IT leaders report that efforts to recruit diverse candidates are growing, so why aren’t workplace diversity stats budging?
Oct 28, 2022 | By: Lauren Kolodrubetz and Franklin Reed
For nearly 40 years, TEKsystems has been sourcing and retaining the most sought-after talent worldwide by understanding our customers’ needs, getting to know the candidates’ career aspirations and producing an ideal match for both. Our talent network covers 81% of the IT workforce. And we’re committed to cultivating a diverse workforce that thrives in inclusive work environments. But we see that the diversity needle in IT is barely moving. Here we share a few reasons why and how decision-makers can enact change and impact the industry.
Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Commitments Not Adding Up to Results
Over the last few years, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have become buzzwords. Companies have committed to and set goals around creating more diverse and inclusive workforces. But the average gender and racial makeup of IT teams has not shifted in years.
2022 Gender and Race Demographics for IT Professionals
Regarding gender, women make up 26% of the IT workforce. White professionals represent 60% of IT employees. We believe there are many explanations for this: unconscious biases in interviewing practices, heavier importance placed on educational background versus skills-based qualifiers and lack of inclusive corporate culture, to name a few.
But is there a more deeply rooted issue regarding DEI efforts not being discussed? We believe there is.
Inequitable Talent Sourcing: Vendor Neutrality Leads to Lack of Diversity
IT organizations use a managed service provider (MSP) to assist in managing vendors who hire the best candidates. Whether internal to their organization or a third-party vendor, these management services inform the hiring process by weighing cost, risk and compatible values with the organization. This ensures vendor neutrality, which gives each recruiting vendor an equal opportunity to produce qualified candidates. In other words, no one vendor has more lead time to source candidates or any additional advantage that would lead to a higher market share. It has worked for decades to help companies secure talent quickly. But it is counterintuitive when trying to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds and those underrepresented in IT.
Why are current recruiting efforts hindering diversity?
- About three-fourths of the IT industry is made up of men. Suppose a vendor does not have a plan for recruiting diverse candidates. In that case, they will continue to submit one female candidate for every three male candidates, and the same goes for average race demographics. This means, on average, hiring managers will follow suit.
- Cognitive biases often influence decision-makers to hire candidates like ones they have hired before due to similarity, expedience or experience bias. In other words, decision-makers want to hire diverse candidates as long as they show up like everyone else.
- Once individuals from underrepresented groups defeat the first two barriers, retention is lower because they don’t feel a strong sense of inclusion or belonging in the workplace.
How to Improve Diversity in Your Workforce? Shift Your Recruiting Efforts to a Programmatic Approach
- Vet your vendors.
- Instead of working with multiple vendors, choose one or two whom you trust and ensure they have a solid program for recruiting, even training, diverse candidates.
- Do they have nontraditional talent, alternatively skilled or other career programs? How about free training programs for individuals looking for a career shift or who can’t afford a four-year degree?
- Adjust your hiring procedures.
- Humanize the interview process and eliminate artificial barriers—for example, pivot to skills-based assessments instead of relying on a degree in IT.
- Standardize the interview protocol so every candidate is allotted the same amount of time for skills assessments, asked the same questions and interviewed by diverse managers.
- Think large scale and long term.
- Hire cohorts. A cohort is a group of individuals with similar experiences, skills or backgrounds that start together, which results in the sense of community, belonging, inclusivity and increased retention.
- For example, we work with our clients to build diverse cohorts of hand-selected candidates who will thrive in a 12-week customized training program. Given the nature of the rigorous training, we have found that individuals in the same cohort form solid bonds and continue to support one another even after graduating from the program. In a recent pilot program for a healthcare client, we found that the retention rate is 100% after 12 months when cohorts enter the workforce together.
The IT industry will enormously impact the economy when large companies approach recruiting with a diversity-first mindset. Productivity, retention and equity within the workplace will see positive changes overall. People drive an organization, and as IT becomes more inclusive, the brightest candidates are looking for a place to settle into their careers. Will you provide them with an inclusive and equitable workplace where they feel empowered to thrive?
About the Authors
Executive Director of Marketplace Diversity Solutions
Executive Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity