I’ve been heartened to see the recent conversations and movement toward a more diverse and inclusive tech industry. Reports from my colleagues at eBay, Pinterest, and Spotify represent a shift in the conversation from purely numbers to addressing the human side of these issues. The #foundersforchange pledge is turning the tables for venture capitalists, forcing funders to embrace diversity around the tables that serve as the gateways to capital and in their portfolio companies.
But, despite massive amounts of attention and discussion about diversity and inclusion, most of the tech industry is not making significant progress toward building more balanced teams. The Kapor Center notes that women make up only 25% of the tech workforce, and Black or Latinx adults combined make up just 15% of the tech workforce. A mere 6% of Fortune500 CEOs are female (and don’t even ask about women with intersectional identities). And our recent research shows that representation, retention, and sense of belonging among underrepresented groups remains below 30% in the tech industry.
The question is, why?
For the second year in a row, we commissioned a report to understand the attitudes and behaviors of tech workers in Silicon Valley and the United States. This year’s results show that fatigue has set in and progress has stalled. People are tired of talking about diversity and inclusion, frustrated by talk not turning into impactful action, and overwhelmed by the number of issues to address and the scope of what must change. While respondents continue to say that they care about diversity and inclusion, action declined across the board.
People say D&I is important, yet their actions do not match their words. Why are people failing to take responsibility to create positive change? There are three primary reasons individuals are opting out:
- Diversity fatigue – It takes a lot of energy and resources to solve these complex problems, and it’s difficult to stay committed when progress is slow or non-existent.
- The wrong conversation – Most D&I programs focus on increasing the representation numbers of a narrowly-defined category of “diverse” candidates, instead of focusing on belonging and inclusion throughout the company.
- Breadth of issues – Many individuals feel they can’t make a significant difference in such a complex web of problems, and they become too overwhelmed to take action.
So where do we go from here? How do we join those at the forefront of the conversation and re-energize the commitment to D&I?
- Focus on team-level progress – Most of the current D&I conversations focus on the company as a whole. But if women and people of color are found only in select departments or at the lower levels of the company, you’re not gaining the complete value of having a balanced team. Company-level reports are also looking at a unit too big for folks to influence: if they can influence their team, they’ve done something important – and what if we all did?
- Foster belonging and inclusion – Equip individuals with the skills to make an impact within their sphere of influence, and raise our collective standards about how people engage in the workplace. Begin by listening to and believing marginalized people who tell their stories, and listen to them about the solutions even for little things – their expertise is valuable.
- Implement the best practices that do work – Tactical programs can address representation and retention issues. A diverse-slate approach to hiring, implementing a values-aligned vs. a culture-fit interview, and providing opportunities specifically for people from underrepresented groups to grow and develop are proven to be effective.
At Atlassian, our mission is to unleash the potential in every team. Diversity and inclusion are non-negotiable components of our ability to fulfill that mission, and we plan to use these results to refine our programs and initiatives. For the full data set, check out our report here.
But we can’t do it alone.
The fact is, even if we get this right, we won’t have solved the industry-level problems. We challenge you to step up.
We need to live up to our industry’s reputation as innovators. Re-commit to increasing balance, belonging, and inclusion on your team.