How tech layoffs could be affecting diversity—and what to do about it

After going on a hiring spree during the pandemic, tech companies are now laying off employees, sometimes involving thousands of workers. While layoffs may be necessary to help boost profit margins, diversity advocates in the tech sector are concerned that job cuts may affect underrepresented groups.

According to pruning.fyiOnline tracker tracking job losses in the technology sector, 152,542 employees from 993 global tech companies were laid off in 2022.

While the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge financial impact on industries such as restaurants and hospitality, organizations operating in the technology sector experienced a period of hypergrowth, rapidly expanding to meet the perceived needs of customers who were increasingly dependent on technology. were completely dependent on.

However, every boom is usually followed by a bust and during the fourth quarter of 2022, big tech companies faced a decline in revenue [let’s be specific] and the looming recession. As a result, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk cut the social media platform’s workforce in half, while Meta announced 11,000 job cuts and reports claimed Amazon would lay off 20,000 workers, but some of those lay off The tech industry has seen this year.

Job loss to those affected always seems unfair, but in an industry that continues to largely male dominanceEmployees from underrepresented backgrounds may bear the brunt of any layoffs because the roles they hold are often considered the most costly.

At tech companies, many non-technical departments, such as business development, customer success, communications and marketing, are more likely to employ women and ethnic minorities. As a result, when it comes to downsizing, individuals in these roles are more likely to face layoffs because they are considered less essential to the business than those who develop or maintain a product. Huh.

But recent events suggest that underrepresented employees are being disproportionately affected, even on technical teams where women and ethnic minorities hold fewer positions. For example, two women who lost their jobs on Twitter file a lawsuit In which they claim that the company disproportionately targeted female employees for the reductions.

The lawsuit, which accuses the company of violating federal and California laws banning sex discrimination in the workplace, said Twitter laid off 57% of female employees, compared to 47% of males. In relation to engineering roles, the lawsuit claimed that 63% of women lost their jobs compared to 48% of men.

Challenges facing minority employees

While the technology industry is no stranger to the concept of a boom-and-bust cycle, the challenges that come with working in a field where job stability is not always guaranteed, while often remunerative, is not something one can take for granted. Not everyone can take a chance. [I tweaked this because I thought this is what you meant.]

The impact of losing your job is always going to be tough, but for women who potentially have to consider things like maternity leave, or factor in their caregiving responsibilities when looking for a job, the prospect of industry instability may be attractive. Not likely, said Hywel Carver, CEO and co-founder of Skiller Whale, a deep learning platform for developers.

While employees on technical teams are unlikely to struggle to find an open position if they find themselves laid off –Research by Skillsoft From November 2021 found that nearly three quarters of IT decision makers worldwide claim to face a significant skills gap in the technology department—for minority workers, finding a job at a company with a good working environment is more challenging.

Research presented at MIT Sloan A management review earlier this year found toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. According to research, key elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity and inclusion; workers feeling humiliated; and unethical behavior.

For underrepresented employees, Mary Williams, CTO of business-payments company Pleo and consultant at tech-skills education firm Skiller Whale, said that if you’re leaving and joining a new position, include finding a new job. The risk may feel too high. As you can get out of the frying pan into the fire.

Williams said, “I know a lot of women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people who are more careful about where they choose to get involved because they are concerned that the environment is going to be inclusive and positive for them. Yes or No.”

While businesses have been increasing investments and making progress on DE&I (diversity, equity and inclusion) programs in recent years, Ingrid B. Laman, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice, said many employees fear economic pressures. and layoffs, combined with increasing pressure on DEI’s efforts, will derail these efforts as budgets are cut and critical staff members are furloughed.

“Gartner research recently revealed that underrepresented groups such as racially and ethnically diverse employees have lower career satisfaction rates and higher voluntary turnover rates than majority groups, which makes it difficult for many organizations to have a highly diverse and inclusive workforce. prevent you from taking advantage of the performance impact of the environment.” Said.

Additionally, as companies look to reduce their workforce, many business leaders are reverting to pre-pandemic ways of working in a misguided attempt to increase productivity. Despite a lack of evidence that working individually makes a team more productive, companies such as Twitter and Apple have instituted policies that require employees to be physically present in the office for the majority of the work week. is needed.

In December 2021, Deloitte reported that, during the pandemic, the inherently flexible nature of the tech industry and its ability to work remotely kept female job losses to a minimum, while research city ​​and union found that 53% of working-age women looking for a new job in the UK prioritized flexibility, compared to only 38% of men. Despite this, at both Twitter and Tesla, owner Elon Musk has publicly announced that he will fire employees who do not return to the office.

Williams argued that letting everyone back into the office is also likely to hurt employees, especially those from underrepresented groups.

“I think the way some of the layoffs have been executed and designed around it, especially with people going back into the office, has had a really negative impact for DE&I,” Williams he said. “If you think of someone who has caring responsibilities, he or she is forced to commute back to an office that is usually in a very busy city and involves a significant amount of commuting time happens, I don’t think it’s positive.”

“I think it’s a terrible strategy if you care about having a diverse mix of people on your team,” he said.

How can companies do better?

Although layoffs dominated the conversation during the latter half of the year, evidence suggests that the great resignation is not over yet, Online job site Hire found that attracting, hiring and retaining top talent has proven difficult, citing employee burnout as a key challenge, blaming rapid changes in the employment environment and large-scale unemployment. Layoffs and hiring have been put on freeze.

While companies have yet to announce job cuts, Laman said that before making any decisions, organizations need to make sure they include DE&I in decisions around layoffs.

“For example, the company needs to ensure that they are maintaining a core of DE&I champions within their team, that the discussion of layoffs is free of unconscious bias, and that representation in the business is unintentionally affected by these layoffs. Not impressed,” she said.

However, Williams argued that there is a lot of evidence to suggest that we pattern match when we try to find potential, which means that one of the really big risks from all these layoffs is that is that if you have only one type of person in leadership represented at the decision-making level about who stays and who goes, they’re not going to understand or realize the potential of some people who are very different from them look or be very different.

Carver agrees, noting that being a good manager and being a good technologist are not the same thing, meaning that people are often promoted despite lacking some essential management skills.

“If companies are trying to evaluate who is in the bottom 10% when it comes to performance and therefore should be laid off, I doubt every company is going to get that right,” he said. Said. “I suspect that when they get it wrong, the people who are going to be hurt most by their wrong decisions are the people against whom they are unconsciously biased, which are often people from underrepresented groups.”

While job losses may be an inevitability in the business world, job cuts at some tech companies have been particularly deep this year. However, Tony Lysak, founder and CEO of The Software Institute, doesn’t believe the turn of events will completely destroy the diversity efforts the organization has been putting in place over the years.

“I think the corporate demand for diversity is so strong, that the industry is actually in pretty good shape,” he said, noting that companies not only have a corporate social responsibility, but also have internal Initiatives happen often. More women, ethnic minorities and disadvantaged people are making their way into the talent pipeline.

“In the UK, for example, government bodies and major organizations are looking at cities in the north, such as Telford, Manchester and Newcastle, to create centers of excellence and target local disadvantaged workers in those places,” he said.

As most countries move deeper into this period of economic struggle, Laman said companies should have an open dialogue and DE&I strategies, clarifying the business, talent, and reputational risks of underinvesting in DE&I. must reaffirm its executive commitment to and ensure that these initiatives are considered non- Negotiable

“To fully incorporate DEI into business, organizations must enable executives to develop their own DEI goals, hold them accountable, and enable them to embed DEI into their business practices, ” He said.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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