How to Diversify Your Engineering Team

Diversity and inclusion (or “D&I” for short) is an increasingly hot topic in the tech industry.

And, rightfully so.

After all, only 18.7% of software developers are women, according to the most recent Labor Force Survey published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The same report found that only 4.5% of employed web developers are Black or African American, despite representing 13.4% of the US population. Clearly, tech companies still have a long way to go to level the playing field.

In this post, we’ll outline steps for diversifying your engineering team.

Step 1: Understand Your Organization

It’s difficult to become more diverse without a firm understanding of your current organization. Before spending too much time on tactics aimed at bolstering inclusivity, start by looking for issues pertaining to:

Workforce Representation:

How does your overall workforce representation compare to that of your engineering team? Are certain genders or ethnicities underrepresented? What are the possible causes of such underrepresentation?  

Income Disparities:

The pay gap between men and women still persists in the United States, with women only earning 82% as much as their male counterparts. Though many factors contribute to this disparity, bias is certainly one of them. Is it possible that biases (whether intentional or unintentional) have influenced compensation policies at your organization?

Hiring Decisions:

Obviously, technical recruiting represents a huge opportunity for becoming more diverse and inclusive. It’s therefore wise to study your company’s existing hiring practices along with specific outcomes. Have recent hiring decisions made your organization more or less diverse? What seems to be the cause of such trends?

Geographic Distribution:

Geographic distribution could also be a relevant consideration, especially given the popularity of remote teams and distributed workforces. Does simply having a foreign engineering office mean that your company is truly “diverse”? What steps must be taken to ensure an inclusive work ecosystem that transcends national boundaries?

Step 2: Set Specific and Realistic Goals

After digging deeper and looking at your data, you may start to feel a bit overwhelmed. Remember, no organization is perfectly diverse or entirely inclusive (just ask Facebook), which means you’re bound to identify issues that require attention.

Since you can’t fix everything immediately, it’s probably best to focus on a handful of specific, yet realistic goals. For example, let’s imagine that your analysis indicates that only 10% of senior-level developers are female. Aspiring to increase this number to 50% by year’s end, while specific (and laudable), is probably not very realistic.

So, how can you find the right balance when setting diversity and inclusion goals? A simple solution involves studying what other tech companies are doing. For example, our friends at Gusto have done an excellent job in identifying clear and attainable D&I goals. Case in point, as outlined in the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Report, one goal is to “increase the percentage of Black and Hispanic Gusties to 10%,” which would represent a two-point increase from the former level of 8%.  

In short, don’t try to do too much all at once. Set goals that challenge the status quo but are also attainable.

Step 3: Be Transparent

In a perfect world, diversity and inclusion would extend well beyond executive-level discussions. To ensure success, D&I needs to be a grassroots initiative that is embraced by everyone in the company. Such initiatives are rarely successful, when key information is restricted to senior staff.

To encourage maximum transparency, some tech companies have resorted to publishing extensive diversity reports online. Here are a few examples that we’re particularly fond of:

Regardless of whether or not your company publishes a public-facing diversity report, one thing remains true: your internal stakeholders, at a minimum, need a clear understanding of your D&I vision, challenges, and priorities.  

Providing baseline metrics about current workforce demographics can be a great starting point, thereby establishing new channels of communication and collaboration.

Step 4: Implement Technology that Decreases Hiring Biases

As diversity and inclusion become ingrained into the company culture, your team will begin to identify opportunities for improvement. Innovative technology, in particular, will likely be a major topic of such conversations.

For example, technical assessment platforms, such as CodeSignal, can supplement your diversity and inclusion program by eliminating biases from the hiring process. Unlike traditional hiring methodologies that overemphasize educational pedigree and work history, technical assessment platforms provide insight into each developer’s true abilities by allowing your company to:

Harness Data-Driven Analytics:

Identify top programmers with less effort and minimize unintended biases during the hiring process with Predictive Coding ScoresTM. Such scores are based on a variety of factors that reflect true competency, such as domain expertise, problem solving abilities, responsiveness, and many other real-world factors.

Encourage Inclusivity During Assessments & Interviews:

Flawed assessments and interviews can be another roadblock to achieving a diverse workforce. Eliminate barriers by implementing a virtual interviewing interface that is both welcoming and collaborative. Look for a solution that is not only easy for candidates to use but also helps your organization effectively measure technical talent. The ideal system should provide a robust task library, support dozens of programming languages, and empower staff to create real-world programming tests without technical assistance.

Anonymize Candidate Demographics:

For the most unbiased approach, some companies take the additional step of anonymizing candidate demographic information. As our friends at Greenhouse have pointed out, “By building in anonymization into your hiring process, organizations can more easily change behavior, reduce bias, and select the most qualified candidates.” Check to see if your talent management system offers an out-of-the-box anonymizing solution and if that solution integrates with a technical assessment platform.

Supplement Your D&I Program with CodeSignal

Need a technical assessment platform that aligns with your diversity and inclusion program? Perhaps it’s time to learn more about our CodeSignal Recruiter platform. With CodeSignal, your hiring managers gain instant access to the tools they need to mitigate unintended biases. Our Predictive Coding ScoreTM incorporates machine learning to help your team make data-driven decisions about technical talent. In addition, our library of 4,000+ coding tasks paired with an advanced IDE ensures your interviews are both fair and welcoming.

Schedule a risk-free demo of CodeSignal today.


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