Despite big promises from CEOs, flashy DEI hires and significant financial investments by companies, the tech industry continues to fall behind when it comes to diversity. While Black employees make up 12% of the US workforce, only 8% of tech workers are Black. Thanks to this gap, Black households may lose out on more than $350B in tech job wages by 2030, according to the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility.
Addressing the Disparities: Acknowledge Black History
How is it that the tech industry, known for unconventional problem solving and quick solutions, has failed to address its own diversity challenges for so many years?
Much of it has to do with the industry’s hiring practices. Personal relationships and “who you know,” has driven much of the hiring in Silicon Valley. Tech companies often rely on “referrals” from current employees for job postings, which can further narrow the pool. This leads to companies recruiting primarily graduates from a limited pool of four-year colleges. Venture capitalists also tend to consider investments in companies founded by people they know, which creates an unintended echo chamber and perpetuates gate-keeping.
For the Black workers who are hired, there are few role models who look like them, so they often end up switching jobs in order to grow their careers.
With everyone competing for the same employees, the talent gap widens and Black candidates have less access to opportunities in tech. To drive real change, companies need to fundamentally overhaul hiring and recruitment practices, sourcing more talent from underserved communities.
This isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s the only way to address modern talent gaps. If you’re struggling to hire for tech roles, broadening your search is a critical solution. There are plenty of high-potential candidates on the market, but many companies aren’t considering them.
Reasons to Invest in Black Tech Talent
Black talent has significant potential to add value to technology, yet systemic barriers perpetuate the underrepresentation of Black employees today. Closing this gap is the right move for companies who want to remain competitive and future-proof their workforce. Diverse talent is more likely to create products that are inclusive and appeal to a wide set of consumers. Additionally, today’s workforce values diversity and considers it as indicative of company culture – they want to see Black representation in your organization, or they might not apply.
On top of this, consumers are placing more scrutiny on companies that don’t walk the talk when it comes to diversity. According to a McKinsey study, two out of three Americans said their social values shape their shopping choices, and 45% believe retailers should actively support Black-owned businesses and brands.
Getting more Black talent into tech roles could ultimately lead to the creation of more higher-paying jobs in the Black community, as more Black tech workers become entrepreneurs or refer family and friends for tech positions. This is an important step to shift inequalities in generational wealth, as more Black employees would be able to afford to buy property and invest over their lifetime, leaving a legacy for the next generation.
Partner With General Assembly to Join the Black Futures Movement
Broadening your talent search can be challenging, but with the right partner, it doesn’t have to be impossible. The first step is to consider revising your job postings. Job postings often include degree and experience qualifications that prevent high-potential talent from even applying. According to General Assembly’s State of Tech Talent research, only 27% of applicants come from diverse backgrounds. Ask yourself: is a four-year degree really necessary for an entry-level role? Or could skills-based hiring be a better approach?
The next step is to evaluate how you are creating a pipeline of diverse junior tech talent. General Assembly’s Recruit-Train-Deploy solution is an example of a modern solve for today’s tech recruiting challenges. Instead of recruiting from only top universities, your organization can cultivate the talent it needs. General Assembly will provide candidates with bootcamp training, and partner with your company on an apprenticeship or contract role that enables on-the-job learning. Ultimately, this could create a steady pipeline of junior hires who have the skills to do your company’s most urgent work.
If your organization is based outside of tech hiring hubs, sponsoring and advancing the local community can also pay dividends, even if it doesn’t result in direct, immediate hires. M&T Bank, for example, partnered with General Assembly to leverage its plug-and-play bootcamp curriculum to source more local talent and uplift the tech community near its headquarters in Buffalo, New York.
“I don’t expect all those folks to work for us immediately or forever,” Mike Wilser, M&T’s CIO told CIO Dive. “The community needs an infusion of people with those skills, even if it’s just ten or twenty at a time. In four or five years we’re going to see that we’ve built a tech community.”
Once you have a steady pipeline of diverse junior talent, the job isn’t done. Retaining and engaging these employees is critical to maintaining a diverse, future-proof workforce. Investing in training and development programs that upskill your current workforce should be a top priority for talent development and retention.
General Assembly is a trusted talent partner and advisor to HR leaders and tech recruiters at companies like Uber, ServiceNow and Adobe. We can help you build a diverse junior talent pipeline, upskill and reskill your workforce, and establish talent development programs that retain your best employees.
If you’re a business leader or hiring manager ready to invest in your current or potential talent pool, contact us today to receive tailored recommendations.