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At a roundtable on the Black future of tech, diversity advantages for companies are deep

A more inclusive workplace leads to more innovation and better financial outcomes, panel says.
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· 4 min read

The future of the tech industry is already here for Black professionals—but workers will need help from mentors in the space to keep the momentum going.

The tech industry is dominated by white and Asian professionals—according to a February report from McKinsey, Black workers make up just 8% of tech workers and only 3% of executives. And while the sector’s job growth is projected at 14% by 2032, Black talent in the industry is only expected to increase by 8%.

That has made Black leaders in the space invaluable to their peers. And it’s part of the raison d’être for Per Scholas, a tech education nationwide nonprofit organization that aims to help people get access to careers in IT.

On February 27, Per Scholas hosted a roundtable discussion of Black tech leaders to talk about the industry. During the conversation, hosted by Per Scholas Senior Director Omoanatse McCarther, Barclays Director of Cyber, Technology, Data, and Change Risk Oche Idoko, Per Scholas Chief Enterprise Solutions Officer Damien Howard, and EY Senior Leader Athenia Figgs all gave their thoughts on the state of diversity in the industry today and how to navigate it.

Figgs, whose work for EY involves tech consulting, said that the companies she talks to tend to solve problems more easily when their team is dynamic. Greater efficiency leads to better outcomes.

“Because the team is diverse, that shows through as a more stable, more market[-oriented] perspective in the solution,” Figgs said. “There have been examples where because we have a diverse team, people come up with interesting solutions.”

It makes good business sense, and there’s data to prove it. A report from Boston Consulting Group in 2018 found that above-average diversity on teams leads to innovation revenue that is 19% higher than those with below-average diversity.

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“A more diversity-inclusive company has a better bottom line,” Idoko said. “What’s better for business is better for everybody.”

Howard agreed. In his view, more diverse worldviews and experiences lead to “more dynamic solutions.” That in turn means competitive advantage by being able to “better connect to different customer groups, therefore increasing market share.”

“It’s a key factor in achieving a competitive advantage by bringing new perspectives and fresh ideas to the table,” Howard said. “It also provides access to increase market knowledge, and also improve team dynamics, talent acquisition and retention, and better brand reputation.”

Corrected culture. There’s another side to the diversity advantage—the disadvantage of not having an inclusive workplace. A 2020 McKinsey report found that 39% of all prospective workers turned down or did not pursue positions in workplaces they deemed to be insufficiently inclusive. It’s a large number that speaks to the potential brain drain.

“When your culture is not correct, you simply miss out on talent and a potential negative impact on bottom lines is endless,” Howard said.

Howard told the roundtable audience that in his view, the C-Suite needs to challenge itself to look beyond traditional tech backgrounds to staff up. College degrees and degree requirements can represent unnecessary barriers to workers whose natural skill sets may well be what the company needs.

“Opening up the aperture to increase diversity of background and diversity of experience will definitely help organizations attract and retain more Black talent—and more diverse talent for that matter,” Howard said. “It’s a business imperative that drives profitability, increases performance, and grows retention.”—EH

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Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 3x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.