It's Time for The Tech Sector To Beam Up A Truly Diverse Workforce

In the utopian workforces of the far future, like those imagined in science fiction, there are always two commonalities. The first is an abundance of incredible technologies that make the seemingly impossible - like cross-galaxy space exploration -a way of life. The second is a seamlessly diverse workforce in which differences of gender, age, race and other personal traits (even species) are not noticed, much less used to exclude people from contributing.

While travel beyond our solar system may still be years away, this future of work is much closer.

Already, technology innovators like Google, Apple and Facebook are challenging the way we interact with the world and with each other. In fact, 'changing the world' or some variation thereof seems to be the go-to tagline for most tech start-ups today. One key factor in ushering in this transformation is going to have to be beaming up a truly diverse workforce.

The technology sector has always faced intense scrutiny when it comes to promoting diversity in the workforce, as they are often looked to as luminaries for innovation across the board. However, Silicon Valley (or Desert, or Alley or Prairie) hasn't always been boldly going forward.

When data from 2014 of the top 75 tech firms in Silicon Valley was broken down by the US Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Googles, Apples, and Facebooks of the world were faced with a tough reality - 88 percent of their workforce is either white or Asian American. African Americans made up only 3 percent of their workforce, and Hispanics 6 percent. Women made up just 30 percent of the share of employees.

This in direct contrast with the well-documented value that diversity and inclusion can bring to a business. In 2015, McKinsey published a report, called, Diversity Matters, looking at 366 public companies in the United Kingdom and the Americas. They found that those in the top quartile for diversity and inclusion were 35 percent more likely to outperform the median financial return of their industry peers. In fact, gender diversity alone gives them a 15 percent advantage. As the tech industry looks to hire in the world's most competitive talent marketplace, diversity and inclusion just makes good financial sense.

To its credit, the tech industry has since dedicated itself to bringing about positive change. Incentive programs, large, publicly visible campaigns, and much more have been undertaken by most of the big players. Yet, results have been hard to come by.

How can the sector get better?

First and foremost, diversity and inclusion shouldn't be treated as a 'campaign' or an 'initiative'--it should be a focal point of an organization's overall talent acquisition strategy. Top executives must lead by example, and means they too should reflect a diverse make-up. It's difficult to inspire females to work in tech, and a recent survey of 1,500 women by Pluralsight and Women Who Code found that there is a shortage of female role models in the industry.

Like everything that has to do with hiring, it all comes back to creating and fostering a culture that includes and inspires. Like the workplaces of the fictional future, the tech sector needs to create environments where, regardless of race, gender, orientation or otherwise, everyone feels equal and is treated as such, especially when it comes to advancement opportunities and compensation.
In fact, maybe it's time that the tech sector looked to other industries to see what the future holds, instead of the reverse. Innovation can come from anywhere, and we see so many great strides being made around the world. These 50 Best Workplaces for Diversity, according to Fortune, may be a good place for them to start looking for positive examples.

Whether they're striving to help us reach utopia, or more realistically, looking to do the right thing for their shareholders, tech players must continue to embrace diversity and inclusion. Because if we're ever going to reach that final frontier, we better start reaching out to, and working with, more of the people who are right here with us on this planet.