Encouraging diversity in tech hiring

Some of the biggest challenges facing the tech industry today are those of inclusion, diversity, and the dreaded tech skills shortage.

When the dev office (for instance) consists of a narrow range of people with similar backgrounds and ideals, it can mean the loss of valuable insight and innovative ideas.

Different people bring different qualities, experiences, and expertise to the tech table. Encouraging diversity in tech hiring, then, is important.

But how should companies go about doing so?


Before looking at how to encourage diversity in tech hiring, it’s worth getting a good handle on exactly what diversity is.

Diversity, noun, the condition of having or being composed of differing elements. Particularly concerning the inclusion of people of different races, cultures, religions, genders, abilities, etcetera.

Diversity can fall into two categories:

  1. Inherent diversity
  2. Acquired diversity

Inherent diversity refers to natural characteristics. Things such as race, gender, age, sexuality, ability, and so on. Inherent diversity is largely what people think of when they hear the term diversity. But there are more traits that can add to the diversity of the tech office.

Acquired diversity, meanwhile, refers to more nurtured traits. That is, things such as education, experience, values, and beliefs. In other words, characteristics that are more fluid and can grow and evolve over the course of a person’s life.

Why is diversity in tech hiring important?

The goal of diversity in tech hiring is to have a team that represents the general make-up of the community/society around you and that you cater to.

Doing so unlocks a bigger talent pool — and this, in turn, brings a host of benefits.

Different backgrounds make for different experiences, skillsets, and preferences. This makes room for more innovation. It means that you’ll have some people with vast experience, and some with the most recent training. In short, a diverse team makes for diverse skills and diverse ideas.

You’ll also have team members that may reflect the experience of some of your customers. Accessibility feature opportunities, for instance, may be more apparent to someone that would look for them in day-to-day life.

The current state of tech hiring

As it stands, most workers in tech development are white men. According to Stack Overflow, ~91% of developers are men, and 68.3% of developers are white or European.

Plus, software development roles are riddled with ageism, with older developers often struggling to find or keep work.

Despite the history of programming being largely dominated by women, the stereotype has moved to tech being a man’s pursuit. Unconscious biases make it harder for women to make a career in tech.

There’s also a lack of opportunity for many people of colour. For example, two-thirds of white students have access to a computer at home, while only 50% of black and Hispanic students have that access.

This lack of diversity in tech hiring translates to the tech skills gap. The paradoxical situation where there’s talent being left on the table, yet there’s a shortage of talent.

Hurdles to diverse hiring

Encouraging diversity in tech hiring means understanding what gets in its way. So, here are a few of the most common hurdles:

  • Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is prejudice where a person forms unsupported opinions for or against something, without being aware they are doing so. It’s difficult to recognise and stop because it happens unconsciously. In tech hiring, unconscious bias can mean that candidates get ruled out for no clear reason (usually related to their race, gender, etc.)

  • Inequality of opportunity/education etc.

The world isn’t a perfect place, and some groups of people will find it much harder to get into tech roles than others. For some, tech isn’t highlighted at a young age or fostered as an interest. For others, the technology isn’t available for them to get as much practice as they want.

Whatever the reason, inequality of opportunity can make it hard to find diverse candidates in tech hiring.

  • Lack of flexibility

Workplace flexibility is all about letting team members choose how, when, and where they complete their work.

Some classes of people may need different working conditions than others. This doesn’t make them any less capable of doing the work to a high standard. For example, they may need certain changes to allow for religious practices. Or, they may need flexible working hours because of childcare, and so on.

Not offering flexibility can make a job impossible for some qualified workers.

How to encourage diversity in tech hiring

  • Target a wide range of sources for advertising roles

Attracting a diverse range of candidates means advertising the roles to a diverse range of people. The more places and ways you can advertise a tech role, the more likely you are to reach different types of people.

  • Offer accessible applications

Think about different abilities. Could a disabled person apply for the role? Could a busy parent apply in between their childcare duties?

In what ways can people come to work for you? Can they come through internships? Through apprenticeships?

And how do they need to get in touch? Handing in their CV, online applications, text-based interviews, etc?

  • Conduct blind hiring

Blind hiring is where CVs and application forms have identifying detail redacted. For instance, you don’t know their name, age, gender, race etc. You only know their skills and experience.

Blind hiring reduces the impact of unconscious bias — ensuring fairness in the tech hiring process by allowing for skillsets to shine through.

  • Skill assessments

When it comes to jobs like software development, tech hiring can involve challenges like the ‘whiteboard interview’. This is where applicants are asked to solve a coding problem in real-time, in front of everyone.

This is a stressful practice that discourages diversity in tech hiring — measuring anxiety, not skill. In a study, the women given such a task failed — but passed when they were allowed to solve the problem privately. Plus, interviewers might give easier problems to those they unconsciously prefer — bringing unconscious biases into the mix.

  • Harness AI and automation

One way to potentially avoid unconscious bias is to use AI to screen and shortlist your candidates, looking for applications that best match the job description.

Using AI can be a great way to get an impartial shortlist, but beware of algorithmic bias. Regularly analyse your AI tool to ensure it isn’t unintentionally discriminating against different types of people.

You can also set your automation software to highlight the applications that best reflect the job description, by looking for keywords, for instance.

Diversity in tech hiring

There’s no silver bullet to encouraging diversity in tech hiring. It’s a process that needs widespread change. Tech companies need to use different measures to attract, support and encourage diversity tech hiring.

Is it time your company reviewed its hiring practices?

Useful links