President and CEO of tech association CompTIA delivered the opening keynote speech at this year’s ChannelCon, the IT industry’s premier education, networking, and partnering event that is going on this week in Austin.
In his speech, he challenged the information technology (IT) industry on workforce diversity, saying that the industry could grow by $400 billion each year if the ethnic and gender makeup of its workforce reflected the nation’s talent pool.
“If women and people of color were represented in the tech sector as they are in the labor force, we’d have one million more women and 500,000 Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans in our workforce,” Todd Thibodeaux stated.
Thibodeaux believes that workforce diversity and inclusion should be tackled by IT leaders as a market issue. Pointing out that a one percentage point move, financially-wise, toward representative diversity leads to a three-point increase in revenue, Thibodeaux said, “Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and gender diversity are more likely to surpass industry norms for revenue and operating margin. Companies in the bottom quartile for diversity aren’t just lagging behind, they are rapidly losing ground.”
Diversity challenges are not just limited to tech, but affect many industries; however, a spotlight has been placed on diversity in the tech industry due to leading Silicon Valley companies publicly releasing diversity stats since 2014.
“While Silicon Valley is a hugely important engine of growth and innovation, it’s not representative of the entire tech industry,” Thibodeaux remarked in his ChannelCon 2017 speech.
“It doesn’t take into account tens of thousands companies operating in the channel; and millions of people working in tech jobs in non-tech companies,” he continued. “These companies and individuals represent the complete breadth of the opportunities we have to offer. But the overemphasis on Silicon Valley leads people to think if they can’t work for one of the big brand name firms, why bother?”
A Call to Close the Confidence Gap
The key to improving workforce diversity in the information technology (IT) industry is not necessarily in closing the skills gap, but in closing the confidence gap. In his speech, Thibodeaux said that lack of confidence and lack of career information is what keeps perfectly capable people of color and women from joining the tech workforce.
“People learn about jobs primarily from other people, and if you’re not exposed to them you’re flying blind,” Thibodeaux stated. He gave a five-point plan for companies to implement that would immediately help diversify the makeup of their workforce. Check out the plan below:
- Focus on and correct unconscious biases in recruiting and hiring processes.
- Prioritize diversity and inclusion as a priority by setting measurable goals and investing resources in the effort.
- Expand the prospect pipeline by recruiting non-traditional candidates, partnering with diversity groups and making diversity a part of the company brand.
- Examine workplace culture to make it inclusive, to take steps if it isn’t and to ask for help if it’s needed.
- Become a mentor and connect with a wider audience.
Finally, Thibodeaux also challenged ChannelCon attendees to invite three people of a different gender or ethnic background to their LinkedIn network by the end of the conference.
“Diversity isn’t just about the color of your skin or your gender,” Thibodeaux said. “True diversity comes from engaging people from different socioeconomic backgrounds; from different parts of the world or country; and from different work and life experiences. It’s gathering and utilizing a wide variety of opinions and ideas.”
This is a challenge that we all, not just the tech industry, would do well to accept and act on.