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Diversity in Tech: Making Tech A More Diverse Place

Diversity In Tech

Earlier this week, chipmaking giant Intel released its diversity report for 2018, where it found that it had hit its target, two years early.

This seems like quite unequivocally good news, but there quite a few caveats. The report is about its staff in the US, and in that country, it says, 26.8% of its staff are female.

A little more than a quarter, then. The company describes this as “full representation” because it aims to hit the equivalent proportion of skilled workers based on “market availability”. 23.9% of Intel’s technical roles are held by women, the report says.

That number is up from 26.5% when the report was last carried out – so a very small gain. But, when it started a diversity drive in 2015, it initially predicted it would hit those numbers by 2020; it’s ahead of its own targets. As well as this, 14.6% of the company’s workforce is from a minority background, up 1.4% on last year.

Brian Krzanich, the company’s former CEO, decided to invest $300 million into making the company a more diverse place to work in 2015, when, The Register reports, he added the measure into calculations of how executives’ bonuses would get decided.

It has hit its target, then, and though the percentage figure does not look hugely impressive at first glance, perhaps at this point, basing it from “market availability” may be the best the company can do. An accompanying press release also says that Intel is calling this “just the beginning”.

Barbara Whye, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of human resources for the technology, systems architecture and client group, said this in a statement: “We are proud of our progress but not satisfied. We prioritize this as a business imperative to drive innovation and future growth.

“Diversity and inclusion cannot be treated as an add-on. It has to be integrated into everything we do and this is just the beginning. We need to make sure inclusion remains at the center. Every voice matters, and we need to listen and act to make change happen.”

Diversity In Tech

But maybe the most important consideration is how the numbers stack up compared to the rest of the tech world? For a start, it’s worth noting that these statistics relate only to the US. There are different rules, norms and cultures everywhere else, and it’s fairly well accepted that the educational system has a huge impact on these figures, so it ought to go without saying that things may differ outside the States.

Nonetheless, company culture does cross borders, and somewhere like the UK is likely to have relatively similar figures to the US, given its similar culture. Not only that, the US is, of course, the beating heart of the tech world, and as such the numbers there matter, if only because they lead by example.

The Register quotes figures stating that the numbers look good for Intel. Microsoft’s tech-based roles, for instance, taken up only by 19% women, while Twitter’s techy statistic is 17.3%. Being fair to Twitter, 32.5% of its senior leadership roles are taken by women.

That may fly in the face of a recent study. According to research by Tech Nation, as reported by Computer Weekly, the number of women in senior leadership roles in UK technology companies has remained effectively unchanged since 2000. It has never gone above 30%, topping out at nearly 27% in 2003.

That, despite all the publicity that the issue has received. Most agree that this is a problem – to quote one of the study’s authors: “No meaningful change in the diversity of British tech since 2000, despite the rapid growth of the sector and the ongoing demand for talent, suggests not just a problem, but a crisis.”

A changing future

The study does note that the tech community has a higher proportion of foreign-born workers, and it also finds that boards are typically made up of a slightly higher proportion of women than the rest of the leadership team. One of its hypotheses for this is that because boards are highly “visible” – not to mention accountable – they feel a need to be more representative.

The study also suggests that there may be something of a vicious circle situation – getting more women and minority groups into these positions often requires role models, it says. If there are no, or few role models to look up to, the numbers are unlikely to increase.

But if, with the pressure on, boards feel that they have to be more diverse, then through sheer force of will, more of those role models will appear, and more people might join the industry. Perhaps the future is looking brighter, after all.

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