Three ways to increase diversity in your tech teams 

Diversity matters, you know that. 

You’ve heard the well-worn McKinsey stat, that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to financially outperform their peers. A figure that leaps to 35% for those in the top quartile for racial or ethnic diversity.

You know diverse teams are happier, more productive, higher performing teams. Diverse teams are more innovative teams – and nowhere does innovation matter more than high-tech.

And yet, look at your tech teams. 

Your company is rare indeed if you’ve found a true diversity balance. The Women in Technology Leadership report 2019 found nearly half of tech start-ups have no women on their leadership team, for example. 

And although the problem is global, both the Netherlands and the UK fare especially badly. The 2018 Women in Tech index finds only 16% of the tech workforce is female in NL and the UK, for instance, compared to 25% plus in countries like Australia, Romania, Bulgaria, Canada and the US. 

Increasing diversity in your tech teams is an even bigger issue when you’re a high-growth company. If you prioritise pace, you risk exacerbating your diversity problem further. You don’t want to double in size only to half in diversity.  

But scaling fast is crucial. You don’t want the business’ growth to stall because you can’t hire the engineers to support your plans. 

Here’s our perspective on increasing diversity in your tech teams, so you can scale fast – but also scale right. 

1 – Reinvest into the tech community

It would be an oversimplification to say tech’s diversity problem is all about education. But education does matter. 

PwC say only 3% of women choose a career in tech as their first choice. Nearly 80% of female students can’t name a famous female working in tech. Only 16% of female students have had a career in tech suggested (as opposed to 33% of men; that’s a difference of 106%). 

Which all adds up – only 5% of senior tech leaders are women. 

We’re talking long-term here, but you can play your part by investing into charities, projects and programs that address the accessibility of tech. 

A good example could be an apprenticeship program. Instead of hiring for ready-made senior tech people – look at bringing diverse technical talent into your business earlier, and training for success. (That’s what our FutureScaleTM program is all about). 

That way, you’d increase your long-term talent pipeline – and build-in diversity to your tech teams as you scale. Plus gain loyal employees who’ll be a more valuable asset to your business for longer. 

2 – Uncover hidden bias

Nobody likes to think they’ve got bias hiding in their people processes. But you probably do. Unconscious bias is a major and insidious issue. It stems from what the FT call “the brain’s tendency to fall back on the known and familiar when making choices”. 

Root out bias hiding in your processes, to make sure you’re attracting technical candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds and situations. 

For example:

  • Are you using gendered or implied-gendered language in your job adverts?
  • Did you unintentionally filter CVs that had certain names or backgrounds?
  • Are you filtering CVs who don’t match the implicit picture you’re imagining? 
  • Are you being too specific about candidates’ required background?
  • Are you unfairly assessing ability at interview because you like the candidate? 
  • Are you unfairly assessing ability because of candidates’ accent/appearance? 

Uncovering unconscious bias is a slow process that comes with empathetic examination of your weak spots. It helps to involve multiple people with recruitment but sometimes bias can become entrenched in your organisational culture.

In that case, working with a strategic recruitment partner can be invaluable, to help spot and solve your diversity bottlenecks as your team scales. 

 

3 – Assess your structures and culture

Building more diverse tech teams isn’t just about hiring more women or more people from ethnically diverse backgrounds. It’s about empowering those people to thrive, once you have hired them. 

Things like pay equality matter. The tech gender pay gap is often huge. 

(As in, the UK arms of Civica, Huawei and Siemens all paid women about 40% less than men in 2018-19. Citrix R&D paid women 77% less in bonuses). 

Value your female techies by paying them fairly, and you’ll find it easier to attract and retain those hires. 

Also think about policies like maternity leave and flexible working. If you’re an all-male leadership team you mightn’t have thought about things from the perspective of, say, a working mum.  

Or maybe you’re hiring internationally for the first time. You want new hires who settle into, not unsettle, your culture – of course. But you should still look to celebrate (not homogenise) diversity. Like, maybe new hires would appreciate days off around a different religious celebration. 

Think about how your culture manifests for diversity hires. Do people from diverse backgrounds have any visible role models? Could you build a mentor programme, to sensitively partner people from across your business? Do your managers understand cultural nuance, so they can sensitively manage performance? 

Build diversity into your culture as you scale

With diversity in tech, the industry is still miles from where we should be. That’s not about lecturing or patronising – and it’s not about discrete initiatives to hire more women or people of colour.  

It’s about building a culture of diversity into your business as you scale. Not losing what makes you unique, of course. But ensuring those values translate for diversity hires as much as they do your bulk workforce.  

That’s how you set yourself up for long-term balanced growth. 

That’s what Arrows Group help with. We help high-growth businesses find the top tech talent to help them scale – for today and for tomorrow.