Tech fields still have a way to go when it comes to diversity

Some bad news coming out of the tech world: Diversity efforts and growth are slow-going. And it’s not for a lack of trying either, with multiple companies actively pushing initiatives aimed at boosting their diversity.

While efforts are slow-going, employees believe they’re making a big impact on their teams already. So says Atlassian’s 2017 State of Diversity Report that surveyed 1,400 IT pros. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed said their company was already diverse, while 79% believed their teams represented a diverse community.

More than a third expressed concern that the current administration will harm their diversity measures, and just under half (48%) said the past election made them think more about diversity. But these beliefs aren’t being backed by Atlassian’s numbers.

According to the demographics reported within the report, only 2% of staffers are African-American, 3% are Latin and 24% identify as female.

Not looking good, but the effort is there

Part of many companies’ plans to boost representation include releasing their demographic statistics in the hopes the transparency adds some pressure and motivation to their teams. But just releasing the stats isn’t good enough, especially when many report releases are indefinitely delayed.

There are a couple of steps you can take to improve diversity at your business, just make sure you’re not improving diversity for diversity’s sake. A whole team of women may sound great on paper, but it’s still just one-note.

Dig down and work with HR to look at performance data, then work from there. Do women get promoted at a faster rate than men? Are raises comparable? Could you be doing more to bring in fresh ideas to your department? You can only work to improve what you know, and data is power.

Set IT’s core values that align with company values and policies. The biggest way to get buy-in you can get is to work hand-in-hand with the goals already set by your company. Make up a list of goals and then compare them against your company’s values.

The strongest moves can also be the smallest. Updating your culture can be as simple as a update to your interior decorating. One simple idea is to hang pictures of historic figures in the tech world around your department, like Edith Clarke, the first woman electrical engineer in 1922 or Katherine Johnson who was a “human computer” for NASA whose story was recently shared in the film Hidden Figures . The next step is to make a game of trivia out of it. Who can find the most obscure shaker in the tech world? Who knows the names of those in the photos you put up?

Take the time to hear every voice. Not everyone communicates in the same way. Someone may not thrive in a meeting, so their voice is drowned out. Give ample opportunity for people to share what they’ve got to say, either by asking for ideas through email or offering to stay after any meeting for a few minutes to discuss things one-on-one.

Like the election put diversity on the forefront of staffers’ mind, the main point is to get staff thinking about diversity in positive ways. The changes even the giant tech firms are seeing are incremental – but they are changes nonetheless.