Last summer, thanks to a catalyzing move from Pinterest to share its diversity data, a host of big-name tech companies decided to go public with their own numbers. The result was a depressing dump of diversity data that confirmed what many had long suspected. Women and minorities were hugely underrepresented in the industry and in engineering roles in particular.

As they say, the first step to resolving a problem is acknowledging you have one, so participating companies, including Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yahoo!, were rightly celebrated at the time for the move -- and for spurring a national discussion of the problem and what to do about it.

But, of course, the end goal of owning up to the issue is actually fixing it. So has the tech industry made progress over the last year in hiring more women and minorities? That's the subject of a recent, in-depth piece on Fast Company by Sarah Kessler. In between fascinating reporting from the Anita Borg Institute's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women In Computing and a deep dive into the root causes of the problem, Kessler drops in some new statistics on the current state of diversity in tech. They're none too cheerful.

Actually, we're mostly going backwards.

"As far as numbers go, little has actually changed over the past few years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the representation of women in computer and mathematical operations is slightly worse than it was in 2010 (it has improved somewhat for underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities). The same is true for the more specific field of software developers," she reports.

Attention, she goes on to point out, has not translated into progress. "Transparency is a move in the right direction but by no means a solution. Intel, for instance, first made diversity numbers public more than a decade ago, and its U.S. gender ratio is almost exactly the same as it was in 2010. Companies that have made progress since disclosing their numbers in 2014, meanwhile, have done so only minimally."

So the short answer to 'How is that whole tech diversity push going?' is, sadly, 'Pretty badly.'

What business owners can do right now.

Kessler goes on to discuss in detail the multiple problems that are keeping women out of the field, from implicit bias to pipeline problems. If you're interested in the issue at all, it's well worth a read in full. But what if you're a business owner who understands, as Kessler puts it, that "this is a business problem?" Tech talent is hard enough to come by without under-utilizing the brains of half the population, and diverse teams make better decisions and more money, according to study after study.

Therefore, you want your tech team to be as diverse as it can be but you can't immediately fix, say, whether middle school girls are adequately encouraged to nurture their interest in tech. You can, however, change how you hire. If you're looking for ideas on how to find and appeal to more women technologists right now, recruiting company Piazza has practical advice for hiring rockstar female tech talent.

Why do you think progress in this area has been so slow?

Published on: Dec 3, 2015