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Diversity has been the talk of technology for years, but little progress has actually been made. In the last half decade, the proportion of black employees on Facebook has increased from 3% to 3.8% – hardly a change.
On the surface, it seems like technology is going through an epidemic of good intentions. Almost every company has high expectations of diversity and hardly changes from quarter to quarter.
What is preventing these diversity initiatives from working? Tech cultures that are way too insular and tech leaders unwilling to change them.
Bursting tech bubble
What leaders fail to understand is that different candidates may not necessarily see their efforts as they are occurring. The Bay Area may seem big to those who are there, but the reality is that companies there tend to have the same talent. Individual teams may get mixed up, but most of the time it's just about swapping individuals between companies rather than bringing in new talent.
Related: The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Uncertain Times
Are Big Tech Companies Spending Resources on HBCUs on Recruiting? Does Google carefully review its vendors to make sure they get the maximum diversity in the process? Are minority entrepreneurs getting the grants they deserve for the first time?
Tech needs contact if it wants to do more than just change the window decorations. It's not just the giants who have to mess things up. Small startups, like their big siblings, need to focus on diversity.
Concrete goals that have to be met
Your company may not have the clout of Facebook or Tesla's market cap, but that doesn't mean there aren't any ways to make an impact. Some things businesses of all sizes can do are:
Invest in new talent
Nearly 30% of black graduates from STEM doctoral programs begin at a historically black college or university. If these students were to let big-name players like Google or Airbnb support their education, which companies do you think these graduates would be most likely to work for?
However, few companies have the capital to simply get scholarships out of thin air. Real solutions here require long-term, high-level planning.
Work with other senior employees or board members in your company to create a plan to add funding for your company to the minority talent pipeline.
Related Topics: 3 Reasons Why Diversity And Inclusion Must Be A Priority For Businesses
It doesn't have to be a grant if your company can't afford to create a grant. Even something like paid internships for graduate painters can go a long way in making diversity a real part of your business. For companies looking to make these changes over the long term, set a goal of turning some of them into full-time positions. Over time, you can share this model with vendors and sister companies to make your entire network as diverse as possible.
Prioritize different providers
Microsoft alone has well over 70,000 providers. If Microsoft took the diversity of its vendors seriously, their policies could reach millions of people. Microsoft actually has a supplier diversity program – but not many other companies.
To fight for the diversity of your vendors, you need to choose the ones that best suit your business and those that can benefit the most from your business. Tracey Grace, a black entrepreneur in the tech industry, founded a vendor diversity platform called Certifiably Diverse to highlight suppliers with diversity certifications such as WBE, 8 (a) Firms, and MBEs. Certifiably Diverse users can see at a glance exactly how much of their business is flowing into minority and female companies.
For example, the support of various providers goes hand in hand with good business decisions. This does not mean that you should end healthy relationships with existing providers, but that your new providers should reflect the diversity goals you set.
Campaign on your own platforms
You don't have to be a big dog to use your own platform. Make it clear on your website, in marketing collateral, and in external communications how seriously you take diversity, but you can go one step further. Use your platform to emphasize your attitude and if you can, use that attitude to bring diverse talents into your company.
Related: 4 Reasons Why Diversity In The Workplace Makes You A Better Leader
I'm sick of politics. You're fed up with politics – and for good reason. Tech companies that have an ambiguous position on political issues, however, only hurt their reputation with minority communities in the long run.
Color social media users are more likely to use these platforms politically than white users. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that black users were 50% more likely than white users to encourage others to take action on key policy issues. The younger they are, the more committed they are. Therefore, it may take a while for the actions you are taking now to pay off in full.
Again, make sure that this policy also applies to your providers. Goods Unite Us catalogs the political commitments of hundreds of different brands, making sure you know where your money is going in a timely manner.
Raise the ceiling
The lack of diversity at Tech is a solid ceiling, and it's not made of glass – no ceiling that strong could be so easily broken.
Tech companies can no longer blame a lack of awareness: social issues stare them straight in the face, and color candidates urge to be taken seriously. Now is the time to act.
Cultural boundaries are tight, hard and difficult to see – but they are anything but unbreakable. If they are to see industry-wide change, technology leaders must be prepared to knock down their own first.