Why Women, Blacks, and Hispanics Are Leaving The Tech Industry

The study’s author Dr. Allison Scott (Photo: Kapor Center)

Toxic workplaces — where harassment, stereotyping and bullying occur — are driving away women and people of color, undercutting technology companies’ efforts to increase diversity and costing an estimated $16 billion a year.

That’s the conclusion of a first-of-its-kind study from the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll that explored the reasons people leave tech companies.

“The study is an important first step in understanding how turnover and workplace culture contribute to the lack of diversity we are seeing in the tech industry,” Dr. Allison Scott, the study’s author and chief research officer at the Kapor Center, told USA TODAY in an interview.

All major tech companies track retention data, but they do not make it public. There’s been an outpouring of first-hand accounts of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, bullying and racial bias on blogs, social media and in lawsuits. These strongly suggest high rates of turnover among the very groups companies are struggling to keep as they try to change the demographics of their mostly white and Asian male staffs.

Stereotyping, missed promotions

According to the “Tech Leavers” study, nearly eight in 10 employees who left tech jobs reported experiencing some form of unfair behavior or treatment, while 85% observed it. And 37% said they left their jobs because of it.

In fact, unfair behavior and treatment was the No. 1 reason given for leaving, and was twice as likely to be cited than being recruited for a better opportunity.

Other findings:

-Women experienced and observed far more unfairness than men.

-Nearly one-quarter of underrepresented men and women of color experienced stereotyping, twice the rate of white and Asian men and women.

-Nearly one-third of underrepresented women of color were passed over for promotion, more than any other group.

-LGBT employees were the most likely to be bullied (20%) and experience public humiliation (24%) and 64% said it contributed to their decision to leave.

-Men from underrepresented groups, such as African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans, were most likely to leave due to unfairness (40%).

-Underrepresented women of color were significantly more likely to cite unfairness as a reason for leaving than white and Asian women (36% versus 28%).

-Nearly a quarter of underrepresented men and women experienced stereotyping in their previous job and at almost twice the rate of white and Asian men and women.

-Employees in tech companies were significantly more likely to leave due to unfairness than technical employees in other industries (42% versus 32%).

Ellen Pao, who brought an unsuccessful gender discrimination lawsuit against one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful venture capital firms, triggering a national debate on the treatment of women, says everyone knew this sense of unfairness was prevalent in tech — particularly with regard to women and underrepresented people of color.

“Now we have the data to understand the scale of these issues,” said Pao, now chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact and a venture partner at Kapor Capital.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Jessica Guynn