Why the Tech Diversity Gap Continues to Persist
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- The diversity problem in tech is not improving — it's getting worse.
- Women, Hispanic and Latino/a, and Black tech workers earn lower salaries.
- The share of computer science majors who are Black or women has dropped.
- Addressing the lack of diversity requires major changes from tech companies and organizations.
Google released its first diversity report in 2014. And the numbers were shocking. Women made up only 17% of its tech workforce. Hispanic professionals held 2% of tech jobs at Google, while Black professionals made up only 1% of the company's tech team.
"Silicon Valley. It's where the women, and the minorities, aren't," declared USA Today.
Since then, many tech companies have invested in diversity programs and recruited candidates from underrepresented groups. In spite of that, tech still has a diversity problem. And the tech diversity gap is not closing — in fact, it's growing.
Exploring Tech's Diversity Gap
A lack of gender, racial, and ethnic diversity hurts tech — and it also hurts workers.
Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Tech
Black and Latino/a workers are underrepresented in tech. Today, Black employees make up 13% of the workforce but only 4% of tech workers. And while Hispanic workers make up 17% of the workforce, they hold just 8% of STEM jobs.
The biggest tech companies report a similar gap. At Apple, Hispanic and Latino/a workers hold 8% of tech jobs. Microsoft's tech workforce is 7% Hispanic or Latino/a.
The problem is even worse for women of color. Latinas make up under 2% of Google's tech workforce.
Women in Tech
The gender imbalance in tech is worse today than it was in the past. Compared to 1984, women held a smaller proportion of tech roles in 2020.
There's also a representation gap for women in tech. In 2020, women made up 31.5% of the U.S. workforce. But they held just 23% of tech jobs.
The problem persists at every level of the industry. For every 100 men promoted to a managerial tech role, only 52 women receive a promotion. Women hold fewer than 20% of chief information officer and chief technology officer titles at the largest 1,000 tech companies.
Reasons for the Lack of Diversity in Tech
Why is there a persistent diversity gap in tech? Many of the issues aren't new. And companies have tried to increase diversity through hiring initiatives, mentorship programs, and other efforts.
Yet instead of closing the gap, it's growing even wider.
Growing Pay Gap
Tech is one of the highest-paying industries. But a persistent wage gap hurts underrepresented groups the most.
STEM jobs pay an average salary of $77,400, according to a 2021 Pew Research report. But underrepresented groups earn lower salaries. On average, Hispanic men earn $73,000, while Black men earn $69,200. White women make $66,200 on average, while Hispanic and Black women earn just $57,000. Meanwhile, white men and Asian men make an average of $90,600 and $103,300, respectively.
Even worse, the racial and ethnic pay gap has grown. Between 2016 and 2019, Hispanic STEM workers saw their pay drop from 85% of white pay to 83%. Over the same period, Black STEM workers had a drop from 81% of white pay to 78%.
That mirrors a broader trend. According to the New York Times, Black men with a bachelor's degree earned 18% less than similarly educated white men in 2010, a gap that grew to 24% in 2019.
Lack of Diversity in Tech Programs
The roots of tech's diversity problem start years before candidates enter the job market. That's because tech programs — at all levels — educate a disproportionate number of white, Asian, and male students.
Women and Black students make up a smaller share of computer science graduates than in the past. In 2008, Black students earned around 11% of computer science bachelor's degrees. That percentage dropped below 9% by 2018.
Similarly, women made up 27% of computer science majors in 1998 — a number that dropped to 20% in 2018.
Bootcamps also experience a representation gap. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black and Latino/a people make up 32% of the population. But only 14% of bootcamp graduates identify as Black or Latino/a.
Landing a tech job does not mean staying in tech. A shocking half of women in tech will leave by the age of 35. That dropout rate is 250% higher than for other jobs.
According to a 2020 survey, only 21% of women agree that it's easy for women to thrive in tech — a number that drops to an astonishing 8% for women of color.
What's driving people from tech? Several factors contribute, including a non-inclusive culture. Poor company culture is the number one reason women leave tech, followed by job dissatisfaction and a lack of diversity.
Consider the following statistic — 57% of women in tech report experiencing gender discrimimation. Just 10% of men say the same. And nearly half of Black professionals in tech have experienced racial discrimination.
Closing the Diversity Gap in Tech
What does tech's diversity gap mean for women considering coding careers? Or for Black and Latino/a students interested in tech? Unfortunately, students and tech professionals cannot close the gap alone.
That's because the diversity problem runs deep.
Unwelcoming tech programs push underrepresented students out before they reach the job market. And a lack of mentors and role models hurts those students as they transition into the workforce. Low pay and poor culture also push tech professionals out of the field.
Recently, the pandemic placed added pressures on women and BIPOC tech professionals. Compared to before the pandemic, tech women's satisfaction with work/life balance plummeted by 38%. Many pointed to a lack of flexible schedules as a breaking point.
Some tech companies have made progress in spite of the persistent gap. In 2022, Deloitte analyzed 20 major tech companies. While women disproportionately left the workforce during the pandemic, these major companies managed to increase women's representation.
But Deloitte also found a gap between Big Tech and startups. Only 43% of startups had made diverse hiring a company goal.
What will it take to narrow the diversity gap? In addition to a corporate commitment to diversity, workplaces and classrooms around the world must welcome and support underrepresented students. Without system-wide changes, the diversity gap will likely persist.