May 15, 2017

Ethnic and sexual discrimination and bullying found big in tech industry

An April, 2017, study by Oakland non-profit Kapor Center for Social Impact, conducted a national survey of over 2,000 adults who left a job in a technology-related industry or function within the last three years. Nearly 40 percent of those who left cited unfairness and mistreatment as their primary reasons for leaving. With an average cost of replacing a professional tech employee at $144,000 due to lost productivity, recruiting, salary, etc., a large tech company with 10,000 engineers would lose approximately $27 million per year by allowing a culture of discrimination to persist.

“An earlier detailed study reported that America’s corporate losses from bias and discrimination added up to $64 billion. This new study’s conclusion of $16 billion in losses for tech does correlate with that,” remarked Bill Proudman, co-founder of Portland, Oregon-based diversity and inclusion consultancy firm White Men As Full Diversity Partners

While bias and unfair treatment in tech is becoming more and more high-profile—thanks in large part to breaking news stories regarding toxic work environments at Uber and other tech companies—what has not been as well-documented is the treatment of tech’s LGBT employees, who have experienced the most bullying in comparison to their peers, the study reports. Twenty percent of LGBT employees had been subjected to bullying in the workplace, often citing mistreatment as the number one contributing factor in their decision to part ways. Public humiliation or embarrassment was more prominent among LGBT employees as compared to other groups.

While employees of diverse backgrounds left employment due to unfairness, their experiences differed according to race, gender and sexual orientation. Nearly one-quarter of men and women of color experienced stereotyping. Almost one-third of women of color were passed over for promotion—more than in any other group. One in ten women in tech reported experiencing inappropriate sexual attention.

The situation has spilled over into the governmental arena. There is concern on both sides of the aisle that the current administration will repeal an earlier executive order designed to protect LGBT federal workers from discrimination.(4)

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