Building an inclusive tech industry

It’s no secret that the tech industry has a real problem with diversity. In recent years, industry moguls like former YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, former Reddit CEO and current Project Include co-founder Ellen Pao, and Google and Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai have all weighed in on the pressing need for more diverse teams and perspectives in the field.

But what does real diversity in tech look like, and how will it impact the future of tech development and the economy as a whole? And more importantly, how can companies make meaningful changes that move the needle towards more diverse, inclusive workplaces?

In this post, we dive into diversity to examine the challenges and opportunities for anyone learning or working in today’s tech industry.

Diversity needs inclusion.

The latest stats reveal the depth of the diversity issue in tech. Currently, only 2.6 percent of technology workers are black, just 1.4 percent of Indigenous people are employed in the field and women still only make up less than 25 percent of people employed in STEM careers in Canada. Older adults, neuro-divergent individuals, those with disabilities, and gender-diverse people are also underrepresented in the industry, making the entire field look like an exclusive, homogenous club.

But the reality is that there is a wide, diverse talent pool the industry could be drawing from – and tech companies desperately need more trained personnel. A recent study showed that by 2025, Canada will need 250,000 digital workers just to meet its own industry demands. The tech industry is also inherently suited to employing and developing a diverse workforce. There are flexible work hours and opportunities to work remotely, and the field offers all kinds of jobs for all kinds of interests, experiences, and educational backgrounds.

So, what needs to change? Limited access to STEM education and training programs and biases in hiring and promotion practices hinder access and opportunity, while the lack of diversity in leadership makes it difficult for aspiring individuals to see themselves succeeding in the industry.

“We are missing thousands of people who can join the tech industry and contribute to this field, who can be a solution to the growing demand for tech professionals,” says Pablo Listingart, founder and Executive Director of ComIT. “We have a huge opportunity to make this industry – and this country – as diverse as we claim it can be, and it starts with breaking down barriers to education and employment.”

Opening more doors and including a wider diversity of workers starts with addressing systemic barriers at all levels of the industry, from education and recruitment to workplace culture and product development.

Diversity in tech is good business.

Broadening access to tech careers is more than a pathway to success for individuals. It’s a bridge to empowerment for entire communities. Beyond a job, diversity unlocks cultural representation, a depth of perspectives and experiences, and a broader digital voice to shape technology and our future.

And the industry itself will see more success with more inclusive, equal opportunities. Research shows that companies with greater gender or racial diversity in their executive teams are more likely to have above-average profits, while those lacking diversity are at a distinct competitive disadvantage. A recent Forbe’s Insights survey also found that 56% of companies with more than $10 billion in annual revenues agree that diversity helps drive innovation.

In the tech industry specifically, hiring and promoting promising talent from diverse and underrepresented groups will result in better, and better selling, products and services. For one thing, promoting diversity boosts talent acquisition, employee engagement, and retention. A diverse and inclusive work environment is more appealing to more talented job seekers, and high-quality employees are more likely to stay with, and contribute to, companies where they feel valued and included.

More diverse representation also removes more unconscious bias in tech development, helping ensure that products and services are inclusive and accessible to all types of users. More voices and perspectives in a workplace also leads to more ideas and better problem solving, which in turn fosters innovation, creativity, and ultimately more successful tech.

And as the world and our technologies become increasingly global, diverse teams are better equipped to understand and meet the needs of a diverse customer base, which translates to better marketing strategies and competitive performance.

Consumers, stakeholders and investors also see the benefits of a more inclusive industry. As society continues to push for companies to take on more responsibility to promote diversity and inclusion within their workforce, many tech companies are realizing that the future of their business and their stock values hinge on taking an active and meaningful role in reshaping the digital future.

Tech companies that value inclusivity.

Several tech companies are recognized for their efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion. Salesforce, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and Cisco are all examples of companies showing organizational commitment to implementing programs that address gender equality, LGBTQIA2S+ rights, racial equity, and accessibility as well as introducing workplace initiatives like unconscious bias training, diversity recruitment, and employee support for underrepresented communities.

At the heart of any successful diversity program is a dedication to changing workplace best practices and adopting measures that lead to lasting, more inclusive and equitable futures. Diverse and inclusive tech companies are ones that:

- Value diverse perspectives, contributions, and ideas.
- Amplify role models with diverse backgrounds to inspire innovation and the next generation of tech workers.
- Strive for community impact by supporting and engaging with local initiatives and networking events that open doors to more representation.
- Create safe spaces for staff and offer flexible, accessible work arrangements.
- Set diversity goals and track metrics to measure improvement.
- Close the equity gap by offering equal pay for equal work, as well as establishing fair and transparent recruitment, hiring, and promotion practices

At ComIT, we believe in this vision of inclusivity. By making tech careers more accessible to a wider variety of individuals, we hope to make Canada’s tech industry one of the most diverse and innovative in the world.

We’re committed to breaking down barriers and transforming tech with programs and initiatives that provide equal opportunities for everyone to learn and grow. Our Recoding Futures program, in collaboration with Google, provides Indigenous learners across Canada with scholarships and online digital skills training – for free. Since 2021, more than 1,500 tech learners have completed our program and more than 1200 have secured jobs.

Real diversity comes from inclusion – and when everyone can participate, everybody wins.

Looking to recode your future, or change the future for others? Join our community of dedicated people and companies or reach out and chat with us today!

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