Will remote working lead to more diversity in technology?
Will the pandemic-induced shift to remote working help organizations increase diversity?
Yes, some companies say, at least for tech jobs.
Technical fields have long lacked diversity; about 80% of software engineers in the United States are white males, according to McKinsey. Despite promises of diversification, tech companies have yet to make much headway.
Yet while many organizations have laid off staff and reduced recruitment due to COVID-19, the demand for tech professionals has remained stable and even increased. According to data recently released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of tech jobs in May 2020 was 1.2% higher than in May 2019. The largest increases were in data science and security some information. Salaries were also higher.
The increase in their tech talent during the lockdown has shown companies how productive and profitable hiring and remote working can be. Employers now have the ability to recruit from anywhere, opening up more opportunities to a diverse pool of candidates.
“The pandemic and the changes it has brought about in the way work is done offers an unprecedented opportunity for a turning point,” wrote Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, in Massachusetts, in December 2020. article in the harvard business review. The concentration of tech companies in specific geographies limits their ability to recruit and retain different types of people, he said. “Seventy-five percent of venture capital funding is concentrated in just three states – New York, California and Massachusetts – and over 90 percent of the growth in the technology-intensive innovation sector between 2005 and 2017 s ‘is produced in only five metropolitan areas, “he wrote.
Recent research at Tufts identified regions of “diversity of tech talent” in the United States, categorized them by “digital readiness,” then factored in information such as cost of living to identify six states – Connecticut , Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Texas and Virginia – which represent “an untapped opportunity for large tech companies to establish recruiting strategies to diversify their workforce,” said Chakravorti.
In March, the New York Times reported that tech companies were adding offices in particular geographies, including Atlanta, to recruit a more ethnically diverse talent pool. Among them are Microsoft, Google and Airbnb. The city has several historically black colleges and universities that produce a wealth of technological talent.
“It’s an absolutely winning strategy,” said Will McNeil, co-founder and CEO of Black Tech Jobs, a Chicago-based technology recruiting company that has been able to recruit Black Atlantans to join companies remotely. technologies based in Silicon Valley. “As soon as you decide that employees can work from anywhere, you can win the battle for diversity, you can go where the black talent is.”
TrustRadius, a 70-person company that publishes reviews of enterprise technology products, released its own report last year, “People of Color in Technology,” based on a survey of 1,200 professionals from across the world. technology. Of all the major cities, Atlanta respondents were the most likely to report an increase in the number of people of color in tech over the past decade. Respondents in Austin, Texas; San Francisco; Denver; and Los Angeles were less likely to report an increase in the number of people of color in tech. Austin – where TrustRadius is based – is the only growing city in the United States where the black population is in fact shrinking, according to the report.
Like most businesses, TrustRadius has embraced remote hiring during the pandemic. About half of the 15 new employees she hired over the past year are distant, said Vinay Bhagat, founder and CEO of the company. They include people located in Atlanta, Virginia, and other parts of Texas.
The increase in diversity is just a lucky byproduct of remote rental, Bhagat said. He believes the industry’s reach is driven more by the need to find high-quality talent quickly as well as – at least for companies in Silicon Valley – by lower costs in other regions.
Steve Cadigan, a recruitment consultant who was LinkedIn’s first HR director, hopes that the acceptance of remote work will become an opportunity to change some practices that discourage diversity. Some believe that unconscious bias may be less likely in a video interview than in a face-to-face interview, for example.
While remote working can separate people from their existing networks, it can also encourage the formation of new, more inclusive networks within a business. During the pandemic, for example, some of Cadigan’s clients started “coffee roulette” programs that deliberately paired up colleagues who didn’t know each other well, he noted. “This sort of thing disinterests the way we normally hang out. We can’t hang out at the water cooler with our usual friends,” Cadigan said. “These new standards of interaction can develop and foster greater diversity.”
It is too early to determine to what extent companies will diversify by hiring more people from different geographies. “We’re still in the middle of the big experience,” Cadigan said. “But there are reasons to believe there will be positive results.”
Tam Harbert is a freelance technology and business journalist based in the Washington, DC area.