How Diverse is IT?By Eric Chabrow | Posted 07-26-2007
The IT shop is a bit more racially diverse today than it was at the beginning of the decade, though that diversity does not mirror the overall workforce in the United States.
A CIO Insight analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data--the same numbers the government uses to determine the monthly unemployment rate--shows that the percentage of employed blacks in IT managerial and staff professional positions declined nearly 26 percent over the past 6Â½ years while the proportion of whites inched ahead by 2.3 percent. Employment within IT among Asians soared by more than 17 percent.
And, African-Americans are proportionally less represented in IT than they are in other professions. African-Americans represent 6.5 percent of employed IT managers and staff professionals but 11 percent of all types of managers and staff professionals. Whites, too, are under represented in the IT profession, though not as much as African-Americans. In IT, 75.2 percent of all employees are white versus 82.1 percent among all managers and staff professionals. Conversely, 16.3 percent of Asians hold IT managerial and professional staff jobs versus 4.6 percent of overall managerial and professional staff jobs in the U.S.
Slideshow: The Diversity of IT
Corporate leaders "will take a walk into the IT department; they'll say, 'Okay, we're diverse here.'....They may be thinking in terms that diversity is just being different from the Caucasian race, which isn't the current, accepted diversity," says Dan Honig, chief operating officer of WorkplaceDiversity.com, an online employment site. Accepted diversity, Honig suggests, means a more proportional representation of all races, including African-Americans employees.
The government reports figures on three major race categories: African-American or black, Asian and white plus one ethnic group, Hispanic. The percentage of Hispanics employed in IT is about 4 percent higher today than it was in 2001. Hispanics are under represented in IT when compared with overall managerial and staff professional employment, 5.2 percent versus 13.7 percent.
[Another way the face of IT looks different from the rest of America is the dearth of women in the profession. The proportion of employed women in eight IT occupation categories fell 7.7 percent from 2000 to 2006, according to an earlier CIO Insight analysis of government data. Last year, women represented 28.9 percent of all employed IT workers.]
All groups saw an increase in the number of IT managers as the dynamics of the profession evolved this decade. Today, some 3.6 million people are employed in IT, including nearly 3.2 million staff professionals and 423,000 as managers. In 2001, IT employment topped 2.6 million, with nearly 2.4 million staff professionals and 268,000 managers.
Why are fewer African-Americans employed in IT today than at the beginning of the decade? Gina Billings, president of the National Black Data Processing Association, blames globalization, in which many American IT workers lost their jobs this decade as more IT work is outsourced overseas. African-Americans, who proportionally joined the profession later than their white colleagues, got caught in the ritual of last hired, first fired. Those experienced pros laid off, she says, entered other fields, discouraged about job prospects within IT.
And that has a ripple effect among younger folk. "When I talk to high students and try to steer them into a career in the IT field, they share their concern that there aren't too many people like them in the field," says Billings, who adds that when they go to college, these students complain they're being steered away from IT and into different fields.
Another survey conducted last year suggests that many African-American are leaving IT voluntarily. In the study by Global Lead Management Consulting for the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, a group that fosters African-American IT managers, 56 percent of the respondents, all African-American employed in IT, said they considered leaving their jobs in the previous 12 months.
Though nearly all of the surveyed African-American IT professionals said they felt comfortable working with diverse peers, fewer than half indicated that they trusted their peers, and 43 percent said they had to adjust their personal style to fit in. While 77 percent of these African-American respondents felt that non-minorities were treated fairly and equitably, only 44 percent believed that minorities were treated the same way. And, fewer than half saw the possibility of advancement.
Global Lead's founding partner Vincent R. Brown says he doesn't believe many of the mostly white corporate leaders overtly treat minorities differently; they're just unaware of how the culture of their companies have an impact on their employees.
The numbers used in this story come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly survey of 60,000 households in which respondents answers employment questions regarding each household member 16 years old and older. These numbers reflect all those working in the United States, whether they're citizens, foreign-born permanent residents, foreign-nationals holding visas or illegal aliens.
For this story, we used annual data for 2001 through 2006. For 2007, we annualized data from the last two quarters of 2006 and the first two quarters of 2007.
The Bureau has eight occupation categories related to IT. They include computer and information systems managers plus seven others we grouped for this story as IT staff professionals: computer scientists and systems analysts, computer programmers, computer software engineers, computer support specialists, database administrators, network and computer systems administrators and network systems and data communications analysts.
Bureau economists caution that as each group diminishes in size, so does the reliability of the data. For instance, data showing there are 3.6 million IT professionals in the United States is more reliable than the figure showing 90,000 database administrators.