Tech Firms Striving for Diversity Fixate on the Wrong Metric

  • 2017-04-05
  • Wired

Diversity reporting is the tech community’s most visible response to the underrepresentation of women and people of color. As the management cliché goes, “what gets measured gets done.” So acknowledging the problem is an important first step. After Google released its first diversity report in 2014, companies like Amazon, Pinterest, Facebook, and even my own company Atlassian followed. Since then, initiatives like Open Diversity Data, which tracks the diversity reporting of major tech companies, have called for others to do the same. In fact, new data shows that 30 percent of tech workers want their company to report diversity statistics if they don’t already. But while external reporting was a great first step, we need to be more sophisticated about what we’re measuring and how.

Industry statistics paint a woefully homogenous picture: About 2 percent of the tech workforce is black, 3 percent is Latino or Latina, and 24 percent identifies as female. Little has changed since Google’s landmark report three years ago.

Accurate measurement is critical to creating positive change. This is both personal and professional to me, as a Latina social scientist, and it’s quite literally my job to champion diversity in the global tech industry.

The status quo involves measuring diversity company-wide (e.g., reporting that 2 percent of all employees are women of color), which is simply the wrong unit of analysis. That’s because company-level measurement doesn’t actually measure diversity—it measures representation.