How layoffs affect the diversity in technology and what to do about it


After continuing to hire workers during the pandemic, tech companies are laying off workers in layoffs that sometimes involve thousands of workers. While the cuts are necessary to help boost growing profit margins, advocates for diversity in the tech sector worry that the job cuts could disproportionately affect underrepresented groups.

According to Layoffs.fyi, an online tracker of job losses in the tech sector, 152,542 workers from 993 global tech companies will be laid off in 2022.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has hit industries like events and hospitality with major financial disruptions, companies operating in the technology sector have experienced a boom period, rapidly expanding to meet the demands of a technology-dependent clientele.

However, every boom is often followed by a bust, and during the fourth quarter of 2022, big tech companies experienced a decline in revenue. [let’s be specific] And the looming recession. As a result, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk has cut the social media platform’s workforce in half, with Meta announcing 11,000 job cuts and reports suggesting Amazon will lay off 20,000 workers.

Job loss is always felt by those affected to be unfair, but in a largely male-dominated industry, layoffs can be difficult as the roles played by underrepresented workers are often seen as more important.

At tech companies, many non-technical departments such as business development, customer success, communications and marketing are more likely to hire women and minorities. As a result, when it comes to headcount, individuals in these roles are more likely to be laid off because they are seen as more important to the business than those who build or maintain the product.

But recent events have shown that even in technical groups where women and minorities hold fewer positions, underrepresented workers are disproportionately affected. For example, two women who lost their jobs at Twitter sued that the company disproportionately targeted female employees for layoffs.

The suit, which accuses the company of violating federal and California laws prohibiting gender discrimination in the workplace, says Twitter fired 57 percent of its female employees. When it comes to engineering roles, the lawsuit says 63% of women are out of a job, compared to 48% of men.

Challenges faced by minority workers

Although the concept of the boom-and-bust cycle of the technology industry is not strange, the challenges that come with working in a sector where job stability is not always guaranteed, although it is often lucrative, is not something that everyone can take on. Chance on. [I tweaked this because I thought this is what you meant.]

The impact of losing your job is always going to be tough, but for women who have to consider things like maternity leave or caregiving responsibilities while job hunting, industry instability isn’t an option, Hywell Carver said. , CEO and co-founder of Skiller Whale, an in-depth training platform for developers.

Although employees from technical teams are less likely to struggle to find an opening if they find themselves out of a job—a November 2021 survey by Skillsoft found that nearly three-quarters of IT decision makers worldwide face critical skills gaps in the technology department—a company with a good work environment for smaller employees Getting a job in is more challenging.

Research presented earlier this year in MIT Sloan Management Review found that toxic corporate culture is the strongest predictor of attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. According to the study, the main factors that contribute to toxic cultures include lack of diversity, equity and inclusion. Employees feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.

For non-represented workers, Mary Williams, a consultant at business payroll company Pleo and tech skills training firm Skylar Weil, says the risk associated with finding a new job can be felt even more if you leave and join a new position. As soon as they come out of the oven into the fire.

“I know a lot of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people who are very careful about where they choose to join because they’re worried that the environment will be inclusive and positive for them,” Williams said.

And Ingrid B. Laman, vice president of advisory services at Gartner’s HR practice, said that while businesses have been increasing investment and progress in DE&I (diversity, equity and inclusion) programs in recent years, many employees fear economic pressures. And layoffs, combined with pressures on DEI efforts, undermine those efforts as budget cuts and essential personnel continue.

“A recent Garter study found that underrepresented groups, such as racially and ethnically diverse employees, have lower job satisfaction and higher turnover rates than most groups, suggesting that many organizations may not experience the performance impact of a more diverse and inclusive work environment,” Laman confirmed. he said.

Additionally, as companies look to reduce their headcount, many business leaders are returning to pre-pandemic ways in a misguided attempt to boost productivity. While there’s not enough evidence that in-person work makes teams more productive, companies like Twitter and Apple have adopted policies that require employees to be physically in the office for most of the work week.

In the year In December 2021, Deloitte reported that the inherently flexible nature of the technology industry and the ability to quickly shift to remote work has reduced job losses for women, while research from City & Guilds found that when looking for a new job, 53% of working-age women in the UK prioritized flexibility. Compared to 38 percent of men. Despite this, on Twitter and Tesla owner Elon Musk publicly stated that he will fire employees who do not return to the office.

Williams argues that forcing everyone back into the office is particularly likely to harm out-of-group workers.

“I think the way some of the layoffs were done and the process around it, especially forcing people back into the office, had a very negative impact on DE&I,” Williams said. “If you think about a person who has a responsibility, who is often forced to go back to an office in a busy city, I don’t think that’s positive.”

“If you’re thinking of having a diverse mix of people on your team, I think that’s a terrible strategy,” they said.

How can companies be better?

Although layoffs dominated the conversation at the end of the year, data shows that the Great Retrenchment is far from over. The online workplace said it is difficult to attract, hire and retain top talent, citing staff attrition as a key challenge, blaming it on rapid changes in the work environment and frustrations with mass layoffs and hiring.

For the companies to announce layoffs so far, Laman said, before any decision is made, organizations must be sure that DE&I is involved in decisions related to layoffs.

“For example, the company needs to ensure that they have key DE&I champions within their teams, that layoff discussions are free of implicit bias and that representation across the business is not inadvertently affected by these layoffs,” she said.

But Williams argues that there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that we’re homogenous when we try to identify potential, meaning that one of the biggest concerns in all these layoffs is that there’s only one type of person represented at the top of the equation. When making decisions about who stays and who goes, they may not understand or understand the potential of some people who seem very different or who are very different from them.

Carver agrees that being a good manager and being a good technologist are not one and the same, meaning that people often know each other even if they lack some of the necessary management skills.

“If companies are trying to evaluate who is below 10% in terms of performance and therefore should be fired, I doubt that every company will get this right,” he said. “I suspect that when they get it wrong, they unwittingly discriminate against the people who will be most affected by their wrong decisions, which are often underrepresented groups.”

While job losses may be inevitable in the business world, the job cuts at some tech companies have been particularly deep this year. However, Tony Lisak, founder and CEO of the Software Institute, doesn’t believe the program change will completely erode the diversity efforts the companies have been working on for years.

“I think the need for corporate diversity is very strong, which the industry is doing really well,” he said. More women, ethnic minorities and the disadvantaged are entering the talent pipeline.

“In the UK, for example, government bodies and major organizations are looking at cities in the north, such as Telford, Manchester and Newcastle, to build centers of excellence and target locally disadvantaged workers in those areas,” he said.

As most countries move into this period of economic uncertainty, Laman says companies need to have an open discussion explaining the business, talent and reputational risks in DE&I and demonstrate their commitment to DE&I strategies and that these initiatives should be considered non-negotiable.

“To fully integrate DEI into the business, organizations must empower executives to set their own DEI goals, hold them accountable, and integrate DEI into their business,” she says.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.



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