In Texas, veteran tech workers not seeing much progress on diversity, survey finds

Posted November 30th, 2017

Long-time tech workers in Texas say they aren’t seeing much progress from their companies’ efforts to create a more diverse workforce, a new survey from hiring site finds.

Diversity among the technology workforce has been an issue for years, with various reports and data showing a lack of inclusiveness in the technology industry. recently examined the topic by surveying longer-serving tech workers in Texas’ major cities. The workers surveyed had an average of 17 years of experience in the tech industry, and most of them said they don’t understand their companies’ diversity initiatives and have not seen improvements from those initiatives.

"Tech has a diversity problem, and it doesn't matter whether you're in Seattle, or Silicon Valley, or New York, or Austin," said Barbary Brunner, CEO at the Austin Technology Council, a technology advocacy group in Austin. "Even the biggest tech companies in the world have poured (resources) into increasing their diversity numbers, and they haven't really improved, so we have a systemic problem in tech.”

Indeed surveyed 104 experienced technology specialists in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.

Of those surveyed, 55 percent said they didn’t know what their company was doing to build a diverse workforce. Meanwhile, 51 percent also said diversity among employees either has stayed the same or not improved during their time at the company.

In Austin, where Indeed said about 13 percent of those surveyed live, respondents showed more optimism in their companies’ diversity efforts compared to the overall sample size, with 43 percent of Austin respondents saying diversity among employees either has stayed the same or not improved while they have worked there.

There were also 19 percent fewer respondents in Austin compared to the overall sample who said they don’t know what their company was doing to build a diverse workforce.

Austin tech workers surveyed could be more optimistic because "there is a higher concentration of tech companies in Austin," said Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources at Indeed. “There is a spotlight in the tech space and ... it may be that these tech companies are communicating their efforts more."

A New York Times report last year found that in some of tech’s biggest firms -- Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter --- an average of 56 percent of employees are white, 37 percent are Asian, 3 percent are Hispanic and 1 percent are black. The report also found that American Community Survey data shows that among young computer science and engineering graduates, 57 percent are white, 26 percent are Asian, 8 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent are black.

Information from local companies shows that diversity is also an issue among Austin tech firms. In April of this year, the American-Statesman reported that Dell Technology’s workforce, for example, has been 68 percent male since 2013, and that three of every four senior managers are men.

The data showed similar numbers for other tech companies that have a significant Austin presence such as Intel, AMD, Oracle and Apple. 

“We know that in companies where people see people who look like them being successful and moving up the food chain, they are more inclined to be hopeful of their opportunities," Brunner said. "Doing things to retain those employees and grow them up the latter is important. That involves making sure that from a bias standpoint, you find ways to overcome the unconscious bias that mostly white men have about developing and promoting women and minority workers.

“It's not just a tech industry problem, it's an American culture problem. You would think tech would find a way to fix this because we are known for innovation, but we haven’t found a way to do this yet."