By Andy Fury
Inclusion and diversity in the workplace are of paramount importance, but many organizations still have a way to go.
In the tech industry in particular, diversity is racing up the agenda—companies are being urged to prioritize inclusion when hiring, mentoring, and retaining employees in order to bridge the digital skills gap and land the talent they so desperately need. As well as ensuring fairness and parity, nurturing diverse teams can have distinct commercial advantages too.
With multiple benefits to promoting inclusivity and diversity in tech, businesses can increase equality by factoring this into their recruitment processes when growing cloud, IT and technical teams.
To get started, let’s take a look at why diversity in tech is so important, investigate how diverse the community is right now, and discover how nurturing a diverse team can enhance your organization.
How diverse is the tech industry? To understand why diversity in tech is important, you need to first have an accurate and detailed understanding of the current landscape—this is where stats come in handy.
Diversity in tech statistics paint a picture of the makeup of the industry at present and help to highlight key areas for improvement, meaning equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) actions and initiatives can have a greater impact.
Tech may be noted for being forward-thinking and fast-paced, but the sector is lagging behind when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In fact, studies into racial equality across the industry highlight a worrying lack of diversity in tech.
For example, despite accounting for 13% of the US workforce, Black professionals account for just 4% of all tech workers. Similarly, Hispanic professionals hold just 8% of all STEM jobs even after accounting for 17% of the national workforce. Overall, it’s estimated that only 22% of workers in tech are ethnic minorities.
This imbalance was echoed when we examined diversity in the AWS ecosystem too. In the Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition, 49% of respondents self-reported as white or Caucasian and 25% as Asian—while only 6% self-reported as Black, African, or Caribbean, and just 5% as Hispanic or Latino. These figures highlight the inequality that millions of people face when climbing the career ladder within digital roles.
And in further proof of the extra hurdles some groups most overcome in tech, a report from Russel Reynolds Associates and Valence found that nearly half (47%) of Black technology professionals “strongly agree” that they must switch jobs more regularly for career growth, compared to just 28% of non-Black respondents.
With inequality rife within the industry for ethnic minorities, it’s shocking, but perhaps unsurprisingly that these professionals have to go to many extra lengths to progress down a digital career path. A 2022 report from the Kapor Center, for example, found that nearly half of all Black technologists reported experiencing racial inequity in hiring, promotion, leadership opportunities, salaries and benefits.
The hugely significant consequences of this are clear for all to see: in the US, just 17% of tech leadership positions are held by ethnic minorities, and in the UK, this figure falls to a shocking 2.6%. And of course, this problem then becomes self-sustaining—the less diversity there is in tech leadership and management teams, the more minority tech professionals will lack inspiration, mentorship, and representation, often to the detriment of their career progression.
Despite making up roughly half of the global workforce, women are still worryingly underrepresented in tech. According to IDG, just 26% of jobs in computer-related sectors are occupied by women and only 27.1% of managers and leaders in tech are female.
And while Deloitte Global predicted that major global tech firms would reach 33% female representation in 2022, in 2021, women made up as little as 29% of workers in tech organizations. The same research also found that women are most represented when looking at all functions in tech organizations—when looking specifically at IT and tech teams, this number dropped to 21%. And in increasingly popular specialty sectors like cybersecurity, female representation dropped to just 12%.
Our deep dive into the AWS community returned similarly disheartening results: 82% of respondents to our survey identified as male, while just 16% identified as female. 2 respondents identified as transgender and 2 as non-binary, while 3% preferred not to specify their gender.
To really emphasize the urgency of this issue, a study by Accenture highlights how gender equality in the tech industry is actually worse now than it was in 1984, with 35% female representation in the industry decades ago.
However, it isn’t just the number of women working in the sector that highlights a lack of gender diversity in tech. For instance, 50% of women are likely to drop out of tech roles by the time they reach the age of 35, compared to 20% in other industries.
This startling statistic indicates that beyond just finding people to fill roles, the tech industry isn’t providing women with a supportive working environment in which they can thrive.
For example, our Careers and Hiring Guide found that just 54% of AWS professionals worked for an employer with a clear ED&I policy. The same survey also found that just 59% of respondents believed their employer paid men and women equally—a figure that dropped to 51% when asking only women. This data indicates that organizations across the tech industry are still failing to create inclusive company cultures that are authentic and effective in empowering all genders to thrive.
Improving diversity in tech is all about breaking down barriers to the industry by creating an equal and welcoming environment for professionals of all identities, backgrounds, and abilities. After all, these are the very foundations on which tech communities are built.
With our survey finding that just 11% of respondents in the AWS community have a disability or neurodiversity, and techUK finding that just 9% of IT specialists have a disability (despite 19% of the UK workforce having a disability), this is another area that urgently needs action.
Improving diversity in tech requires employers to demonstrate a genuine empathy and understanding of circumstance, background and privilege, and use this to provide the necessary accessibility and support.
For example, while our Careers and Hiring Guide found that 40% of respondents working in the AWS ecosystem have a bachelor’s degree and 27% hold a master’s degree, not every aspiring IT professional can undertake further study at graduate or postgraduate level. Rather than stand by and watch this potentially hinder subsequent career advancement, take proactive steps in providing these candidates with the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.
