[Read time: 7 minutes]
17 data-backed stats measuring the state of Black women and non-binary technologists at work, plus recommendations to increase diversity in the workplace.
All data comes from the AnitaB.org 2021 Technical Equity Experience Survey and the 2022 Top Companies for Women Technologists Report
Regressive Hiring Practices Continue to Hinder Advancement of Black Women and Black Non-Binary Technologists
Despite making up almost 7% of the US population, Black women make up only 2.2% of the total U.S. technical workforce. A PEW Research study found the tech industry to be one of the least diverse areas of STEM fields. There are several best practices to help organizations reduce bias in hiring and increase diversity of the tech talent pool, including recruiting from HBCUs and prohibiting whiteboard interviews. In a whiteboard interview, a job candidate must solve a problem on a whiteboard while others watch. Whiteboard interviews do not predict actual job performance; they predict confidence and skill with whiteboard interviews. It is unsurprising then, that candidates most likely to succeed at whiteboard interviews are White men from traditional academic backgrounds.
- Companies with a formal process to hold senior leaders accountable to DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) goals have 2X more Black tech new hires.
- Companies that prohibit whiteboard interviews have 2X more Black women tech new hires.
- Companies that set hiring targets for women of color have 2X more Black women technologists.
- Companies that offer a formal mentorship program have 2.2X more Black women tech new hires.
In addition to best practices for organizations, the AnitaB.org Top Companies report highlights different ways organizations are innovating for a more diverse workforce. Honeycomb.io, a Top Companies winner, has implemented a “Head Start” practice – two weeks dedicated to intentional DEI sourcing for potential candidates within marginalized communities prior to posting roles to the general public.
However, hiring is just one part of the equation. Recent tech layoffs have deepened this divide and erased progress made by companies in recent years to increase their hiring of Black technologists. Additionally, Black tech women are exiting their companies at the highest rates. Improvements in intersectional gender diversity (addressing gender and all potential intersectional elements impacting their experience – race, sexuality, disabilities, neurodiversity, social class, etc.) due to hiring will be minimal until companies reduce attrition, especially among Black women and Black non-binary technologists.
Inequitable Pay Remains a Key Indicator of Intersectional Bias
In 2022, White women achieved equal pay day (earning the equivalent of male counterparts) on March 15, while Black women earned the same half a year later, on September 21. This can change if companies invest in their Black technologists and revise oppressive policies that perpetuate intersectional gender and racial pay inequities. Unsurprisingly, equitable pay increases the hiring rate of top Black talent and improves retention numbers.
- Across all career levels, women and non-binary technologists who are Black continue to be paid less than their peers.
- Companies that institute an intersectional pay equity policy have 3X more Black technical women at the senior level, and almost 6X more executive level Black tech women.
Pay and gender intersectionality equity is at the heart of the AnitaB.org mission, and there is a huge amount of work to do. Overall, women earn $.83 for every $1.00 eared by men, but this is an aggregate figure, and the gap is even wider for Black women and Black non-binary technologists.
Key ways for organizations to improve structural pay equity via 2022 Top Companies report:
- Formalize an intersectional pay equity policy
- Conduct an annual intersectional pay equity audit
- Include salary or salary ranges on all job descriptions
- Increase salary transparency for current employees
In this 2022 Elevating Conversation, AnitaB.org President & CEO Brenda Darden Wilkerson joined Dr. Anita Hill, attorney and educator, Christine Webber, Co-Chair of Civil Rights & Employment Practice, and Monique L. Thompson, Head of Amazon Alexa Prime Marketing, for a candid discussion about how to advance economic security through pay equity for women and non-binary technologists. The conversation shares resources and actions for individuals to help mitigate pay discrimination.
Most Black Women in Tech Do Not Experience a Sense of Belonging
A culture of belonging is vital for all technologists. Sadly, Black tech women are the most likely to face discrimination and feel the least safe in their workplace, resulting in the lowest sense of belonging. To create a tech ecosystem that mirrors society, the tech industry must transform cultural norms and build work environments where women and non-binary people across all intersections can thrive.
- Only 46.3% of Black women and Black non-binary technologists report a sense of belonging at their place of work.
- Black women and Black non-binary technologists report the lowest psychological safety scores while their White peers report the highest.
- 81.6% of Black women and Black non-binary technologists experience racial/ethnic discrimination in the field of tech.
- Of all technologists, women and non-binary technologists who are Black are most likely to leave their current place of work with the highest attrition rates of 25% in 2021.
