Minorities, Women Underrepresented In IT - InformationWeek
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6/1/2009
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Minorities, Women Underrepresented In IT

Lack of diversity hurts Silicon Valley's competitiveness, study says.

Minorities are underrepresented in high-technology companies, especially when it comes to senior-level positions, according to a report released Monday.

The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI) found that only 6.1% of men holding technical positions and 8.2% of women holding those positions in Silicon Valley are minorities. Less than 2% of women of color hold high-level technical positions, the report found.

The report, "Obstacles And Solutions For Underrepresented Minorities in Technology," looks at barriers faced by minorities and provides recommendations on how companies can overcome those barriers.

Caroline Simard, director of research for ABI and author of the report, said that studies show workforce diversity can boost a company's bottom line.

"The level of underrepresentation of African-American, black, Latino, Hispanic, and Native American and Native Hawaiians in technical positions in leading high-technology companies in Silicon Valley is alarming," she said in a statement released Monday. "This is likely to limit companies' ability to innovate and create new products for a significant portion of the user population. Such low numbers suggest that underrepresented employees are likely to suffer from significant isolation and a lack of access to mentors."

The study found that more than 40% of underrepresented minority employees plan on leaving their jobs, while 51% of women of color plan on leaving within the next 12 months. It also found that minority job candidates seek companies with diversity at the top, and a lack of ethnic diversity at the top harms recruiting and retention among minorities. Simard said that girls and women consider role models when making career decisions.

"Given that the Hispanic population is projected to represent 30% of the U.S. population by 2015, an absence of role models is likely to perpetuate the problem of underrepresentation of Latinas in technology and cause a significant disconnect between those designing technology and those using it, further leading to lost opportunities for companies," she said.

Diverse teams make better decisions and generate more innovation, and a lack of diversity hurts America's competitiveness in science and technology, which suffers from decreasing enrollment of students in science, technology, math, and engineering, according to Simard.

The ABI is a nonprofit that provides resources to promote the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in high-tech fields.


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