Tech Industry Layoffs May Undo Workforce Diversity Gains

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Some departments of technology companies outside of engineering, such as business development, customer success, communications, and marketing, also tend to be more stacked with historically underrepresented women and ethnic minorities. Brown says these types of roles have gained greater respect and prominence in recent years. But Mimi Fox Melton, program director for Code 2040, a nonprofit organization that helps black and Latino technologists advance in the industry, says people in these positions are even more likely to face layoffs because they are considered less essential to the business than those. who develop or maintain the product.

“Most of the time, you see BIPOC candidates hired in the human resources and recruitment space,” Fox Melton says. “But in a hiring freeze, you don’t need so many people recruiting candidates, so those people will face layoffs.”

Kaplan also told WIRED that managers often do not take into account how the processes used to identify workers or the roles to be eliminated may be skewed against certain demographics. “Even systems designed to be neutral end up harming women and people of color,” she says. Research has shown that in performance reviews, women and especially people of color often have a lower score for similar performance than their colleagues, making them appear to contribute less than they actually do. . Choosing to lay off new employees and protect those who have shown loyalty by staying in the company for several years may seem reasonable in theory, but in practice Kaplan says this method would put hired people as part of the more recent impulses for diversity at the top. .

“In its early stages of growth, most companies hire by reference,” says Fox Melton. “We know that 75 percent of white people have all-white networks, which means companies are more likely to hire more and more white people from the beginning.”

Efforts by technology companies to return workers to their luxury offices may also end up reducing workforce diversity. The remote labor revolution sparked by the pandemic helped companies looking to incorporate employees from underrepresented backgrounds, says Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Meta’s most recent diversity report recognized remote work as a key factor in attracting a more diverse talent group.

“When companies hire more diverse people from places like Atlanta, Texas or the South, they can retain them because they allow them to work close to their social media, their homes and their communities,” says Chakravorti. “And that helps color employees because they feel they don’t have to move to a city like Boston, which is pretty alienating for a lot of color employees, because it’s not the friendliest environment.”

With many technology companies, including Google, now pushing workers to return to the office, Chakravorti says some women and BIPOC employees choose to leave on their own. Women still do most of the household management and child care, and while distance work does not guarantee equality, a survey conducted last year by FlexJobs found that 68 percent of women women would prefer to continue working remotely, and many cited the reconciliation of work and family life. Returning to the office threatens to lose that balance. “It’s making it harder for women,” Chakravorti says.

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