Editorial: Ethnic Diversity in IT Presents CIOs With Challenges

The IT profession doesn’t look like America, and that costs us

In “How Diverse Is IT“, CIO Insight
analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing
that African-Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented in IT
compared with their presence in other professions. Blacks embody
6.5 percent of employed IT managers and staff professionals but 11
percent of all types of managers and staff professionals. Hispanics
represent 5 percent of IT staff professionals and managers but nearly
14 percent overall.

There’s an imbalance in the number of women working in IT, too.
Fewer than 30 percent of all employed IT professionals are women (see
Behind the Decline in Women in IT,” June 2007).

What’s disturbing about these numbers isn’t just that one group is
more or less represented than another in IT, but how the IT workforce
got to these numbers. Over the past 6-1/2 years, while the IT ranks swelled
by 1 million to 3.6 million, the number of women in IT fell by nearly 8
percent and the number of African-Americans in IT plunged by more
than 25 percent.

Why such a sharp drop among African-Americans, in particular?
Clues can be found in a 2006 survey of black IT managers conducted
for the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, a group of
professional African-American IT managers, showing that fewer than
half the respondents trusted their non-black peers; 43 percent said they
had to adjust their personal style to fit in as IT professionals. Fewer
than half saw the possibility of advancement in their companies. Not
surprisingly, 56 percent said they had considered quitting their jobs in
the previous 12 months.

It’s not that the mostly white corporate leaders overtly treat minorities
differently, one black leader said; they’re just unaware of how their
company cultures adversely affect some employees.

Perception can be as important as reality, and the concerns expressed
in that survey should give CIOs pause, even if they don’t think they’re
being insensitive.

The hard fact is that a significant number of IT pros have left the
profession at a time many CIOs complain about the difficulty finding
qualified people to fill crucial jobs. Deepening the IT labor pool isn’t
just a diversity issue: It’s an education, public relations and cultural
issue, too. Part of solving IT’s labor problem is not letting diversity be
a barrier.

No doubt a diverse workplace presents leaders with many challenges.
But it’s incumbent on CIOs to do everything possible to make their organizations
an inviting place to work for all.

Please send your comments to editors@cioinsight-ziffdavis.com.

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