Tech companies should do these 3 things to be more inclusive

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Tech companies have a reputation for adaptability that is the envy of other industries. Their receptivity to a fast-changing world appear in their taglines: "Tomorrow starts here," proclaims Cisco. "Inspire the world, create the future," trumpets Samsung. "Think different," says Apple.

But for all their emphasis on "thinking outside the box," many tech companies lack workforces that demonstrate real diversity or inclusion.

According to the most recent Department of Labor report, only 19.8% of software developers are women. The percentages of African-Americans and Hispanics who work in tech are similarly unsatisfactory. Recent data shows LGBTQ+ tech workers still earn thousands of dollars less on average than their straight colleagues.

The level of homogeneity in tech isn't just bad for those excluded; it harms the industry itself. Study after study indicates that companies that embrace greater workplace diversity tend to outperform those that don't.

To shake off their "tech-bro" reputations, technology companies can do several things. Here are three.

1. Don't just assess your diversity stats, but act on them

Last year, when Pinterest ran the internal numbers to learn how diverse its workforce truly was, the data was underwhelming. For instance, only one percent of its workforce was black or African-American, and only two percent of it was Hispanic or Latin American.

Pinterest set about rewriting those numbers by, among other initiatives, diversifying the pool of colleges and universities from which they recruited, as well as instituting an intern program for college students from underrepresented backgrounds.

2. Change your interview style

Without the lens of diversity & inclusion, employees can unconsciously conduct interviews rife with biases, coming to the table with preconceived beliefs or initial impressions and subsequently seeking out information which confirms them. On top of this, job interviews often prioritize technical skills over intrinsic capabilities and a proclivity towards inclusion. The results are homogenous teams.

To diversify their hiring practices, startups like Zymergen have evaluated and restructured their interview flow. In doing so, they've eliminated on-the-spot engineering "whiteboarding" tests, which reward individual contribution. Instead, they invite candidates to discuss engineering projects from previous jobs to assess a recruit's aptitude at collaborating with others.

Currently, Zymergen's technical team is one-third female.

3. Add diversity goals to the way executives are paid

By holding executives accountable to a series of year-on-year diversity and inclusion objectives and key results (OKRs), and by being publicly transparent about those goals, companies can will themselves to pick up the pace when hiring and promoting for greater diversity.

AppNexus has set several diversity and inclusion OKRs for this year, and tied its executive bonus compensation plan to their success. These include filling 50 percent or more of open managerial roles with women or underrepresented groups and achieving application rates of at least 16 percent and 14 percent for African-American and Latino candidates, respectively.

The obstacles may seem high, but the stakes are even higher. If a company wants to make a name in tech, then a healthy policy of diversity and inclusion will keep it in the running over the long term.

Brandon Atkinson serves as AppNexus' Chief People Officer and steward of AppNexus' talent and culture. He drives all initiatives and programs involving the recruitment and development of AppNexians, including human resources, talent acquisition, talent development, benefits and compensation. Nithya Das serves as SVP, General Counsel of AppNexus, overseeing the company's global corporate, commercial, intellectual property and regulatory legal affairs. Brandon and Nithya are co-chairs on AppNexus' Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee.