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Employment Practices in Tech Industry: The Diversity Issue

Employment Practices in Tech Industry: The Diversity Issue

Employment Practices in Tech Industry: The Diversity IssueOver the last few years there has been heightened scrutiny regarding the makeup of the workforce at technology companies, which is predominantly white, Asian, and male. Diversity in the workforce was underscored in a survey conducted by Fortune last year, which revealed that on average women comprise about one-third of the jobs in the tech industry. That gap expands the higher up you go in an organization, with the best companies showing women holding 29% of leadership jobs. In general, companies made slightly better progress on ethnic diversity than they did on increasing their percentages of female employees, although not in leadership roles, according to Fortune.

Some say the lack of diversity and gender gap in the tech industry is primarily a pipeline issue – that there are simply not enough girls studying math and science, or enough minorities graduating with computer science degrees. However, the stats don’t necessarily support these theories. So what is the underlying cause of the employment practices found in the tech industry? An article in Forbes magazine claims the problem stems from a cultural issue. “The reality is that gender and racial bias is so ubiquitous in the technology industry that it forces talented female and minority employees to leave,” the article states. “Companies can hire more minorities and women but without addressing this critical issue [the organization’s culture], they will not experience improvement in diversity.”

In fact, a study that interviewed 716 women who held tech positions at 654 companies in 43 states to find out why they left their jobs, some 192 women (27%) cited discomfort working in these companies. “The overt or implicit discrimination was a primary factor in their decision to leave tech,” according to the Forbes article. Several of them mentioned discrimination related to their age, race, or sexuality in addition to gender and motherhood. They also stated that lack of flexible work arrangements, the unsupportive work environment, or a salary that was inadequate to pay for childcare all contributed to their decision to leave. In another study of women of color in science done at UC Hastings College of Law, 100% of the sixty women scientists interviewed reported gender and racial bias. Nearly half of the Black and Latina scientists reported they had been mistaken for administrative or custodial staff.

What can tech companies to turn this lack of diversity in the workplace around?

An organization needs to take a close look at its culture, including discrimination in pay and hiring practices. Be sure to secure senior leadership commitment to take corrective actions that addresses gender and racial issues. Provide mandatory training in unconscious bias for every employee. It’s critical that all employees at every level of the organization understand their own bias and subsequent behavior. Look at developing career paths that enable employees to see their potential advancement opportunities.

It is critical to have a strong Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) program in place. EPLI provides coverage against claims of discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment, and any other work-related issues. There are different types of EPLI policies, including coverage of lawsuits from contractors as well as employment candidates. The cost for EPLI is contingent on the type, size, and risk of the business, as well as the kind of coverage you would like.

We specialize in EPLI coverage at Axis Insurance Services and can help tech companies with their insurance programs including risk-mitigation to stem losses. Just give us a call at (877) 787-5258 to discuss your specific needs.

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Blogged on: March 14, 2016 by Mike Smith
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