Achieving equity in the technical workforce requires a multifaceted approach. Hiring more women and non-binary technologists of color without addressing the inhospitable workplaces they experience will leave companies stuck, with no path forward. View the TechEES report for more insights into intersectional employee experiences.
Accountability to Equity-Driven Policies Increases Diversity in the Workplace
Without accountability for new policies and initiatives aimed at increasing equity and diversity, these policies are often abandoned when budgets tighten, and programs get cut. The biggest barrier to organizations holding themselves accountable is transparency both internally and externally. Data shows that when workforce demographics are transparent, organizations are more likely to keep DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) as a priority and increase and retain a diverse workforce.
- Companies with a formal process to hold leaders accountable for DEI goals have 2X more Black new hires.
- Companies that release workforce diversity data have 3.9X more Senior Black women.
In the face of increasing performative DEI efforts, the current and future workforce are demanding companies create structures that bring meaningful results. Participation in Top Companies gives us a clear understanding of which companies are dedicated to better understanding key areas of opportunity and growth.
Strong Professional Networks Are Vital for Career Advancement
Beyond belonging in the workplace, Black technologists need a community of peers and colleagues that supports and assists their advancement. Having a strong network in the field of tech is correlated with increased feelings of belonging and psychological safety, decreased feelings of imposter phenomenonp, and decreased perceived stress.
- Only 43.9% of Black women and Black non-binary technologists feel like they have a robust professional network in tech.
- Companies with formal mentorship programs have greater representation of Black women technologists including 8.1X more Black women in executive roles and 5.4x more Black Women in Senior management roles.
AnitaB.org is passionate about empowering communities and offers technologists the opportunity to connect, network, mentor, and be mentored by their peers through the Membership Program, Apprenticeship Pathway Program, and Systers groups such as Black Women in Computing. These communities empower connections across companies and specialties to help women and non-binary tech workers have the support they need throughout their careers, while building and expanding their personal network. Participation in ERGs (employee resource groups), technical conferences (like Grace Hopper Celebration!), and mentorship or sponsorship programs are other great ways to improve your professional networking. AnitaB.org offers scholarship opportunities aiming to provide historically excluded women and non-binary individuals an opportunity to build their networks and gain knowledge and resources.
Promising Indicators for Black Technologists Amidst Industry Shortcomings
We have a long way to go to create an equitable tech field for all workers. Despite the shortcomings of the field, we have seen progress for Black technologists.
- Promotion rates of Black women in technology increased from 12.3% in 2021 to 16.8% in 2022.
- Although, on average, companies promoted fewer technologists in 2022, Black, Latinx, Native American, and Pacific Islander (BLNP) women technologists saw significant increases in promotion rates, with Black women experiencing the largest increase.
- Black women showed the largest increase (16%) in percentage of tech new hires from 2021 to 2022.
While these stats indicate positive change, tech is in a tumultuous state and is disproportionately affecting Black women. In 2022, 1,044 tech companies had layoffs, and 159,786 employees were laid off. So far in 2023, 395 tech companies have had layoffs, and 108,986 employees have been laid off. Without intentional change, this intense rate of layoffs will continue to have unequal ramifications, with Black women and Black non-binary technologists being hit the hardest.
How AnitaB.org is Empowering the Way Forward for Black Women and Non-Binary Technologists
As a collective society, we must demand genuine and lasting change from the organizations and brands that serve us. The issues outlined in this article are solvable, but only if acknowledged and prioritized by leadership. AnitaB.org is committed to orchestrating change through the following avenues:
The data presented in this article come from the AnitaB.org national program Top Companies for Women Technologists and our Technical Equity Experience Survey (TechEES). Top Companies is the only benchmarking program looking specifically at the improvements and shortcomings of the technical workforce and awarding companies making the most progress toward equity. TechEES, a global survey of technologists reporting on the lived experiences of technologists, provides us with vital feedback in our efforts to achieve transformational change for intersectional women in tech.
The AnitaB.org Partnership Program works closely with 40+ organizations to actively improve corporate policy, internal culture, equitable practices, and more in their own companies as well as in the industry. For individuals and students, AnitaB.org programs include apprenticeship, resume database, scholarships, community groups, hackathons, events and more.
Through Policy Work
To drive solutions for a more equitable tech ecosystem, AnitaB.org collaborates with mission-aligned partners, empowers grassroots advocates, and influences policymakers through strategic engagement and activism.
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