A Closer Look at the Tech Diversity Problem

ISVs, software developers, and the tech industry as a whole can, and should, do more to build diverse teams that bring new perspectives and innovation to their work.

CompTIA research found that the “diversity discussion” in the tech industry can be contradictory. On one hand, 80 percent of employees in this industry express satisfaction with diversity efforts at their companies, and 87 percent say they’ve worked in a department made up of a diverse group of individuals. But on the other hand, 45 percent of tech industry employees say the industry hasn’t put enough effort into promoting diversity.

Justin Ho, CEO and Co-Founder of rideOS, sheds some light on why this ambiguity exists and what ISVs can do to increase diversity among their teams.

Why should ISVs make diversity a priority?

Ho: Inclusivity and diversity aren’t just trendy buzz words. They’re crucial aspects of team-building. People of different races, sexual orientations, and other differentiating factors all bring something unique to the table. Our focus on diversity stems from respecting all kinds of people and enjoying the differences that it brings to our company.

We cultivate a diverse workforce because it is necessary to serve the unique needs of our global customer base, it leads to more creativity and innovation, and it pushes the world forward. Companies do not solely exist to maximize profit, but we also have broader responsibilities to the world to help reduce inequality and to do good.

At rideOS, we work to recognize, embrace, and promote individual differences in identity. We strive to be an environment where the intersectionalities in our identities and the ways our identities overlap are also celebrated, as they form our unique perspectives on the world. And ultimately, we recognize that in the same way we push to build groundbreaking technology, we must also push to build a team that breaks the status quo.

Does the problem of a homogeneous tech workforce begin when students choose their career paths?

Ho: I think the lack of diversity stems from before students choose their career paths, it begins at an early age. Most students are only exposed to a small subset of possible career paths during their education, and what they’re exposed to is heavily influenced by their parents, environment and socioeconomic status. While it’s great to see more STEM exposure through an increase in educational STEM toys, and mentorships programs such as Girls Who Code, children’s books introducing them to basic coding concepts, etc., there is still so much more to be done to enable equal access to technology exposure for all children.

Are there ways for the industry to encourage women and minorities to pursue tech degrees?

Ho: No matter what your company size or budget is, there are numerous ways to promote women and minorities to pursue tech degrees. You can partner with companies that help others enter tech roles such as Hackbright Academy or App Academy. You can enable folks from your engineering team to mentor students currently pursuing tech degrees and, of course, attending events at local universities or larger conferences such as the oSTEM Conference.   

The first step is to create a safe place where people can freely share their opinions and perspectives. Then, to talk about it. Create an environment that is not only focused on sharing but also emphasizes active listening. Define what diversity means, and what it does not.

Businesses can organize events and activities that celebrate employee differences, including holidays and identities. Organizations can give their employees a voice by creating a blog where they can write about what diversity in the workplace means to them. Additionally, companies can encourage their employees to volunteer in organizations that serve the needs of underrepresented segments of the population.

One recent activity we did at rideOS was organized by one of our Employee Resource Groups, “SWAG” (Society of Women and Gender Minorities), which meets monthly to discuss relevant issues to gender in the workplace. The last meeting was an open meeting where we did a Tech Privilege Walk similar to this one. It was a great way to start a conversation internally about these important topics and reflect on how we can create a more inclusive environment as a team. 

What are the benefits of building a diverse team?

Ho: According to research conducted by CompTIA, 64 percent of respondents feel that an organization with a diverse employee base is more likely to produce innovation than an organization lacking a diverse employee base. The National Center for Women & Information Technology analyzed 2,360 companies around the world and found that gender diversity in management and amongst teams generated positive outcomes related to profit margins, growth, and innovation.

It’s only natural that products built by diverse teams are more likely to appeal to a greater variety of users. In the mobility industry, this is crucial — we are building technology that aims to make the world more accessible to all types of people.

What advice would you give a manager whose team is comprised solely of white males?

Ho: Set aside a two-hour time block, and take some time to reflect upon the current demographics within the team. Ask yourself, how much does diversity matter to you? Is this a problem you want to tackle? Do some research on why diversity matters, and what diversity even means. The first step is admitting that your team would be better served by being more diverse.

Next, sit down with the team, create a safe place, and talk about the problem. You may want to consider asking a leader of an organization focused on increasing diversity to come in and talk about the problem and solutions.

Early on at rideOS, we invited Tiffany Yu, CEO and Founder of Diversability with a mission to rebrand disability through the power of community to come in and talk to us. This conversation helped to jumpstart our view and subsequent policies, hiring criteria, and mentorship program.