The following excerpt is from my forthcoming book, Women, Minorities, and Other Extraordinary People Solutions to the Diversity Crisis in Technology & Beyond (2017)
Modern prejudice and groupthink are alive and well in business today, particularly in Silicon Valley, the place that purports to value difference, be different and think different.
In 2014 the technology industry finally owned up to its lack of diversity, providing evidence and apologies aplenty. Google started the public confessional first, followed by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Apple, Yahoo, eBay and myriad other companies. All of them admitted: 1. We know we are woefully behind in achieving our diversity goals; 2. We have a lot of work to do to make diversity in the workforce real; 3. We are implementing initiatives to address the issue.
The public also heard companies lament about the difficulty of finding qualified candidates to hire, especially the challenges inherent in locating female and minority individuals with science and engineering degrees. By 2016, what is the measured increase in workforce diversity, resulting from initiatives implemented two years earlier? Near zero. The publicly stated reason? The lack of qualified women and minority candidates stems from deeply entrenched, historical issues that took years to create and will take many years to resolve. How convenient! The blame game goes: girls are discouraged by parents and teachers from pursuing technical careers; very few African-Americans and Latinos take Advanced Placement courses in high school; unconscious biases lead us to hire those who look like we do. There is some truth to all of this, but it’s also true that the attrition rates of female and minority recruits are unusually high in many tech companies, which have often done a poor job in hiring and retaining women and minorities even for non-technical jobs.
Technology companies are, of course, not alone in dealing with the ongoing problem of an overly homogeneous workforce. Women’s lack of progress in securing top jobs, and a widespread lack of opportunity for people of color have been ongoing challenges in many industries for decades. More than 40 years have passed since significant numbers of women began arriving in the corporate workforce; over 30 years have passed since the now-famous “glass ceiling” was first identified by Gay Bryant, editor of Working Woman magazine. Passage of the initial equal pay laws in the United States occurred more than 50 years ago. Civil rights legislation, designed to provide equal access and opportunities to African-Americans and other underrepresented minorities was also enacted more than 50 years ago.
And how are things looking for women and minorities today? Not so good. A comprehensive study, published in late 2015, was undertaken by a partnership between LeanIn.org and the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, comprising data from over 100 companies and nearly 30,000 employees. Titled, Women in the Workplace, the findings disturbingly show that corporate America’s path to gender equality is progressing at a pace so slow that it will take more than 100 years before women achieve parity with men in executive roles, and at least 25 years just to reach parity at the Senior Vice President-level. This study validates that barriers to advancement are real, with both white women and women of color, underrepresented at every organizational level.
This book, Women, Minorities, and Other Extraordinary People
Solution to the Diversity Crisis in Technology and Beyond, will explore the forces at play in this situation and delineate the 5-steps necessary to solve the crisis.
Copyright Barbara B. Adams 2017. All Rights Reserved.