The tech industry has grown faster than almost any other segment of the economy. Experts suggest that this trend will continue to grow over the next several decades. Currently, most of these jobs are going to a single segment of the population.
In this article, we examine why it is important for the tech industry to strive for more diversity.
For decades the tech industry has been dominated almost exclusively by white men. Things have begun to change a little bit. More women and minorities are enrolling in computer science programs and related fields. Still, the numbers are out of whack.
Ok. But you used the word “enrol.” It’s voluntary, right? No one is telling women and minorities that they can’t enter tech.
Well, we prefer people with questions to raise their hands first, but sure. Let’s consider that question. Is there a physical barrier to minority enrolment in technology? Actually, there are several. The most prominent among these owes to a concept known as the digital divide.
Regrettably, minorities live disproportionately in low-income areas. These areas, in-turn often have limited access to digital technology. You don’t go from internet scarcity to a career in programming overnight.
Then there are less palpable barriers. Will a young woman feel comfortable within an academic program in which they are the only female present? Some might. Many others won’t.
It’s very difficult to pursue a career path in which you don’t see yourself already represented.
One of the reasons that this is problematic is that the tech industry is among the fastest-growing segments of the economy. When the vast majority of jobs are going to only one group of people, it can create social and financial inequality.
Certainly, this is already the case, but the problem will only grow in significance over time. The more jobs enter into the tech space, the harder it will be to find high-paying work without an understanding of digital technology.
It’s also worth mentioning that businesses that prioritize catering to a wider range of professionals tend to experience lower rates of employee turnover. It’s difficult to identify exactly why that is. It could be a matter of correlation over causation. Employers that reach out to minorities and women are clearly conscientious about their hiring practices.
It’s possible that this creates a more welcoming environment for everyone that works there. It’s also very likely that work environments benefit from a diversity of voices.
Regardless, the benefits are undeniable. Not only do high rates of employee retention save companies considerable money, but they also result in a stabler, happier work environment.
Consumers Pay the Price
Of course, we live in a capitalist society. Here, the market makes the ultimate decisions. Are consumers adversely impacted by a lack of diversity in the tech industry? Of course, they are! For one thing, it’s not just one type of person using digital technology.
It’s saturated into every western community. It’s a requisite part of personal and professional communication. As with any creative process, it helps to have as many voices as possible contributing to the finished product.
It’s also just a well-documented fact that businesses with minority or female leadership tend to do better than those without it.
None of this is to say that businesses and academic programs should be looking for minorities or females just for the sake of it. In all industries, the idea is to find the best person for the job. Right now, the language and atmosphere in the tech industry cater primarily to one group. When educators and industry leaders can find a way to reach more talented individuals the benefits will extend not just to the impacted communities, but also to the consuming public at large.