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Unconscious racial bias plagues global tech sector

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People of colour (POC) who are employed in the technology sector across the globe are twice as likely to experience discrimination in the workplace than their White counterparts.

This is according to the “2020 People of Colour in Tech Report” released this week by IT firm TrustRadius. The report is based on a survey conducted among 1 207 tech professionals across the globe, who provided new data on representation, leadership and unconscious bias in the tech industry. It aims to help address the lack of research on marginalised populations in the tech industry.

The survey was open to everyone who works in the tech industry regardless of race or ethnicity, with 53% of respondents identified as people of colour.

While income inequality is still one of the biggest obstacles for POC in the tech sector, they also face a particularly challenging reality: they are critically outnumbered, by an oppressive margin, reveals the report.

According to the demographic analysis of the research, Black, Latino and Native tech professionals make up less than 5% of the workforce at major tech companies. Representation is a key component to attracting POC to the tech industry, as well as ensuring an inclusive environment and retaining them as employees.

In addition, 45% of POC think unconscious bias plays a major role in the interviewing and hiring process within technology companies, while only 27% of White respondents agreed. Another 43% of POC said they have experienced racial issues at work, while 81% of Whites said they have not.

“Industry-wide demographic surveys are relatively uncommon, which can make it difficult to precisely rate how the tech industry as a whole is performing in terms of diversity,” according to the report.

“However, social awareness of systemic oppression like racism is trending upward in the global technology sector. There is some disconnect between POC tech professionals and White tech professionals in regards to how much biases come into play during the hiring process. Recruiting and hiring are commonly seen as the number one reason for a lack of POC in tech. When racial discrimination is an issue around the world, it cannot be expected for the recruiting industry to be unaffected by racism and prejudices.”

While representation of POC in the industry is low, the numbers may be improving, adds the report. The majority of survey respondents (65% of POC and 58% of White respondents) reported there are more POC in tech now compared to 10 years ago.

Unequal access to quality education and opportunities that build experience were among other reasons cited as hindrances to the lower representation of POC and lower wages in the sector, according to TrustRadius.

More diversity policies

Although technology companies such as Google, Facebook and SAP have pledged to hire more diverse employees, a report by USA Today shows that major tech companies in the US still employ far fewer women and underrepresented minorities than other industries.

Research conducted by Pew found that while there is widespread support for the ideals of racial and ethnic diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, Black people and Hispanics are still underrepresented in the field, particularly among workers with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

According to the TrustRadius report, people of colour do not always feel comfortable advocating for themselves within the industry, or their companies’ management or human resources (HR) teams.

“The current challenges present an opportunity for companies to make their businesses feel more secure and convenient for their employees who are part of minority groups to raise important racial issues, by establishing HR structures that make it easier for POC to surface their concerns, feedback and needs,” notes the report.

In addition, receiving mentorship is a key component of career progression for many tech leaders, as POC may find it difficult to connect with a suitable mentor, notes TrustRadius.

This is one way they are at a disadvantage to their White peers.

“Black respondents are the most likely to report difficulty with finding a mentor, at 63%. Out of other POC groups, Asian respondents are the least likely to report difficulty finding a mentor, at 41%.

“Asian respondents along with Black, Latino and American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander respondents report more difficulty finding a mentor than White tech professionals,” according to the report.

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