Just Exactly How Important Is Diversity In Your IT Department?

by drjim on February 8, 2017

Diversity is important, but why is there so little of it in IT?

Diversity is important, but why is there so little of it in IT?
Image Credit: DryHundredFear

I’m not sure if you’ve been following this story in the news, but out in Silicon Valley all of those famous companies that you’ve been hearing about, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. have just gotten done taking a look at their global workforces. What they wanted to discover is just exactly what kind of mix of people they’ve hired. The answer to this question was not good: all of these firms have effectively hired a great number of white and Asian men. What ever happened to diversity?

Just Exactly What Does Diversity Mean In IT?

Perhaps the simplest way to answer the question of what diversity means in the world of IT is to very clearly state what it does not mean: hiring only white males. Those famous companies out in Silicon Valley have only recently started to release what are being called “annual diversity reports”. Despite the importance of information technology, the story that these reports are telling is starting to become repetitious.

The high-tech firms in California seem to be staffed by predominately white or Asian males. What’s missing from this mix are other minorities and women. They are missing from both the ranks of the engineers as well as from senior management. There are a number of firms that have reported their diversity scores. One of these companies is Twitter and things don’t look so good over there.

Twitter has reported that 34% of their workforce is made up of women. However, within the company when it came to roles that are considered to be “tech”, this number fell to only 13%. Additionally, less than 25% of the leadership positions within Twitter are held by women. These numbers are among the lowest reported by any firm in Silicon Valley.

What Can Be Done To Improve Diversity In IT?

Clearly Twitter has a problem on their hands. One of the biggest problems that Twitter is dealing with is the number of what are called “underrepresented minorities”. These include both blacks and Hispanics. At Twitter these types of workers fell to 10% in 2015 – down from 12% in 2014.

The Twitter CIO is aware that there is a problem. Twitter is one of the few companies that has actually created a plan to deal with their lack of diversity situation. However, it is believed that the root causes of their problem run deep within the organization. People who have left Twitter report that there are a number of different biases against certain groups of people that exist in the upper ranks of the company.

When senior managers at Twitter have been asked in the past about what steps they would be willing to take in order to increase the company’s diversity, they have responded that “…diversity is important, but we can’t lower the bar…” Clearly what this reflects is that they believe that minorities can’t provide the same level of skills that white and Asian men can. Until this thinking is reversed, Twitter will continue to have a diversity problem.

What All Of This Means For You

Studies of who Silicon Valley companies have hired have revealed that it has predominately been white and Asian men. What this means is that women, blacks, and Hispanics have been by in large kept out of these high-tech firms. More and more the person with the CIO job is realizing that they have a problem on their hands.

The reason that diversity is so very important in an IT department is due to the types of challenges that we face. If everyone in your department is basically the same as everyone else, you are going to have a group of people who come up with the same ideas because they will all have the same types of backgrounds. However, if as the person in the CIO position you are able to create a diverse department, then when you are faced with a challenge, you’ll get a wide range of ideas about how to go about solving it. This is exactly what you need.

It’s time for you to take a look at your IT department. What will you see? Will everyone pretty much look like everyone else just like at Twitter? If so, then you have a problem on your hands and you will need to be taking steps to solve it. Only with a truly diverse IT department will your organization be able to fully serve the rest of the company.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to measure how diverse your IT department is right now?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just in case you were not dealing with enough big issues, it turns out that there is another one that just might be headed your way. This one has to do with just exactly how much you are willing to let everyone in the IT department know about your employment agreement with everyone else in the IT department. Yes, you guessed correctly: I’m talking about open-pay policies.

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