Diversity in tech is not just an ethical issue, it’s an economic opportunity.
How women, LGBT and people of color equate to green for the companies that truly embrace and value diversity.
We have all seen the headlines as of late. As the major tech companies feel the pressure to release their diversity numbers, we are now seeing what many in Silicon Valley have swept under the rug for quite some time.
And while there seems to be a growing movement to barrage these companies on the moral benefits of having a diverse workforce, a point that is seldom discussed is the fact that having a less than diverse workforce causes money to be left on the table by these tech giants.
Technology companies are built on innovation. The very core of entrepreneurship and innovation is simply solving problems and developing solutions that meet a need. The reality is that diverse ethnicities and genders share many similarities, but also share many differences; different interest, different concerns, different experiences, different perspectives and therefore have different needs.
When companies lack diversity, they are not able to capitalize on blind spots and as a result miss out on economic opportunities to develop innovative solutions and solve problems that are relevant to different ethnicities and gender groups.
The financial rewards of developing solutions that appeal to a more-diversified consumer/ user base are significant. Women purchase 70 to 80 percent of all products; African Americans have a buying power of nearly $1 trillion; and Hispanics are the fastest growing consumer group in the United States.
Sara Blakely founded Spanx because of her discomfort with the options in women’s pantyhose. Today Spanx are sold in every major department store and are a household name among women. Bob Johnson founded Black Entertainment Television (BET) because he knew how important it was to the African American community to see images they could relate to on television. He ultimately sold the company for $3 billion. These two massively successful companies are not tech companies, but they were established because an individual understood a problem and a need that existed specifically within their targeted market. A concern that would be virtually overlook by someone outside of their core demographic.
Having a diverse team helps you to identify new opportunities to develop new solutions; Ideas that could potentially net millions and in some cases billions to a company’s bottom-line.
Increasing diversity within your organization
Be Open – Relationships are the driving force behind hiring and investment opportunities. By nature, people feel comfortable and interact most with individuals whom share their same interest, general backgrounds and commonalities. While relationships are certainly important, a concerted effort must be made to access talent that may not be in the usual social circles.
If an organization is serious about recruiting a diverse workforce, they must think beyond the standard recruiting techniques of posting on online job board, career fairs and recruiting from current staff’s spear of influence. They must take an active role in reaching out and communicating to their future employee where they live and breathe. This was one of the reasons behind why we created RYSE Connected. An online network and mobile platform that connects, empowers and celebrates young professionals of color across the nation who share the same interest and concerns, it also serves as the ideal recruiting resource for employers in all industries who are looking to connect with experienced and talented minority professionals.
In addition to be open minded regarding recruiting, Companies must also be open to individuals whom share different backgrounds and experiences, and therefore can bring difference perspectives to the table.
Sustainability – Do current female and minority employees feel supported in the workplace? Tech companies focus a significant amount of their resources on studying user behavior for marketing purposes. That same concept must be applied in the recruiting process and in retaining diverse talent. It is important to create an environment that is supportive of the diverse workforce and embraces different perspectives. Establishing diversity networks within the company provides diverse staff with the ability to interact with individuals whom share their same interest, general backgrounds and commonalities within the larger organization. In the long run, diversity networks helps with recruiting, employee support and retention of a diverse workforce.
Establishing a pipeline – Growing up, I was never exposed to entrepreneurship. I was conditioned that getting a good job was the best way to make a decent living. It wasn’t until I was much older that I was exposed to entrepreneurship and the joy that could come from developing an idea that could solve a problem in the market place. Even after being exposed to entrepreneurship, I still did not think it was a reality for me. Lack of money, lack of resources and lack of any key relationship permeated my mind and caused me to see entrepreneurship, much less a career in STEM as something that was light-years from my reality.
Lack of exposure and not a lack of talent is a major factor affecting the diversity issue in the technology industry.
Opportunities within these industries are invisible to those who are not connected to them already. It is virtually impossible to strive to achieve something that you have not seen.
Therefore companies can invest in their future by working with organizations to develop initiatives that will increase the exposure of STEM opportunities to diverse youth at a young age. Connecting these companies with students in the classroom, sharing their stories of continuous innovation and how they develop new products and concepts for the market place, allowing for summer tours to expose students to the environment within a tech company, funding science and engineering programs and establishing internship opportunities for students at schools with a significant population of minority students and create mentoring and leadership opportunities for tech entrepreneurs are just a few of the many ways tech companies can keep an active pipeline of fresh diverse talent bringing innovative ideas into their business
The Bottom Line
People who are white males will continue to develop innovative ideas that will forever change the future and our current way of life. People who are not white males will also continue to develop innovative ideas that will forever change the future and our current way of life. You will benefit from having both be a part of your team. At the end of the day, diversity is not just about being politically correct, filling a quota and satisfying moral obligations, diversity is profitable!