María Lucía Villegas
3 min read
Normally, when we’re asked to imagine a group of scientists the most common thing that comes to mind is a group of white men. There’s an experiment that has proven this, not only in occidental countries but any country in the world and any age range. It is globally difficult to imagine a diverse group of STEM workers.
There is a logical explanation for this as historically, white men have better possibilities than any other group of demographics to get into any job they want. Add to this that the STEM industry is still stereotypically known to be a male industry. This and many other factors keep us from diversifying in gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, among others.
Look, and I’m not trying to shame anybody for this inequality, but we still need to address this situation because if you’re not diversifying for people, it should be your next innovation strategy, but we’ll get on that later.
One would say that in 2021 we’d have this issue resolved, but the truth is that we are part of an industry that grows at an exponential rate and diversifies at a tortoise-like pace. For example, let’s talk gender. In the UK, 35 out of 100 STEM workers were women in 2019, the representation in engineering and tech was lower though, approximately 16% of the workforce were represented by women. Not only this digit is worrisome but the same study shows that there was an increase of only 1% from 2015 to 2019.
If we look into another research with a different sample, the results tend to be similar. For example, in the US, it has been proven that there is a huge gap in STEM workers, racially speaking, with Black and Hispanic workers being still a minority regardless of their gender. A study shows that these demographics represent 9% and 8% respectively, opposed to 67% of white workers.
So anywhere we look, there’s evidence of the lack of diversification, even if we analyze developed countries where these conversations about gender inequality are more frequent and visible. Just to picture other cultural contexts, in LATAM, only 10% of programmers are women. And so on.
There are two main factors that have an impact on people’s decision to take a tech career path or not.
The first one is socialization since our industry has successfully developed a hostile environment for minorities. That is why this tends to be the first filter, diverse people that look into tech careers tend to back down because the industry indirectly tells them that they don’t belong there. It’s quite difficult for young students to visualize a future in an industry where they can’t see any representation of their gender, race, or ethnicity.
The second one is institutional bias. As we’re used to seeing a specific type of person as CEO, we develop a misconception of how should a successful individual look like in tech. Whether we do this consciously or unconsciously, this is a determining factor when choosing candidates for human talent. Yes, there is also another study that proves this.
It is important to acknowledge that these behaviors tend to be unconscious as this is a structural problem. Recognizing these dynamics is the first step into building a new future in tech for minorities. Now, why would we want to do that, you may ask.
Diversity means bringing multiple perspectives as well as experiences to the table. This leads to better problem solving as socially diverse groups tend to have deeper discussions, a wider variety of ideas, share more information and look at the problem from different angles.
Diverse teams also mean diverse solutions. We’re open to more possibilities as we listen to other people’s experiences, especially when those people are equal counterparts. This will improve the company’s innovation rate, as the solutions apply to larger parts of the population and meet unattended needs.
So yes, if we analyze the whole situation from a business perspective, having a diverse team would add great value to your company, especially in these times where innovating is one of the core activities to stay relevant in the market. Improve your possibilities by making a diversity program part of your growth strategy for 2022.