Increasing Diversity May Boost Technologist Retention

Increasing diversity can help companies hold onto their valuable technologists, according to a new report by Wiley. 

Wiley surveyed 2,030 technologists between the ages of 18 and 28, and 50 percent of them said they would potentially leave their current position because their company’s culture “made them feel uncomfortable.” Sixty-eight percent said they felt “uncomfortable in a job because of their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background or neurodevelopmental condition.”

Although many companies have invested substantial time and resources in diversity and inclusion, Wiley’s research makes it clear that such efforts are much more than an organizational “nice to have.” Technologists are willing to leave if they feel uncomfortable about organizational progress on the DEI front—and considering their importance to virtually every company’s overall strategy, that means managers and executives must do everything they can to ensure that diversity efforts yield tangible results. 

What’s the best way to fix the diversity issue confronting the tech industry as a whole? The report suggests that all demographics should be encouraged to consider a STEM career at an early age: “Without this encouragement, they may later lack the STEM-based qualifications required by a lot of entry level roles if they choose to pursue a career in the field.”

Only 39 percent of females felt encouraged to consider a career in technology or IT while they were in high school, according to the report’s data, versus 47 percent of males. Things are a bit different when it comes to ethnic groups: “The research found that 41 percent of white, 41 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander, 46 percent of Black and African American, and 44 percent of Hispanic or Latino respondents were given information regarding careers in tech and IT by their high school.”

Nonetheless, it’s clear that a minority of students are encouraged to pursue an interest of tech during some of the most crucial years of their education. “It’s evident from this research that an important element in the journey towards diversity will be providing students with more information regarding tech jobs from a much younger age,” the report added, “and ensuring that pupils of every gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background are given equal opportunities and encouragement to learn about the different technology career paths and the qualifications they’ll need to get there.”

For years, tech giants such as Google have pointed to the educational pipeline as the main reason for their relative lack of diversity (and often pledged money on programs designed to encourage more students to participate in STEM studies). However, it’s also important—and possible—for companies to adjust their culture. While change can’t happen overnight, companies can take concrete steps to improve their HR practices and ensure that employees feel heard.  

In addition to retention, diversity can also improve workflow and, ultimately, the products that a company produces. “Everyone comes from different backgrounds and life experiences and this impacts how they approach their day-to-day life,” Erkang Zheng, founder and CEO at JupiterOne, recently told Dice. “Every team should be as diverse as possible to ensure that the highest level of efficacy and divergent opinion is brought to the foreground.” That level of transparency and communication will only make teams stronger.