From diversity to work perks, certifications and platform trends—The Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition has you covered..
First and foremost, we all have a collective duty as a community to take proactive action in tackling ED&I issues at their roots—it’s simply the right thing to do.
But with global IT spending forecast to grow another 5.1% to total $4.6 trillion in 2023, the tech industry continues to grow at a much faster rate than virtually all other industries. As the sector has evolved at such a fast pace, a wealth of new roles have also been created. However, many firms are struggling to find talent due to an ongoing skills gap, as the rate of professionals entering the industry isn’t in line with the increasing number of roles available.
Of course, when companies are using restrictive recruitment practices and overlooking top talent from diverse backgrounds, this magnifies the problem and makes it harder to build and retain tech teams.
By reassessing your hiring processes and increasing diversity, you can overcome the skills gap and mitigate the impact it has on your operations. What’s more – you can reap the additional benefits that are associated with increased equality and inclusivity and use these to enhance your workstreams and your company performance.
Sadly, a considerable number of people still consider equal opportunities and diversity to be a ‘tick box exercise’, without realizing the positive impact that a diverse team can have on the workplace and the business as a whole.
When you hire diverse teams, your company benefits from a broader range of approaches, working styles, and expertise, which inevitably has a positive impact on your commercial performance.
In a study conducted by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 25% more likely to have above average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile, while those organizations in the top quartile for ethnic diversity were 36% more likely to have above average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
Furthermore, Gartner research asserts that “75% of organizations with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture will exceed their financial targets”, while “gender-diverse and inclusive CIO teams outperformed less inclusive, gender-homogenous teams by an average of 50%.”
Many IT and AWS roles encompass problem-solving, innovation, and creativity, and these three skills are significantly enhanced when you have cognitively diverse teams who bring different perspectives and approaches to the table.
By actively building diverse teams, companies can leverage the commercial benefits that equality and inclusion offer. Additionally, supporting, nurturing, and retaining these employees will enable businesses to maximize their value and reap the economic advantages that come from having a diverse workforce.
An organization’s ability to overcome workplace diversity challenges relies on their success in supporting, nurturing, and retaining these employees.
This starts with a willingness to challenge yourself and to evaluate your own workforce, systems, and processes—do these enable you to build teams that accurately reflect the wide diversity of society and mirror a fair and inclusive culture? Be sure to think beyond just race and gender too; true inclusivity gives all abilities, orientations, and backgrounds a seat at the table.
Let’s be honest—few organizations intentionally incorporate bias into hiring practices, but this doesn’t prevent it from impacting recruitment across all sectors. Confirmation bias occurs when interviewers attempt to justify snap decisions via the questions they ask, while affinity bias occurs when recruiters favor candidates who are similar to them in some way.
Crucially, the majority of bias in the recruitment process occurs subconsciously or unconsciously, which is why it’s so pervasive. Due to this, recruiters must actively seek to eliminate bias and cultivate fairer hiring practices.
Gender-neutral wording in job descriptions, blind resume reviews, and standardized interviews are just three ways to minimize the risk of bias affecting your recruitment. Of course, working with a specialist recruitment partner will also enable you to access impartial practices that reflect your company’s commitment to diversity and give you the opportunity to enhance your hiring processes.
By being aware of the importance of equality and diversity, eliminating recruitment bias, and working with a trusted recruitment partner, you can ensure that you’re providing equal opportunities to all and building a diverse team that benefits your business.
However, hiring a talented and diverse tech team isn’t sufficient; you’ll want to retain and develop your teams in order to reduce employee turnover, maximize value, and create an authentically inclusive company culture talent wants to be a part of.
To achieve this, long-term support is needed, so be sure to implement effective strategies to nurture your staff—otherwise, attracting those from diverse backgrounds into your organization is a hollow gesture.
Providing tech professionals with access to mentorship programs is one simple yet highly effective way to enhance skillsets and boost motivation, for example. Similarly, offering career progression opportunities with a clearly-defined pathway to all team members will ensure equality and diversity throughout leadership roles and increase employee retention rates.
No matter what sector you operate in, delivering a supportive and enjoyable working environment is critical to retaining your staff, so pay attention to what tech professionals value most.
When surveying the AWS community, 92% of professionals told us that, salary aside, benefits are important when deciding whether or not they will accept a job, with the most popular including:
Interestingly, we saw similar themes emerge when asking talent who had taken a pay cut when changing job to share their reasoning, with the top reasons cited including:
As you can see, it isn’t always salaries that are a top priority for potential new hires. Instead, work/life balance, company culture, and professional opportunities are critically important when it comes to attracting and retaining tech talent.
By continually reviewing your inclusivity practices and workplace benefits, you can increase staff satisfaction and ensure that all team members are incentivized to remain with your firm.
Building a truly diverse AWS team requires expertise and experience. After all, eliminating recruitment bias and implementing inclusive hiring practices isn’t always straightforward. Fortunately, companies aren’t on their own when it comes to hiring and retaining AWS professionals.
At Jefferson Frank, our specialist knowledge, global network, and extensive experience puts us at the forefront of the industry and enables us to build strong talent pipelines on behalf of our clients. By scouring our network of almost 20,000 AWS professionals, we’ll help you to develop a diverse AWS team to enhance your operations.
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