Recruiters Will Play a Big Part in Tech Industry Diversity

Many technology executives emphasize the need for increased diversity within the industry. In summer 2017, for example, Apple CEO Tim Cook told an interviewer: “We can begin to help people who have been left behind by the tech resurgence.”

Cook was specifically referring to student developers (and Apple’s various tools for encouraging their success), but Apple isn’t alone in launching new initiatives designed to vary the internal mix of tech pros. And there’s still quite a bit of work to be done: According to a recent Pew Research Center study, some 44 percent of women in tech think discrimination is a “major” issue, while only 29 percent of men agree.

Although various tech firms have pledged to curb hiring discrimination, the results simply aren’t there yet; a close examination of any large company shows its tech-pro makeup is still largely white and male. Solutions have ranged from the relatively straightforward (adjusting recruiting processes, for example) to genius/crazy (using blockchain, definitely one of the most-hyped technologies of the moment, to track and hire diverse talent).

But in general, the largest tech firms have settled on roughly the same multi-prong strategy. First, they educate their internal recruiters on how to avoid hiring bias. Second, they expand their recruiting net to more schools and organizations. Third, many are sponsoring computer-science classes for students, in hopes of bringing a more diverse group of technology fans into the hiring pipeline as early as possible.

These efforts take a lot of money, and the gains are often slow. For example, Google’s past few diversity reports have shown only incremental percentage gains in the racial and gender composition of its workforce, despite an immense amount of public effort to diversify its employee rankings.

Mentoring programs can also help make companies more diverse. A 2017 study by the Harvard Business Review, for example, found that formal mentoring programs within organizations boosted minority and female representation in management by 9 to 24 percent, on average. When people receive the education and lessons they need to succeed and grow in their roles, they often stick around until they reach senior positions.

For recruiters, emphasizing a company’s diversity efforts is a good way to attract talented tech pros from all walks of life. In a similar vein, persuading a company to adopt a diversity program is a good way to find talent that might otherwise slip under the radar; in the current environment, with low tech unemployment and companies scrambling to find candidates with the right mix of skills, a varied talent pipeline can mean the difference between recruiting success and failure.

Last but certainly not least, recruiters need to prepare executives for the relative slowness of the diversification process; if Google needs years to adjust its employee ranks, so will other firms. It’s not an overnight process, but it’s often worth it.