Apple, Microsoft, Google, and others are actively working to improve the diversity of their employee base. But how does a smaller technology company with fewer employees start to change? Read more to find out how you can start the process today.
Apple released its latest data on hiring diversity this week, noting a slight increase in female, black and Hispanic workers since last year. Overall, Apple’s workforce is made up of 32 percent female, 9 percent black, and 12 percent Hispanic employees, respectively, up one percentage point in each category from 2015, according to the Washington Post.
Apple opened up data on its hiring diversity three years ago, and while the company has made improvements, it is still made up of mostly white (56 percent) and male (68 percent) employees – that’s across all divisions including tech, non-tech, leadership and retail. Comparatively, Apple is not doing too bad among its peers.
At Google, numbers around gender diversity are similar: the company had 69 percent male employees as of January 2016. In terms of ethnicity, Google’s employees are 59 percent white, three percent Hispanic, and two percent black.
Microsoft, who hasn’t updated its data on diversity since September, has 73.1 percent male employees. Fifty-nine percent of its employees are white, 5.4 percent Hispanic, and 3.5 percent black.
Smaller tech companies may look at Apple, with its 150,000 employees around the world, and think that there is no way that a smaller company could make much of a difference when it comes to improving overall diversity in tech. This thinking could not be further from the truth.
Technology services firm Tribridge was founded in 1998 and has grown to more than 4,000 customers with 700 employees in the U.S. and Europe. It offers a range of services including cloud, business consulting, and business intelligence and analytics.
Talkin’ Cloud talked to Holly Grogan, vice president of the people team at Tribridge about its recent initiative called the Tribridge Women’s Network which is aimed at developing women leaders in its company, and how other technology companies can make a concerted effort to improve the diversity of their own organizations.
1. Get Leadership Buy-In
Like many things, if company leadership is not interested in a project it can be hard to get it off the ground. Grogan says that having leadership support is “an absolute must.”
At Tribridge, the topic of diversity was brought up by its CEO, Tony DiBenedetto. He wrote about his thinking on Inc., and noted that while the company was 40 percent women – 8 percent higher than Apple’s – its “numbers reflect the skewed landscape of the tech industry: The more senior the leadership position, the more likely that a man fills that role.”
2. Look at the Numbers
Grogan says that Tribridge was “pleasantly surprised” when it discovered 40 percent of its workforce was women – higher than the average in the tech space, which sits around 25 percent on the low-end.
“We thought, that's pretty positive, and then as we started looking a little bit further our numbers started to look like everybody else's,” she says, referring to the disproportionate representation of males at the leadership level.
This hard look at numbers can help your organization start to determine milestones and objectives, and offers a starting point against which you can measure improvements.
3. Talk to Your Employees
Where do you start when looking to improve diversity? Tribridge began by speaking to its existing employees to learn more about their experience at work, and used that feedback to form the Tribridge Women’s Network.
“We started by talking to the women at Tribridge. We did a first round, where we spoke to everybody that was already in a leadership role. I wanted to understand the experience here and their experience in prior places during their careers, and their employment,” Grogan says.
“Then we really took a cross section of women across our organization, different roles, different levels, different parts of the country and just said, 'hey, what's important to you, and what do you want to see out of a program like this? What do you think will help you develop as a professional? What do you think are things that we could be doing to attract and retain the best and the brightest in our field?’”
Grogan says one of the biggest takeaways from this process was that female employees did not want special treatment.
“But we also found that people really were asking for opportunities where they could get additional mentorship,” she says. “Particularly from other female coworkers; there were opportunities where they could really expand, and develop quickly into leadership roles.”
Mentors could help retain female employees – which aside from recruitment, is a top challenge companies in technology face. Grogan says that in terms of retention, Tribridge started to look at the flexibility of its work environment and decided to implement unlimited PTO which includes 12 weeks of paid maternity, paternity, and family leave.
4. Measure Your Success
Once your organization has talked to employees and started to implement changes based on feedback, whether through a formal initiative like the Tribridge Women's Network or a less formal approach, it is important to track progress.
“Some of the things that we're looking at for success are retention of women within our workforce, increasing women in leadership roles,” Grogan says. “I can tell you that from last year to this year we've tripled the number of female vice presidents in our organization. We are looking at those types of things to see if we're actually making any improvement.”
5. Reach Out to Your Community
Community outreach and sponsorships of local programs can help your organization advocate for diversity within your own community. Grogan says that Tribridge works with its local Boys and Girls Club, and other community organizations to reach girls at a young age – before they’ve decided a career in technology is not for them.
“[Tribridge is] targeting girls within The Boys and Girls Club, as well as some other local community businesses to do a partnership with them, to reach out to younger girls before they make the decision on what they want to do when they grow up,” Grogan says. “You can't just do it for those of us that are in the workforce now. We need to be looking at that next generation. I think we have a responsibility to do that.”