Want to Fix Diversity at Your Company?

CODE2040’s New Research Report On Intersectionality, Being Black and Latino/a in Tech, and the Barriers to Improving Diversity and Inclusion at Companies

If you’re interested in learning what CODE2040 can do to help you improve diversity and inclusion at your company, drop us a line.

To our community:

The most frequently asked question from our partner companies and those thinking of working with CODE2040 is this: “What are the top five things I can do to fix diversity in my company?”

We have been very resistant to writing a top five list of “things you can do to fix diversity at your company.” Quite frankly, a quick fix list feels irresponsible. It leads us down a dangerous path.

Saying you want to “fix” diversity is like saying you want to “fix” product. These are not simple, discrete tasks. If we could write a quick blog post that solved all the problems of diversity in tech, then we’d probably be millionaires. If only! Diversity and inclusion requires time, attention, expertise, and prioritization in order for it to be a part of the fabric of any company culture. Much like product, if you take your eye off of it, quality drops almost immediately — sometimes irreparably.

Yet we would like to be responsive to our community, which is so hungry for tactics to improve diversity and inclusion. We need to be.

In the summer of 2015 CODE2040 underwent a qualitative research project. Drawing from the experiences of Black and Latino/a technologists navigating tech spaces early in their careers, our goal was to come up with industry-wide takeaways for improving methods to attract and retain minority talent. Our new Director of Partner Programs, Nathalie Miller, interviewed 75 of our 83 past and present students. She came back with some incredibly fascinating patterns:

  1. Black and Latino/a technologists most seriously consider leaving tech when facing a lack of awareness and social networks.
  2. Not all Black and Latino/a engineers experience tech spaces the same way. Much depends on the intersections of identity. Women of color and African-American men, for example, are most likely to feel isolated or negatively impacted by race in tech spaces and are most likely to consider dropping out.
  3. Obstacles in tech vary between genders (but vary less across race or nationality). While male fellows understand their challenges as hard material and feeling behind in tech chops, female fellows see their challenges as social — like feeling out of place, unwelcome, or ostracized in tech spaces.
  4. Black and Latino/a engineers face especially high expectations. They feel high expectations from themselves and from others, but also place high expectations on other Black and Latino/a engineers in tech.

In the report we make some high level suggestions for areas of focus to improve diversity and inclusion at your companies. But the tricky part is figuring out how to take these suggestions and operationalize them. What does the practical application of diversity initiatives look like for a CEO of a 15-person startup? What does it look like for the VP of HR of a 30,000 employee company? For an engineering manager? For a recruiter? Context matters.

As an industry exploring ways to implement diversity initiatives, tech is just scratching the surface. At CODE2040, we have unique insight. Our students have had experiences at over 70 different companies at varying stages of development — so we’ve seen that what works in one company doesn’t necessarily work everywhere. Any suggestions we have for implementation is only useful when contextualized. Fortunately, at CODE2040 we have an active community of partners that are vested in finding tactics to improve diversity — and sharing with us their context for doing so.

To you, dear reader, our hope is that by reading this report you are able to understand more deeply the complexity and opportunity at hand. Please see this as an invitation. Join us in an important conversation about the nuanced challenges that people of color face in tech. And join us in creating the right solutions for the right contexts.

Download our report here.

Thank you, CODE2040 alumni. This could not have been done without your candor, decency, and thoughtfulness.

Sincerely,

Karla, Nathalie and the CODE2040 team

nathalie@code2040.org