Diversity Critical to Future of IT Success

Todd Thibodeaux at CompTIA ChannelCon 2017

COMPTIA CHANNELCON — Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, the IT industry association, laid out a seemingly simple challenge for suppliers and channel partners in the ChannelCon 2017 State of the Industry and Business Keynote Tuesday: Hire a more diverse workforce.

But getting there can be a challenge. It takes a change in attitude, since inclusivity, Thibodeaux noted, is often closely related to affirmative action, which can be a divisive issue.

“The idea that we can get past that and embrace a new way of thinking … you’re not lowering the bar by being more inclusive,” he told the hundreds of people in the crowd. “The more you bring more people into your world, the more accepted it becomes.”

CompTIA statistics show that Hispanics and African Americans are underrepresented in tech by a two-to-one margin. It would take another 1 million women in technology to match their representation in other industries.  If the ethnic and gender makeup of the IT workforce matched that of other trades, an additional $400 billion in revenue could be generated. Furthermore, venture capital firms are more often investing in businesses with a diverse set of employees.

One of the biggest problems is the so-called “confidence gap.” Many people turn to careers that are familiar to them — jobs they know through friends, family and people in their tight-knit communities. Technology companies haven’t done a good enough job talking about the vast career opportunities available in enough circles, Thibodeaux said.

Studies show the benefits of diversity to be many: faster innovation; better use of talent; greater market share and financial return; and more productive teamwork, to name a few.

So how does a company go down the road to become more diverse? CompTIA suggests a five-step plan:

  1. Correct unconscious (and conscious) biases in recruiting and hiring. Employers often place prospective employees in certain buckets, applying typical sterotypes (“girls aren’t good at science”) to their hiring practices.
  2. Prioritize diversity. It takes a team effort and application of resources to get this done. It won’t happen by being reactive and waiting until someone gives their two weeks’ notice. A practice of diverse hiring must be a proactive one. “You have to go out and seek diversity. These people are not just going to come to you. You aren’t going to be able to just post a job and expect this diverse workforce to come to you,” said Thibodeaux.
  3. Partner with diversity groups. Find groups in your community that already have a mission of expanding the workplace talent pool with diverse individuals.
  4. Make the workplace more inclusive. A company culture, from the top down, must be accepting of people of all backgrounds and give them the opportunity to thrive. Statistics show that women and minorities in IT are much more likely to quit than their white male counterparts because they don’t enjoy the company culture. Only 2 percent of white men with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees are unemployed compared to 12 percent of women of color with those same degrees. “There has to be extra work done to retain employees; we have to make sure people can feel welcome and part of the team without sacrificing their individuality,” Thibodeaux said.
  5. Become a mentor to connect with a wider audience. 

CompTIA has an Advancing Diversity in Technology Community and is looking to create a Workforce Think Tank, which will explore the role automation plays in IT in the years to come. It’s expected women and minorities in IT will be disproportionately impacted by job cuts when new technologies mature.

The Association also plans to offer Diversity Recognition Awards in the near future.

ChannelCon 2017 runs through Wednesday at the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas.

One comment

  1. Avatar Ida Byrd-Hill August 2, 2017 @ 4:58 am

    Kudos to Todd for identifying the business case for diversity as well as the confidence issue. My nonprofit hosts an event, Automation Workz, to address the issue at the North American International Auto Show. We would love to be on the CompTia speaking circuit.

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