Study Conducted by Anita Borg Institute Explores Impact of Underrepresentation of Minorities on High Tech Companies
PALO ALTO, Calif. — June 1, 2009— Leading high-technology companies need employee diversity to remain globally competitive and innovative, but new research indicates that underrepresented minorities are a very small proportion of high technology workforces, especially at the senior level. According to Obstacles and Solutions for Underrepresented Minorities in Technology, 6.1% of technical men and 8.2% of technical women in Silicon Valley high-tech companies are underrepresented minorities. Representation at the highest levels of the technical ladder is especially poor for women of color.
The study, conducted by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, is available at www.anitaborg.org/news/research/.
Obstacles and Solutions for Underrepresented Minorities in Technology provides an in-depth look into the barriers faced by underrepresented minorities and provides solid recommendations to high tech companies on how to overcome these barriers. While there is increased recognition of the benefits of diversity, women of color suffer from a double-dose of under-representation. They represent less than 2% of high-level technical positions.
“Studies have shown that, for a variety of reasons, workforce diversity boosts a company’s bottom line,” states Dr. Caroline Simard, director of research and executive programs for the Anita Borg Institute and author of the study. “The level of under-representation of African-American/Black, Latino/ Hispanic, and Native American/Native Hawaiians in technical positions in leading high-technology companies in Silicon Valley is alarming. This is likely to limit companies’ ability to innovate and create new products for a significant portion of the user population. Such low numbers suggest that underrepresented employees are likely to suffer from significant isolation and a lack of access to mentors”.
The study found that the impact of this underrepresentation includes:
➢ High-tech companies are now at a clear risk of losing underrepresented minority technical talent. Over 40% of underrepresented minority employees plan on leaving their companies. Even more alarming, 51% of women of color plan on leaving their companies within the next 12 months.
➢ Companies are losing on the benefits of gender and ethnic diversity in decision-making, as diverse teams tend to make better decisions and generate more innovation.
➢ Minority job candidates look for companies who model diversity at the top. A lack of ethnic diversity at the top ranks of an organization leads to further difficulties in recruiting and retaining talent from ethnic minority backgrounds, further compounding the problem.
➢ A lack of role models is a critical factor in the career choice of young girls and early career women. Given that the Hispanic population is projected to represent 30% of the US population by 2015, an absence of role models is likely to perpetuate the problem of underrepresentation of Latinas in technology and cause a significant disconnect between those designing technology and those using it, further leading to lost opportunities for companies.
➢ US prominence in science and technology has been seriously undermined in recent years due to the decreasing enrollment of students in STEM disciplines. The US workforce as a whole cannot remain competitive unless it leverages the talent of women and under-represented minorities.
The study also offers recommended solutions for companies who wish to retain and advance their underrepresented minority employees. Some of the recommendations include:
➢ Provide professional development for technical skills. While this practice is among the most importance to all technical workers, underrepresented minority employees are significantly more likely to rate it as important than are non-minority employees (93.2% versus 81.6%)
➢ Implement practices that promote flexibility in terms of scheduling work hours. Flexibility is highly valued by all technical employees, and even more critical to the retention of women of color, who face significant work-life balance challenges.
➢ Model diversity from the top down. Women and men of color in technology expect to see companies’ commitment to diversity reflected in the executive leadership ranks.
The report will be available for download the Anita Borg Institute website (www.anitaborg.org/news/research/) on June 1, 2009.
About the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI)
The Anita Borg Institute provides resources and programs to help industry, academia, and government recruit, retain, and develop women leaders in high-tech fields, resulting in higher levels of technological innovation. ABI programs serve high-tech women by creating a community and providing tools to help them develop their careers. ABI is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 charitable organization. ABI Partners include: Google, Microsoft Corporation, HP, Sun Microsystems, Cisco, Intel, SAP, Lockheed Martin, NetApp, NSF, IBM, Symantec, Amazon, CA, Intuit, and Genentech. For more information, visit www.anitaborg.org.
Anita Borg Institute