The tech industry might just have a discrimination problem. A New Yorker article published last year unveiled workplaces dominated by men. An expose in The Verge shows tech has a serious lack of diversity. And a new survey by Blind, an anonymous community app for the workplace, supports these conclusions, with 35 percent of tech industry employees saying they’ve seen or experienced discrimination at work, up four percent from earlier this year.
Blind asked more than 4,800 users a simple question: have you witnessed or experienced discrimination at your current workplace? And 35.8 percent said “yes,” the survey reports.
(FYI: discrimination is treating someone unfavorably due to age, ethnicity, gender, religion, pregnancy, and myriad other personal characteristics, and we’re protected from it by law.)
But that 35.8 percent is an average, with some tech giants topping that number: at eBay, for example, about 43 percent of respondents said they’ve seen or experienced discrimination at their office. Cisco, Intel, Veritas, Microsoft also have higher-than-average percentages.
But just because about one-third of tech workers surveyed have seen or experienced some kind of work discrimination, does that mean the tech industry is any worse than others?
“The tech industry is dominated by cisgender—meaning their gender is aligned with the sex they were assigned at birth—white male persons,” according to Max Masure, workplace inclusion strategist and co-founder of Argo Collective. But why? “When we don’t make an intentional effort to be inclusive and bring diversity, we tend to hire and interact with humans similar to ourselves,” Masure explains. So, “when a startup grows, the first hires are usually similar identities than the founders, meaning cisgender white men,” he says.
Bob Kantor, founder of Kantor Consulting Group with experience helping IT teams, believes that discrimination is “rife” in the tech industry—but no more so than any other industry.
“I do think that our tech industry is rife with discrimination, as are most industries today,” Kantor explains. But, “unfortunately, I think this is a reflection of how divisive our social situation has become over the past few years—and especially over the past year.”
Whether or not the tech industry is worse than any other when it comes to discrimination, what’s important is knowing what to do if you see or experience discrimination in your own office. Some signs that you have been discriminated against include being passed up for a promotion when you are deserving; being written up without a defined, clear reason; being left out of meetings after announcing a pregnancy; and many more, Masure says.
Kantor adds that, “the top two types of discrimination I see in tech relate to age and gender. Older people are often passed over for job openings and assignments. Women are passed over for management and leadership roles more than men with similar qualifications.”
If you feel you have been discriminated against—or see some else experience it—Bonnie Crater, cofounder and CEO of Full Circle Insights recommends taking the following steps:
1. Ask for help. Before you go to HR, Crater suggests finding “a senior manager who can be your mentor in this journey. Describe the problem [to him or her] and ask for help.”
2. Report the problem to HR. Whether you’ve seen it or experienced it, you must report the incident to your workplace’s human resources department. “If the HR department is functioning properly, they should be able to take action,” Crater says. “However, many of these problems are systemic to a company culture and require full attention by the CEO.”
3. Follow up. Make sure the HR department or a senior manager has brought the “issue to the executive team for discussion and action,” Crater says. And make sure you’re satisfied with the outcome. If you’re not, it may be time to get an outside agency involved. “Get help from communities and organizations to get the name of some lawyers who are typically willing to help in this type of cases—some lawyers are even doing it pro-bono, “ encourages Masure. Then, “in the meantime, document every discriminatory word when it happens—place, time, persons involved, witnesses, etc.—so later on you can recall the event clearly.”