I am having trouble affording books because of this and has affected ability to attend the groups I need in IT. My boss in the meanwhile had taken the opportunity of getting involved in ‘Cyber-Security’ after I have told him I am interested in it. He was also influenced by a non-USA citizen that they didn’t need “programmers”, costing me yet another opportunity.

    I finally realized the company I’ve been working for has been cheapening out and exploiting college students by our desperation of having a job. Not only do I find this behavior revolting and unethnical, but it is a SHAME that this type of mentallity has come from a public sector involved in EDUCATION.

    I have female staff members who, due to the current scheduling a our place of work I never see yet at the same time have too much time on their hands making malicious and destructive ‘comments’ behind my back in passive-aggressive bickering and gossip. These are women who I do not know, are not involved in my field and have nothing to do with the actual department I’m in. When I first started, the first male I encountered on my job made comments about my ‘voice’. As if I am going to change my voice to suit his needs!

    I could tell some things were going on because of their jealousy and attitudes towards me. In the meanwhile I’m stuck in a room with mentally ill customers and older adults who are pretty much clueless about technology. These are the same customers I see everyday.

    As a college student in their 20’s with a bright career and future ahead, you can obliviously see the discrepancies and problems here. As for the women, they need to grow up, be adults, and mind their own business instead of calling themselves ‘isolating’ college students. Combine this with racial stigma and it can get tiring, quick.

    There are obvious growing fears of lost employment but still, they are all recieivng yearly bonus raises while I am struggling to get by to support myself and to help my family!!!!

  8. Millennial here. Did not get a degree in this field, spent Friday and Saturday nights taking free or torrented classes on programming for 4-5 years. Built my own reputation in the industry. I worked my white neh nehs off for FREE and to this day, every team I’ve worked with I was one (2max) of white color. There’s always been at least 2 or more non white team members. If you’re a woman or a minority, and you feel that you deserve a job because of it, you DO NOT without having a track record to back your skills. Sit and understand you may not be paid and you may give up your social life and maybe you can build a rep. Race/gender don’t matter if you think you deserve what others sacrifice for then your lack of skills are better used elsewhere, not the smallest violin will be played.