How Tech Startups Can Build Diversity Into Their Culture

Andre Smith

In the technology industry, as in many others, innovation is king. That means that technology companies all across the world place a premium on leveraging ideas to achieve success. Given that impetus, it’s astounding that technology companies have such a poor reputation for diversity and inclusivity. Yet that’s the reality today.

The lack of diversity is present at all stages of development, beginning with startups and continuing through some of the world’s largest tech companies. The statistics overall paint a pretty bleak picture, despite the amount of attention that the subject has received in recent years. Many tech companies continue to close themselves off to a large segment of their most valuable resource – human talent – when they should be doing everything in their power to remedy the situation. Doing so should be easiest for fledgling tech companies that have yet to develop a coherent culture. Here’s a roadmap to help them get it done.

Address bias in hiring practices

Some of the diversity issues endemic to the technology industry trace back to the hiring process. Eliminating these issues is the first step in addressing the overall issue. Technology companies actually have an advantage in this area, as they’re best equipped to use data analysis as the foundation of their hiring practices. Making data the centerpiece of hiring diversity helped language learning platform Duolingo achieve a 50:50 gender ratio in its software engineering team, a balance that will help ensure diverse teams going forward. It also removes some of the tendencies towards unconscious biases that can occur among recruiters and hiring managers.

Cast a wide net for available talent

Changing hiring practices to be gender- and race-neutral is only half of the equation when addressing workforce diversity. That’s because simply being willing to hire any qualified candidate doesn’t guarantee that the candidate pool the business chooses from is a diverse one. At a time when qualified candidates from all walks of life are making efforts to connect with innovative tech companies, the best approach is to forge partnerships with services that cater to non-traditional or underrepresented groups like PowerToFly or Shift. This will ensure a diverse mix of backgrounds in the pool of potential new hires.

Reward competence, not connections

Hiring for diversity will keep only a portion of a company’s workforce in balance. After the hiring process is complete, an internal incentive system should ensure that everyone rises through the organization based on merit. This is vital because evidence suggests that raises and promotions often do not occur on a level playing field, which harms diversity in the upper echelons of businesses everywhere.

To prevent such a harmful imbalance, establish systems to track raises and promotions and create guidelines that remove the subjectivity from the process. It’s also a good idea to communicate the criteria that employees will be judged on. That way, everyone knows who’s being rewarded and why, and when they should expect to receive recognition for their contributions.

Innovation through diversity

Technology companies that establish practices that foster workforce diversity will have a natural advantage over their competition. In fact, a study of 1,700 businesses in 8 countries found that businesses with diverse management teams posted revenues that averaged 19% higher than those that did not prioritize diversity. The success of these businesses is directly attributable to the fact that a thriving and diverse workforce brings a variety of perspectives to the table, enabling the best ideas to gain traction based on objective analysis rather than simple confirmation bias.

Increasing workplace diversity should be a no-brainer in an industry where knowledge is paramount. The industry as a whole must make it happen.

To learn more about how tech companies can encourage diversity, read “AI Helping Organizations Overcome Bias And Embrace An Inclusive Culture.”


About Andre Smith

Andre Smith is an Internet, marketing, and e-commerce specialist with several years of experience in the industry. He has watched as the world of online business has grown and adapted to new technologies, and he has made it his mission to help keep businesses informed and up to date.