Startups could be key to fixing tech’s diversity problem

Experts say that if Silicon Valley wants to eliminate pervasive sexism and racism, growing companies need to put inclusion at their core.

Silicon Valley companies are learning a hard lesson: They can’t escape their attitude problems.

The last few months have been rocky. In June, a female engineer who sued Tesla for sexual harassment was fired. In July, prominent venture capitalists including Dave McClure of 500 Startups admitted to behaving inappropriately toward women founders.

And earlier this month, it emerged that a software engineer at Google had written a controversial 3,300-word memo arguing that biology prevents women from being as successful as men in the tech industry (he was later fired).

“It’s not just about one person being affected,” said Adriana Gascoigne, CEO and founder of Girls in Tech, an organization that helps advance women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. “It’s a systemic issue.”

Tech industry executives often say their companies need to do a better job finding and keeping women and minorities. For the past three years, more than a dozen companies, including GoogleAppleFacebookMicrosoft and Twitter, have even released annual reports that show the industry remains overwhelmingly white and male. Women make up about 30 percent of the tech workforce and hold an average of just 18.5 percent of tech-related roles in those five companies. According to a report from software company Atlassian, black and Latino employees respectively account for about 2 percent and 3 percent of the tech workforce. It’s a problem that begins at the startup phase and extends all the way to major companies.

Some companies say it’s a “pipeline problem,” meaning there just aren’t enough diverse applicants to fill positions.

Catherine Ashcraft, senior research scientist at the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), says that argument is just plain wrong.

“It tends to mean that you’re not looking in the right places,” Ashcraft said. “You haven’t done a lot of things to actively expand your networks and look at your job descriptions for bias and be more creative about where you’re hiring.”

Joelle Emerson, CEO of diversity consulting firm Paradigm, says too many companies rely on gut instinct in the hiring process, asking inconsistent questions. The end result is that companies hire more of the same rather than diversifying their employee mix. Continue reading…

Source: CNET

By: Abrar Al-Heeti

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