EEOC Holds Public Meeting on Diversity in Tech Industry

On May 18, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
held a public meeting on the topic of diversity in the tech industry, entitled “Innovation
Opportunity: Examining Strategies to Promote Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces
in the Tech Industry.”

At the meeting, EEOC staff presented findings from a new report, “Diversity in High Tech,” which the agency released
following the hearing.  The EEOC report
analyzes demographic data and other trends in the tech industry.  EEOC Commissioners also heard remarks from a
panel of experts across various fields who shared strategies and insights into
the state of diversity in the tech sector and offered solutions for promoting
equal employment in the high tech community.

EEOC Report Analyzes Employment Patterns in the Tech Industry

Ronald Edwards, Director of the Program Research and Surveys Division
with the Office of Research, Information and Planning at the EEOC, testified
about the findings from the new EEOC report.  The report, which was based on a literature
overview and analysis of EEO-1 data from tech firms, concluded that the high
tech industry displays overall disparities in the employment of women,
African-Americans, and Hispanics when compared to all industries
nationwide.  Among other things, the
report found that:

  • African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and women
    may face barriers to advancement, as indicated by a pattern where women and
    nonwhite employment decreases as job group increases from technicians up to
  • African-Americans and Hispanics had lower
    representation in the high-tech industry by a substantial margin, as compared
    to all private industries; and
  • Among the top 75 high tech firms in Silicon
    Valley, Asian-Americans make up 50% of professional jobs, yet only 36% of
    combined management positions.

 While the report did not inquire into why or how these disparities
arose, at the Commission meeting, the EEOC intends for the study to advance
conversation around issues of diversity and to identify areas for future
research.  Throughout the meeting, Chair
Jenny Yang along with other members of the Commission expressed a desire to dig
deeper into the issues of diversity and inclusion that are impacting the high
tech sector and to use the Commission’s resources to shine a light on and help
the industry resolve these critical issues.

The EEOC Report underscores the significant role that the high-tech
sector plays in fueling the U.S. economy and the industry’s pivotal role in
creating high paying, sustainable jobs with strong growth potential.  The EEOC has highlighted the well-known fact
that the high-tech sector is falling short in diversity and inclusion efforts
as it continues to employ a smaller percentage of women, African Americans and
Hispanics as compared to the overall private sector.

Panel Discussion Provides Insights into Disparities and Explores
Possible Solutions

Five panelists offered further insights into the state of diversity in
the tech industry: Ben Jealous, former head of the NAACP and current partner at
Kapor Capital; Erin Connell, an employment attorney at Orrick, Herrington &
Sutcliffe; Camilla Velasquez, head of product and marketing at JustWorks; Laurie
McCann, an attorney with the AARP Foundation; and Kweilin Ellingrud, a partner
at McKinsey & Company.

In their testimony, the panelists observed that:

  • There is a technology talent shortage and it is
    rapidly increasing. By 2020, there will
    be 1.4 million computing jobs in the United States, but only 400,000
    suitably-skilled workers to fill them-a talent gap that makes it more
    imperative than ever for high-tech companies to focus on diversity and
    inclusion initiatives;
  • Hiring of women and minorities (particularly
    African-Americans and Hispanics) in tech jobs is not getting better and appear
    to be growing worse, largely due to the pipeline problem of those groups being
    discouraged (or not encouraged) from studying computer science, majoring in
    STEM fields or joining the industry; and
  • In addition to race and gender disparities
    exposed in the EEO-1 data and other studies, there are far fewer older workers
    in the tech sector; hiring policies and practices designed to attract and hire
    younger employees are making it even more challenging for older workers to join
    this critical segment of the workforce.

 The panelists discussed strategies and best practices to promote
diversity in the tech field, ranging from more traditional solutions-such as
ensuring pay equity, expanding family-friendly leave and health benefits-to
other innovations, like hidden bias training, incentive payments to recruiters
for diverse candidates, and requiring at least one female or minority candidate
to be considered when hiring for certain open positions.

For more information with regard to this meeting, please contact Leslie